We speak to the godfather of catwalk photography, Chris Moore
Ask Chris Moore, veteran catwalk photographer and founder of the invaluable fashion research website catwalking.com, for an estimate of how many shows he’s been to in the four decades he’s been pounding the catwalks of every major fashion capital in the world and the indefatigably polite and gracious man is momentarily lost for words. He finally ventures, “After 40 plus years since my first show I could not even begin to work that out nor would I want to!” The Newcastle born Moore moved with his family to London aged 4, and got his first job at a print studio when he was 16. Entering the world of fashion two years later, Moore became a photographer’s assistant at Vogue, assisting luminaries like Cecil Beaton, Henry Moore and Clifford Coffin before going independent with the agency, Camera Press. It was during his time spent documenting the exclusive and intimate Paris couture shows in the late 60s when he would cultivate a love of the craft. He vividly recalls an appointment at the House of Balmain where the salon’s directrice, Gidette Spanier, took over as a model at the last minute – “Despite her mature years she didn't think anything of stepping in for a much younger woman and she looked terrific. It was probably the first time that I understood that style was more than just the clothes, it was how you worked a look and projected yourself in the clothes that mattered; but crucially that fashion was for anyone who cared to be stylish.”
"It was how you worked a look and projected yourself in the clothes that mattered...fashion was for anyone who cared to be stylish” — Chris Moore
In those days of course, couture shows were an often intimidatingly elitist affair, a world removed from the media circus of today. “The feel of the earlier events could often be quite sedate, with no music, just silence punctuated by the roll call of look numbers, and the odd murmur or gasp or approval for a show-stopping dress,” remembers Moore. “The pace was extremely slow and there was more time to mingle and chat with people, if I miss anything, it’s that really.” That all changed in the late 80’s and early 90’s with the rise of the Supermodels and the advent of the widescreen spectacles put on by Versace and Lagerfeld. “They understood how to grab a headline and be heard above the crowded scene. They each projected fashion as fun and sexy and chose models with distinctive looks and personalities. The combined wow factor sold newspapers, and news editors couldn't get enough of it all, especially in the UK.”
All of which meant that as his client base increased exponentially, so did the pressure to meet the exacting deadlines of print. Moore recalls with a shudder how in the old days, he and his friend, Suzy Menkes would rush from the shows to the printers in order to meet a newspaper deadline. With no choice but to evolve and embrace digital, he cleared out his darkroom in 1995 to make way for a scanning suite and presciently launched catwalking.com at the turn of the millennium with his business partner (now wife) Maxine Millar. Now the world’s foremost source of runway images and an invaluable archival trove; his move into the digital world was initially greeted by hostility from the luxury brands, with Moore fondly recalling one ‘Perfect Ab Fab moment’ when “a prominent magazine editor came to do her seasonal edit of the collections at my studio, bringing with her not only her assistant as she usually did but also a nice young man whose only role was to move the mouse and click on demand!”
Now dressed in his customary glasses, button down shirts and trousers, Moore can still be seen taking his customary spot at the foot of the catwalk (zealously guarded for him by his colleagues, many of them many decades younger than him). And while the nascent SS15 season has already seen challenges to the traditional format of runway show from Gareth Pugh (who showed a film) and Opening Ceremony (who staged a play), for Moore who’s been witness to some of the most iconic moments in fashion history, nothing can yet replace the heart-quickening, visceral assault of the fashion show.
"My memories of shows are not confined to the audio visual, I remember say, the fragrant wafts of Issie Blow's favourite perfume, Fracas, at Alexander McQueen's tribute show to her following her death, or how Dries Van Noten handed out shiny survival blankets and hot drinks to ward off the cold at his open air show in February. The smell of diesel on the floor of the basement garage shows in Paris and London. The buzz outside the venue and the hissy fits of editors as they are shown to a second row seat. These seemingly fringe moments of an event are often the starting point for discussing it or an evocative trigger for the collective memory later. From the tangible shared experience of a chosen few, grows a wider awareness with a date, time and place for the record. Digital can't give you that... Well at least not yet!"
Text by Kin Woo