The Decade in Fashion: 16 Runway Shows That Defined the 2010s

The Decade in Fashion: 16 Runway Shows That Defined the 2010s

If there's one force that upended how we consumed fashion this decade the most, it's without a doubt Instagram. The 2010s saw designers stage elaborate sets and spectacles that became instant hits on the photo-sharing platform, where users could see collections hit the runway immediately. It marked a watershed moment for the fashion industry, which suddenly found itself reaching a bigger, younger, and more global audience than ever before.

With the floodgates fully opened, fashion week was no longer reserved for the eyes of traditional gatekeepers. You'd be hard pressed to sit through a show this decade without iPhone-wielding guests clamoring to get a non-blurry shot to share with their followers. (Instagram's video function eventually corrected this problem.) Now, virtually anyone could get in on the action.

The 2010s were also defined by the nearly constant game of designer musical chairs, where creative directors seemingly jumped ship every couple of seasons from one brand to the next. It was quite difficult to keep up with all the switches, departures, and changes each year, but that just made the decade all the more intriguing to follow.

Beyond these changes, the collections that made the biggest impact this decade had their influence amplified thanks to social media, where users could fawn over Chanel's enormous supermarket set and Versace's supermodel tableau in real time. From highly anticipated designer debuts to unexpected hit items, the most memorable shows of the 2010s are still some of the most shared and talked-about to this day. Read on, below, for PAPER's 16 picks, listed in chronological order.

Alexander McQueen Spring 2010

In what was to be Alexander McQueen's final show before his untimely death a few months later, the designer staged what Suzy Menkes described as the "most dramatic revolution in 21st-century fashion." Dubbed "Plato's Atlantis," the collection was built around the concept of an apocalyptic world in which humankind is forced to live in the oceans after destroying the earth. (Futuristic digital prints of aquatic imagery, abstract scales and reptilian motifs dominated the line-up.)

But it was the way Lee embraced technology and pop culture that made this show a milestone as it entered a new decade: the show's soundtrack marked the world premiere of Lady Gaga's new single "Bad Romance," and the now-iconic armadillo shoes she subsequently wore in the music video are from this collection. Two manic robotic cameras filmed the entire runway, making the show one of the first to stream live to users globally. The site on ultimately ended up crashing after Gaga tweeted out the link to her then-six million followers.

Givenchy Men's Fall 2011

Riccardo Tisci's tenure at Givenchy saw the designer infuse a gothic sensibility to the storied luxury brand while putting out hit items that flew off the shelves. His Fall 2011 men's collection was a seminal moment for menswear, and by extension, the fashion world at large. This was the show that introduced the now-famous Rottweiler series of tees, sweatshirts, and jackets printed with images of the snarling dog, which sold out quickly and was worn by everyone from Kanye West to Liv Tyler. (West performing in a leather skirt from this collection caused quite a sensation at the time.)

The collection cemented Tisci's ability to translate his dark, romantic aesthetic into selling wildly successful and commercial products while fusing elements of hip-hop and streetwear. Few other brands were able to get away with charging hundreds of dollars for graphic sweatshirts, a concept that is now widely employed. A few seasons later, Tisci would eventually have more best-selling hits on his hands thanks to Bambi T-shirts and sweaters for women, further underscoring his knack for creating desirable, luxury clothes utilizing prints of well-known yet unexpected characters.

Dior Fall 2012 Couture

To fully grasp the extent of how much was riding on Raf Simons' debut show at Christian Dior, consider who all was in attendance: Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs, Azzedine Alaia, Riccardo Tisci, Alber Elbaz, Donatella Versace — the list goes on. Since the firing of former Creative Director John Galliano a few seasons prior, the industry was waiting to see who could step into the designer's lofty shoes and carry the brand forward. (Interim designer Bill Gayten's collections for Dior received mostly poor reviews.)

Enter Simons, who had just spent the last seven years designing collections for Jil Sander to critical acclaim. His nerves and emotions were captured in a poignant documentary, Dior and I, which delved into how his debut collection for Couture Spring 2019 came together and how he had to overcome the pressure. What followed was a show (complete with walls covered in a million flowers) that ushered in a new era for the Parisian house, where a modern sense of elegance, construction and beauty took hold. While his tenure at Dior proved to be short-lived, it nonetheless proved to be one of the most talked-about designer-brand pairings in recent memory.

Saint Laurent Spring 2013

Perhaps no designer debut was as widely panned from critics as Hedi Slimane's Spring 2013 collection for Saint Laurent. (He dropped the "Yves" from the name of its ready-to-wear line a few months prior, further angering the brand's loyal devotees.) "Mr. Slimane's clothes lacked a new fashion spirit," wrote Cathy Horyn for the NYT. "Indeed, it was as though he refused to interpret the YSL style, beyond updating proportions. Even the colors seemed flat, suppressed." Other journalists echoed Horyn's sentiments.

And yet, Slimane's divisive '70s line-up of floppy hats, pussy-bow blouses and black boho dresses marked a turning point for the French fashion house commercially, and his clothes ultimately became a hit with customers on the sales floor. The creative director's fixation with LA youth culture and neo-grunge quickly resonated with shoppers, who gravitated toward the brand's wardrobe staples like sleek leather jackets, Chelsea boots, and skinny jeans that are selling like hotcakes today.

Celine Fall 2013

Shortly after Phoebe Philo debuted her first show for Celine for Spring 2010, the sleepy Parisian brand was suddenly on everyone's radar again. Her designs immediately filled a void in the wardrobes of working women, who were looking for smart, practical clothes with a feminine touch. (Philo's knack for creating must-have It-bags like the Luggage and Trapeze styles didn't hurt either.) But it was undoubtedly the ready-to-wear that spawned the brand's new, devoted following, dubbed the "Philophiles."

Many would argue that Fall 2013 was the collection that showcased Philo's strengths the most: cozy, boxy coats; skirts that hugged the hips and flared at the knee; the way the models clutched their pouch bags. It was utterly chic and wearable, elegant and sensual, and soft and intimate. The sense of warmth on display complemented Philo's minimalist bent nicely, and further cemented her legacy as a designer with an innate sense of how real women want to dress.

Prada Spring 2014

Of all the looks Miuccia Prada has sent down the runway the past 10 years, perhaps none have been Instagrammed as much as her Spring 2014 collection. The set of the show featured vivid mural works depicting portraits of women from artists like Mesa, Gabriel Specter, and Stinkfish. Images of close-up faces and rainbow colorways were re-created and applied on everything from embellished dresses to sporty accessories — a sharp contrast from the designer's familiar '90s minimalism.

It seemed as if no one in fashion could resist the artsy statement pieces from this line-up. Marc Jacobs famously wore the collection's colorful coats on numerous occasions, from walking his dog Neville to walking on the red carpet. The designer's take on Tevas also proved popular with the style set, and marked the start of fashion's obsession with ugly-chic footwear. But perhaps the show's most enduring impact is its subsequent Steven Meisel-lensed ad campaign, which produced one of the most iconic collection images of the season.

Rick Owens Spring 2014

Rick Owens' clothes don't typically fit the mold of traditional Paris collections, which made his brand's Spring 2014 show all the more prolific. The American designer's signature draping and deconstructed goth-grunge aesthetic reached a turning point this season with the addition of a dance number performed by a team of sorority hip-hop steppers, most of whom were African-American. With scowls on their faces (known in the step show world as "grit face"), the dancers stomped the runway with an electric choreographed number that showed off the clothes in motion.

It was rather unusual (and still is) to see a Paris show feature women of different body types, but followers of Owens' work know that he's anything but conventional. Not only did this show challenge the notion of one-dimensional beauty, but it also pushed the discourse of creating meaningful and authentic messages of inclusivity and diversity to the forefront, something that few designers of his caliber bothered to work with at the time.

Chanel Fall 2014

As soon as the photo of Joan Smalls pushing a Chanel shopping cart with Cara Delevingne and Rihanna spread like wildfire on social media, it became pretty clear that no other designer would be able to top this show that season. The luxury French brand staged the mother of all fashion shows for Fall 2014, with a set that resembled a gigantic supermarket complete with fresh produce, candy, household goods, and Chanel-branded hardware.

As a cultural critique, the show was a commentary about the state of consumerism, a point made all the more salient when you consider the hordes of guests who rushed toward the set to grab as much products as they could after the show was over. Fashion-wise, Lagerfeld continued the idea of high-end sportswear he explored in his couture show prior, with models wearing luxurious sneakers and work-out attire that coincided with the rise of athleisure around this time. One of the most coveted pieces from the collection — a Chanel chain-link grocery shopping basket — sold out instantly.

Gucci Fall 2015

When Gucci's Fall 2015 show hit the runway under the newly installed (and little-known) Creative Director Alessandro Michele, few would have predicted the enormous impact the collection would have on the fashion world at large. Sure, the romantic clothes and the eccentric styling caught your attention right away, but the successful maximalist, gender-fluid magpie aesthetic he introduced in this collection has remained virtually unchanged in every show since.

It also catapulted Michele into fashion stardom seemingly overnight, thanks to skyrocketing sales numbers that followed year after year. (Gucci's cash-generating products like their popular fur-lined loafers and logo belts made their debut here.) His first show for Gucci was actually Men's Fall 2015, which bowed just a few weeks earlier and was put together in just a few weeks, but it was this collection that marked his official outing to the world. Despite some mixed reviews from critics (Vogue Runway said it "lacked a bit for sophistication" and needed "more substance going forward"), it made Gucci one of fashion's biggest success stories of the last decade.

Vetements Spring 2016

The flurry of Vetements mania and hype seemed to come out of nowhere in the middle part of the decade, but the brand's off-kilter wardrobe staples and underground street-inspired aesthetic arguably reached its peak with its Spring 2016 collection. After showing at a gay sex club in Paris the season prior, the Vetements collective led by then-designer Demna Gvasalia held their next show at a Chinese restaurant. Who knew that the collection's first look, a male model sporting a yellow DHL logo tee, would produce one of the biggest-selling items that year?

The rest of the clothes augmented the collection's other big themes, such as thigh-high boots, sharp and wide shoulders, oversized hoodies, and floral prairie dresses. Gvasalia's penchant for elevating everyday, generic clothes made Vetements one of the most desirable brands of the Paris fashion scene, in some cases rivaling the city's heritage brands and luxury houses in terms of It-status. While Gvasalia eventually left the brand to focus solely on his work at Balenciaga, the influence of Vetements on fashion cannot be overlooked.

Marc Jacobs Fall 2016

Marc Jacobs held his Fall 2016 on the last day of NYFW in a stark white set with nothing but short, quick ping sounds emanating from the speakers.The stoic space provided a counterpart to the collection itself, which consisted of all-black and gray ensembles in multiple layers, exaggerated volumes, and dramatic proportions. Speaking of drama, the towering platform heels could not be any higher, but models stormed the circular runway anyway with a confident pace and determined look. (Lady Gaga blended in seamlessly with the other models walking the show.)

The renowned duo of Francois Nars and Guido Palau were the masterminds behind the makeup and hair for the show, respectively. Heavy eyeliner, black lipstick, and dark eye shadow were paired alongside slick braided hairdos that added a gothic, sinister flair to the theatrical looks. While Jacobs' shows aren't necessarily the most aesthetically consistent season-to-season on the surface, his affinity for opulence and ostentation results in collections that provoke a visceral, emotional reaction to the clothes, something that show-goers no doubt felt on this particular day.

Balenciaga Fall 2016

If there's one image that captured an entire collection in a single look from the Fall 2016 season, it's the rhinestone turtleneck, black cigarette ski pants, and red puffer jacket strategically unbuttoned to sit off the shoulder from the Balenciaga show. It was the brand's first collection under new Creative Director Demna Gvasalia, who made a name for himself at Vetements, the design collective he co-founded that's known for its underground, low-brow sensibility. How was Gvasalia, whose aesthetic leaned toward ironic streetwear, going to translate his vision to one of the most storied couture houses of the 20th century?

The answer was made clear early on with this debut collection, which riffed heavily on strong shoulders, padded him, sharp tailoring, and angular outerwear. Look #14, the aforementioned outfit worn by Julia Nobis, captured the spirit of this show the best: functional pieces with a couture attitude. After the first half the show's structured silhouettes walked out, Gvasalia offered a series of floral dresses in loud, clashing patterns paired with candy cane-striped tights. They became the defining codes of Gvasalia's Balenciaga, providing a modern template for the designer to work from in the seasons to come.

Hood By Air Spring 2017

A few months after Hood By Air canceled its Fall 2017 show, which was scheduled to take place during Paris Fashion Week, the brand announced that it would go on hiatus, much to the dismay of its fans. The brand, led by co-founder and designer Shayne Oliver, first made waves when it initially launched in 2006, but it really captured the zeitgeist in the mid-2010s. Oliver's genderless designs effortlessly blurred the lines between streetwear and high fashion, while incorporating fetish and kinky elements for tribes of punks, club kids, and queer people alike.

Spring 2017, last show for HBA, just happened to be his most provocative collection yet. (Oliver revealed earlier this year that he intends to relaunch the brand soon.) A front row that featured the likes of Jaden Smith, Rick Ross, Naomi Campbell, Juicy J, and signaled that more eyes were on HBA than ever before. A collaboration with Pornhub caused the biggest frenzy, but other pieces like the Wench logos (his joint musical project with the electronic producer Arca) and "Hustler" polo shirts proved to be some of the standouts looks of the season.

Jacquemus Spring 2018

With a few seasons under his belt, Simon Porte Jacquemus appeared to finally be hitting his stride. The designer carved a niche for himself early on by leaning into his South of France roots, youthful exuberance, and playful approach to fashion. Up until "La Bomba," the name of his standout Spring 2018 collection, his ready-to-wear had an innocent, naive quality about them. This time around, his woman was all grown up, and the clothes quickly followed suit.

Asymmetrical dresses with plunging necklines were held up by tiny straps, and the slits on skirts opened up considerably higher. This sexier, freer attitude was made all the more captivating by Jacquemus' use of giant floppy straw hats that soon became the must-have accessory of the summer. (Everyone from Kylie Jenner to Rihanna to Emily Ratajkowski sported the grandiose headpiece.) The hat was accompanied by the debut of mis-matched earrings that dangled on each side, underscoring the designer's knack for creating unexpectedly covetable accessories at a reasonable price point.

Versace Spring 2018

Fashion loves a surprise, but no one was prepared for what would soon transpire at the end of Donatella Versace's Spring 2018 show. Carla Bruni, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen, Cindy Crawford, and Naomi Campbell formed a tableaux at the front of the runway decked out in gold chainmail dresses, an instantly iconic image that brought to mind the brand's '90s supermodel heyday. The women then walked the runway to a rapture of cheers and applause, embracing each other at the finale while joined by Donatella herself.

The reunion followed a collection that was all about nostalgia: the year marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Gianni Versace, the brand's founder and Donatella's brother. She digged deep into the company's archives, and utilized various Gianni references and signatures from the early to mid-'90s. It was the first time she pulled directly from her late brother's work to create a collection, which featured everything from baroque prints to illustrations of classic Warhol motifs. It was a monumental chapter in Donatella's career, and demonstrated her resilience and ability to pay tribute to the past while remaining resolutely forward-looking.

Valentino Spring 2019 Couture

Since taking over as sole creative director of Valentino with the departure of longtime design partner Maria Grazia Chiuri (who decamped to Dior), Pierpaolo Piccioli's work for the Roman house has never looked better. Suddenly, his Valentino shows captured a new sense of romanticism, beauty, and emotion, with a particular affinity for bold, vibrant colors. But it was his intimate Spring 2019 couture show that received universal acclaim, thanks to its regal silhouettes and show-stopping dresses.

Not only was the show a feat in construction, volume, and opulence, but the cast was also considerably diverse. According to Piccioli, the show was inspired by photographer Cecil Beaton's 1948 iconic photo of models decked in ball gowns from American couturier Charles James. The image captured the upper echelons of high society, which was predominantly all-white. This Valentino collection, then, sought to re-create that moment in time with a cast of mostly black models, including Adut Akech and Naomi Campbell, who closed out the show.

The emotional collection was a tour de force for Piccioli, who wanted to celebrate the beauty of all skin types through the uber-exclusive platform of haute couture, the pinnacle of high fashion. (Even Celine Dion, who sat front row, reportedly cried at the show.) In all, the show was a standout moment of the decade and is one that's meant to be relived over and over again.

Photo via Imaxtree