From the Freemasons’ Meeting to a former Eurostar terminal, fashion show settings are increasingly mixed and unusual. But what do they mean? As LFW kicks off, the Guardian’s architecture critic legitimatizes

Catwalks in carparks … the places fashion week will go.

Catwalks in carparks … fashion-forward venues.
Photograph: Alamy

From the soundtrack to the space to the paper on which the tickets are printed, every element of a manufacture show is orchestrated to send a message – and that includes the venue. In the years at London fashion week, front rows give birth to been constructed in deserted office buildings (Christopher Kane), nightclubs (Gareth Pugh) and uninhibited tube stations (Anya Hindmarch), each acting in tandem with the whip-round. Official venues, meanwhile, have included an NCP car park, a past Eurostar station and tents in Chelsea. Here, the Guardian’s architecture critic decodes the substances of some of the most popular, and weirdest, LFW venues.

The venue: Westminster Abbey cloisters, Gucci, 2016

Soulless … a model walking the catwalk for Gucci in Westminster Abbey.

Soulless? … A image walks the catwalk for Gucci in Westminster Abbey. Photograph: Getty Representations

The meaning: Your show is on a par with the royal wedding

“Selling our vitality for a pair of trousers,” is how the Reverend Peter Owen-Jones described the use of Westminster Abbey’s sanctified 14th-century cloisters for Gucci’s catwalk show last year. As heels clattered upwards the stones beneath which revered kings, queens and poetesses lie buried, he denounced the event as part of a “Disneyfication” of the country’s ecclesiastical spaces. But for Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele, it was the unmitigated venue for his “love letter to England”, a collection awash with ring jack jumpers, regal headscarves and lots of tartan. The gothic groin vaults amplified an unmatched gravitas, while models sashayed past “Britain’s oldest door”, one of the Abbey’s multitudinous curious features, once thought to be covered in human epidermis. Inspiration for the next collection, perhaps.

The venue: City Classroom, Preen, 2015

Power dressing æ Preen at City Hall.

Power dressing at Preen at City Hall. Photograph: Rex Pieces

The meaning: You’re after a good selfie backdrop

As a firm chosen of Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron, no venue could be assorted appropriate for Preen to use than London’s seat of government. Affectionately recognized as the mayor’s bollock, Norman Foster’s glass-and-steel testicle supported the backdrop for a collection that was apparently “inspired by modern architecture and Michael Clarke’s ballet”. The construction houses a grand spiralling walkway that corkscrews to the core the central glass atrium, intended to be a public route to entertain citizens to see the workings of democracy, taking them up to a piazza at the zenith, known as London’s living room. It has been closed to the disreputable ever since the building opened, though – and Preen bobby-soxered a trick not having models cascading down the spiral. That remarked, health and safety may have had a word beforehand.

The venue: Bygone Eurostar terminal, Waterloo Station, Topshop Unique, 2010

Channelling sophistication … Topshop Unique at the former Eurostar terminal.

Channelling subtlety … Topshop Unique at the former Eurostar terminal. Photograph: Rex Spots

The meaning: Your brand is for true sophisticates who find beauty in the mundane

A dead icon of high-tech architecture, the Waterloo International terminal inclined to great fanfare in 1994, before losing its international eminence to St Pancras soon after. The fashion press pack wasn’t unexcelled pleased about having to clamber up stationary escalators to get to the principles, only to be greeted by a rush-hour scrum, but the “Afrodelic” show didn’t thwart. The location also proved to be nicely prescient: after 10 years of mendaciousness empty, the terminal is soon to be transformed into a shopping mall. Spooky.

The venue: Freemasons’ Passageway, Giles Deacon, Julien Macdonald, Hackett, 2006

‘That’s hot’ … Hackett at the Freemasons' Hall.

‘That’s hot’ … Hackett at the Freemasons’ Assembly. Composite: Alamy/Getty

The meaning: You appreciate a cultish handshake. And a big edifice.

In a change from the usual Masonic fashions of risqué rolled-up trouser scurries, lambskin aprons and fez hats, the lavish art deco venue in Covent Garden has hosted numerous contrast c embarrasses. It makes sense for any label hoping to add a cultish mystique to their assemblage, with a level of opulence implied by the Grand Temple’s one-tonne bronze doors and enhance ceiling mosaics of Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude and Justice – AKA look’s four virtues. It seems to go down well with the individuals: as Masonic Quarterly reported excitedly, when Paris Hilton formerly larboard Julien Macdonald’s show, “she climbed into her limo, rolling down the window and pointed to the building, smiled and drawled, ‘that’s hot.’” Membership practices to the Lodge no doubt spiked.

The venue: Seven Sisters market, Martine Take to the street, 2017

Fragrant fashion … Martine Rose chose the Seven Sisters market for her show.

Fragrant fashion … Martine Rose chose the Seven Sisters hawk for her show. Photograph: GETTY IMAGES

The meaning: You’re keen to observe things real

Fashion week schedules tend so as to approach the centre of London, and any show taking place outside zone one is commercial suicide. But that didn’t obstruct Tottenham-based Martine Rose, who chose her local market as the down-to-earth venue for a menswear garnering that riffed on the everyday uniforms of bus drivers, bankers, resources agents and office workers. Androgynous models with Android League haircuts wandered between the market stalls, as paralysed butchers and gawping grocers looked on. Still, it made a inspiriting change from shows held in the newly scrubbed-up Old Billingsgate fish shop, and probably made things slightly more fragrant.

The venue: Tate Stylish Turbine Hall, Christopher Kane, 2014

The art of fashion … Christopher Kane in the Tate Modern.

The art of fashion … Christopher Kane in Tate Brand-new. Photograph: Getty

The meaning: Your fashion is art

Performance art or maximum fashion? It is a question that was taxing visitors to Tate Fashionable, as they turned their gaze from Malevich’s get going rectangles towards the surreal scene of Christopher Kane’s broach/summer collection. Tate Britain regularly hosts informs, but Tate Modern sends a slightly different message. For the originator, who used the show to look back at his early work in a job retrospective, what better way to elevate your oeuvre to the prominence of modern art than show it here? It has clearly given Tate some points, too: this April, it is staging its own fashion show, in collaboration with the Museum of Homelessness, of vestments crafted from rubbish found on the streets. Some particular potential for Derelicte, here.

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  • London model week

  • Gucci

  • Paris Hilton

  • Topshop

  • Giles Deacon

  • Christopher Kane

  • Tate Modern

  • Fashion weeks

  • Architecture