The build-up of momentum, energy and excitement before every new season of fashion week occurs precisely because of the crescendo of secrecy and mystery that is each designer's new collection. What will we be wearing come spring? What new trends will we embrace; which pieces will end up in our wardrobes?
So it's rather anti-climactic to see celebrities wearing designs from next season before they've even officially debuted. Dresses from the "future" - from Spring/Summer 2012, to be precise - which have yet to hit the catwalks are proving to be a serious (off-catwalk) trend, already spotted on Sarah Jessica Parker (in Stella McCartney).
Paltrow wore her Pucci ensemble six days before it showed up on the Milan catwalks, while Parker debuted her McCartney frock at a ballet benefit in New York on 22 September. It's appearing on the catwalk in Paris next week.
Gwneth and SJP head straight to the front of th fashion queue. Photos: PA
On the one hand, these frocks from the "future" arriving on the scene early creates a pre-show buzz for the designers in question, and gets people speculating about what's to come. And who needs a catwalk when you have a celebrity endorsement? Sadly, that red carpet stars walk down night after night is better exposure than any runway will ever be.
Much as I would like to think that fashion can sustain itself on its own creative juices, it's an industry like any other, fighting tooth and nail to survive and, ultimately, to sell clothes. Having a top star wear your label to a major event or premiere these days is what every fashion house is competing for; it's become the norm that what celebrities (including first ladies and the Middleton sisters) are snapped in, regular people snap up.
Interestingly, both Gwynnie and SJP's outfit choices met with mixed reviews and quite a bit of criticism, so perhaps the intended positive publicity from two celeb fashion plates showcasing next-season wares somewhat backfired for the fashion houses. Then again, the exposure can still be beneficial, acting as a dress rehearsal before the main event so designers have a chance to make last-minute adjustments to their new collections to improve the chances of their show becoming a critical success.
For me, seeing the clothes on celebs before the items have even hit the catwalk takes away the charm and awe that the fashion show spectacle creates. It's completely underwhelming to later see the outfit on a model when it's already done the red carpet rounds, and it can lead to oversaturation and overexposure of certain garments, which is already an issue that fashion struggles with (remember that white lace Dolce & Gabbana dress from last spring?) How many celebrity midriffs will be bared in Pucci on the red carpet before the season is over and we're tired of seeing the same design?
This sort of celeb endorsement can also undermine the power of the fashion industry, where designers are traditionally top secret and super hush-hush about their collections, yet are apparently willing to sacrifice the drama of the big reveal for any old red carpet moment. Undoubtedly, fashion and celebrity are very intimate bed mates, but this cements the relationship even more - and I'm not sure that's a good thing.
This link between fashion and celebrity is a complicated one. Sure - it's a mutually beneficial relationship where celebs want to look good and need a variety of outfits to do that, and also where designers generate buzz from celebrity clients and subsequently sell clothes and gain renown.
But the fact that the fashion industry will bend over backwards for celebrities has made it completely oversaturated with them, and this kind of special red carpet treatment further contaminates the fashion industry with an undue amount of celebrity influence (does Cheryl Cole really need to start designing shoes?) Also, celebs - other than the rare few willing to take a fashion risk - need "safe," tame red carpet choices, flattering dresses that make them look good but not necessarily stand out. Too much celebrity influence can lead to a homogenization of red carpet-friendly designs being produced instead of the more outlandish items the fashion sphere may otherwise have embraced.
It's not unusual to see front row celebrities donning garments which are about to make an appearance on the runway minutes later. I'm not sure that's even necessary (surely wearing this-season wares promotes the designer, too?) but it's serious overkill to be so ahead of the sartorial game that you're wearing a catwalk creation that hasn't even had its catwalk moment. This need for what's new and what's next to happen now is exhausting and alienating, especially for those not in the fashion industry who are still coming to grips with what's in stores presently, let alone what will be there in six months.
This obsession with fast high fashion (you can buy new-season items straight off catwalks and websites minutes after many catwalk shows) is a direct result of the frenetic pace of fashion, that digital media (e-commerce, social networking, a preponderance of fashion blogs) has made possible. Fashion shows are no longer reserved for a small group of industry players; they are available online for anyone in the world to attend at any time. The democratisation of fashion is a great thing, but it doesn't need to be experienced on fast-forward.
As Diana Vreeland said, "Fashion must be the intoxicating release from the banality of the world." That intoxication should come from the garment, but also from the way it first makes its appearance in the world - on a global catwalk alongside its sartorial siblings in the rest of the collection, part of a theme, a concept, a story. There is plenty of time for red carpet appearances. Wearing something current doesn't make it banal.