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Inside Vogue’s Runway Show Experiment

Anna Wintour’s New York-themed catwalk performance delivered celebrity appearances and a surprise performance from Lil Nas X.
Serena Williams walks the runway for Vogue World.
Serena Williams walks the runway for Vogue World. (Getty Images)

NEW YORK — If there was any question about Anna Wintour’s continued influence over the most high-profile people in fashion, music and sports, Vogue’s runway show-block party offered a definitive answer. On Monday night, Serena Williams, Ye (the artist formerly known as Kanye West), Russell Westbrook and Jared Leto sat front row as supermodels like Shalom Harlow and Karlie Kloss and rising stars like Brooklyn Beckham and Nicola Peltz walked the runway for the fashion bible.

Jam-packed with action and meticulously produced, “Vogue World” offered a new format for the magazine to extend its brand beyond the printed page. It was open to the public, although tickets were expensive. (A limited number of free tickets were reserved for students.)

The regular folks were joined by a who’s who of the American fashion world, including designers like Michael Kors and Emily Bode and executives like Pierre-Yves Roussel and Natalie Massenet. No one seemed to know what to expect but many were dancing and cheering throughout. Even Ye took his phone out to document the event, catching Erykah Badu on the runway.

Model Precious Lee on the runway for Vogue World: New York.

Wintour said she wanted the show to feel inclusive. “It’s an event celebrating New York and the fact that we’ve all been through a tough time,” she said.

Wintour previously staged a fashion show in 2010 as part of Fashion’s Night Out, an event series she also designed to drum up excitement around fashion in New York City. But it is otherwise rare for her to be anything other than part of the audience at fashion shows, albeit a particularly influential member. “I hope the designers will be kind to us,” she said.

The show opened with a swarm of marathon runners, one of several nods to the New York City theme. Williams, fresh off her emotional retirement that she first announced on Vogue’s September cover, was the first model down the runway in a sparkling silver cape. She then took a seat next to Wintour as models emerged in range of looks from the fall 2022 collections. Their ranks included Gigi Hadid, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Precious Lee, and represented more body diversity than the typical New York Fashion Week runway.

In between segments, dancers performed a range of choreography, including a fusion of Indian classical dance and hip-hop. Before the finale, Lil Nas X popped up from his seat next to Wintour for a surprise performance, playing directly to the livestream cameras that documented the evening for viewers on Vogue’s website.

Lil Nas X performed on the runway for Vogue World: New York.

After the runway portion concluded, as the celebrities quickly disappeared, guests swarmed the many stands dotting the closed-down block in the Meatpacking District, eagerly grabbing the free souvenirs and snacks from booths hosted by Ralph Lauren, Fendi and Coach. When asked what the Gucci stand was giving out in small ornate boxes, one attendee who had waited in line for the last one confessed she did not know. (It was cookies.) The Michael Kors branded Katz’s stand seemed to command the longest line.

Vogue is hoping to replicate this format in the future, and in other cities, leveraging its pull with stars to bring in sponsorship dollars and well-funded fashion fans while pumping the resulting content out over all its channels. The event is just one way the fashion bible is seeking to rethink its business model amid ongoing challenges in the media business. If Wintour can keep pulling together such an array of performers and celebrities, it may be a winning formula.

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Inside the $7 Billion Dior Phenomenon