15 Iconic Runway Moments That Made Fashion History

Most runway shows cut right to the chase — the audience is there to watch models showcase the designer's latest collections. Others decide to go what I'd call the "perfume commercial route" and create a truly stunning visual ~experience~.

A woman apparently underwater and wearing a gauzy gown
Christian Dior / Via youtube.com

However, not every memorable runway moment is the designer's brainchild. Some are born from a model's quick thinking.

Identity / Via giphy.com

Here are 15 of the wildest runway moments in fashion history:

1.To close out the Coperni SS23 show during Paris Fashion Week 2022, Bella Hadid had a dress made of Fabrican (a spray paint–like fabric) sprayed onto her body live onstage.

Bella stands as the fabric is painted onto her
Estrop / Getty Images

Then, after a few adjustments to style the dress, she modeled it down the runway.

Bella standing in an off-the-shoulder, side slit dress
Pierre Suu / Getty Images

2.However, Fabrican appeared on the runway more than a decade earlier. Designer Manel Torres, who invented the technology, used the spray-on fabric to create instant outfits and flowers as part of his 2011 Moscow Design Week show.

Man wearing goggles applying spray-on fabric to a model
Fabrican Ltd. / Via youtube.com

He presented a multicolored variety of garments created with Fabrican, which he patented in 2000.

Models wearing shapeless pink and green garments
Fabrican Ltd. / Via youtube.com

3.At Alexander McQueen's 1998 London Fashion Week show, Shalom Harlow spun as a pair of robot arms spray-painted her white dress.

Shalom standing as robots spray-paint her dress
Victor Virgile / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Here's a closer look at the finished design.

Shalom standing with legs apart with spray-painted A-line dress
Victor Virgile / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

4.During Chanel's 2019 Paris Fashion Week show, French YouTuber Marie Benoliel (aka Marie S’Infiltre) crashed the stage to join the models.

Marie in a checkered suit sharing the stage with Gigi
Victor Virgile / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

However, Gigi Hadid locked eyes with her, and then — transforming from supermodel to security guard — she swiftly escorted the interloper off the stage.

Wider view of Gigi getting Marie off the stage
Stephane Cardinale — Corbis / Corbis via Getty Images

5.Before walking down the Gucci runway during Milan Fashion Week 2019, Bones Tan-Jones wrote, "Mental health is not fashion" on their hands to protest the brand's use of straitjackets "alluding to mental patients" in its collection.

Bones on the catwalk holding up the palms of their hands and showing the message
Jacopo M. Raule / Getty Images for Gucci

On Instagram, the model wrote, "As an artist and model who has experienced my own struggles with mental health, as well as family members and loved ones who have been affected by depression, anxiety, bipolar and schizophrenia, it is hurtful and insensitive for a major fashion house such as Gucci to use this imagery as a concept for a fleeting fashion moment."

Close-up of the message "Mental health is not fashion" on their palms
Melodie Jeng / Getty Images

6.During a Betsey Johnson show in 1998, Alek Wek ripped off the blonde wig she'd been styled in. The moment has become a symbol of rebellion against European-centric beauty standards.

She told the BBC, "That wig was not just about me taking it off to make a scene. It was a time that I was just starting in fashion, to work. And the one thing that I told my agents was, if you are going to represent me, I’m not going to be a gimmick and be in for a couple of seasons. You’re going to take it all or leave it."

Close-up of Alek smiling
New York Daily News Archive / NY Daily News via Getty Images

7.At its apocalypse-inspired Paris Fashion Week show in 2020, Balenciaga flooded the catwalk.

Model walking on a catwalk with water splashing as they walk
Estrop / Getty Images

Artistic director Demna Gvasalia reportedly waterlogged the runway — and the first few rows of seats — as a visual representation of rising sea levels.

A model walking along a wet runway
Estrop / Getty Images

8.At Calvin Klein's fall 2018 New York Fashion Week show, the entire floor was buried beneath 50,000 gallons of popcorn.

A model walking on a runway covered in popcorn
Victor Virgile / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Designer Raf Simons reportedly took inspiration from the idea of a "twisted Americana."

Model walking on the popcorn-filled runway with a sitting audience on either side
Victor Virgile / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

9.During Milan Fashion Week 2019, Jennifer Lopez closed out the Versace show in an updated version of her iconic green dress from the 2000 Grammys, which was so popular, it sparked the creation of Google Images.

JLo walking the runway in a green, body-baring dress with an audience taking cellphone photos on either side
Victor Virgile / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Here they are side by side.

JLo on the red carpet in the original green dress
J. Vespa / WireImage / Getty Images, Jacopo Raule / Getty Images

10.Because of COVID-19 precautions in 2020, Valentino forwent a traditional runway show, instead opting for a circus-inspired livestream with models suspended in the air.

Shadowy image of a model suspended and wearing a long gown
Nathan Feddo — Boundaries/New Frontiers/Channelling Form / FF Channel / Via youtube.com

Designer Pierpaolo Piccioli told Reuters, "It came out at a tough moment, but I believe our job is not to reflect the moment but, rather, react to it. Couture is made for emotions. It’s not for walking, it’s for dreams."

Model wearing a gauzy costume on a trapeze against a dark background
Nathan Feddo — Boundaries/New Frontiers/Channelling Form / FF Channel / Via youtube.com

11.For Paris Fashion Week 2015, Rick Owens styled models wearing other models.

Model on the runway with another model over their shoulder and hanging behind them
Francois G. Durand / WireImage / Getty Images

They were suspended from each other with harnesses.

Model on the runway with another model hanging from their shoulders in front of them
Francois G. Durand / WireImage / Getty Images

12.At Gucci's 2018 Milan Fashion Week show, some models carried quite head-turning accessories — models of their own heads.

A model on the runway carrying a head that looks like them
Catwalking / Getty Images

During the same show, other models carried more fantastical accessories, including a sleeping baby dragon and a third eye. The props were a collaboration between designer Alessandro Michele and SFX factory Makinarium.

Model carrying a baby dragon
Catwalking / Getty Images, Pietro D'aprano / Getty Images

13.During Stella McCartney's 2020 Paris Fashion Week show, a few models closed out the show wearing mascotlike animal costumes.

A model in a full-body and head-covering cow costume
Peter White / Getty Images

McCartney told the Guardian, "What we try to do here at Stella is to sugarcoat a powerful, meaningful message in a little bit of humour and fun, to make our point in a palatable and digestible way so that people listen. These animals are the ingredients of everyone else’s fashion shows."

A model in a full-body rabbit costume
Peter White / Getty Images

14.Bobby Abley took inspiration from the Teletubbies for his 2017 London Men's Fashion Week show.

Model with a Teletubby doll strapped to their back
Nurphoto / NurPhoto via Getty Images

One of the Teletubbies even walked the runway.

A Teletubby model on the runway
Nurphoto / NurPhoto via Getty Images

15.And finally, during Paris Fashion Week 2017, Chanel closed its show with a rocket launch.

A rocket behind models standing in a row
Peter White / Getty Images

Elton John's "Rocket Man" played as models lined up for takeoff.

The models standing in a row as the rocket lifts off
Peter White / Getty Images