The Real Origin Of The Celeb-Studded Front Row

Photo: Rindoff/Dufour/Getty Images.
It's no secret that these days, Fashion Week is as much a publicity-courting spectacle as it is an industry-exclusive tradeshow. There's no better proof of this than the #FROW (otherwise known as the front row) — which, more often than not, now comes fully loaded with celebrities. Whether it's musicians-cum-designers like Kanye, It Girls like Alexa Chung, or reality stars (looking at you, Kim K.), the area formerly reserved for editors and buyers now more closely resembles a red carpet than anything else. And, although this influx of celebs seems like a recent phenomenon, it's actually been going on longer than you'd think. 

i-D reports that, while celebs had always made occasional appearances at fashion shows, they really became a fixture in the '90s — not coincidentally, the era when supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell were quickly becoming household names, and attracting a whole new level of attention to Fashion Week. Iconic party photographer Patrick McMullan told i-D that in the '90s, "PR people would tap me on the shoulder and say, 'Make sure you get this girl...' They often try to sit a powerhouse group of three. There's a synergy between three women."

But, as McMullan points out, the pre-Internet '90s offered precious few outlets for his photos of front-row celebs. "I went into the audience...while the girls were getting dressed, but at the time there was no vehicle for those photos," he remembered. "I just had the time to kill." 

Needless to say, the Internet changed that. Now it's a competition to see which designer can book the most famous front row, because having more celebrities means more publicity, which can lead to increased sales. The dynamics may have shifted, with bloggers now joining celebs and A-list editors in those coveted spots — but designers have recognized the power of the strategically seated influencer. The times have changed, and as McMullan put it, "People realized not taking advantage of your front row is a mistake." (i-D)
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