In 2022, when a designer says they want to be “experimental,” they show a collection in the metaverse or they make their latest accessory drop only accessible via NFT purchase or they include a QR code on a show invite that gives you some crypto to buy a digital shoe for your avatar somewhere. Or something?

But back in the ’90s, when a show was described as “experimental,” it looked like Alexander McQueen spinning a flailing Shalom Harlow on a wooden turntable while two spray-painting robots cover her white-as-paper multi-layered dress, strapped to her chest with a belt, with black and neon-yellow paint. Everyone who was in the room for that Spring 1999 show recalls the entire audience leaning forward, mouths agape, as Harlow walked off the runway with black paint dripping off her collarbones.

It was one of the most famous fashion moments in history, and today everyone was talking about it in Paris. Not because Shalom Harlow is having a runway renaissance (though she is, by the way!) but because Bella Hadid closed the Coperni Spring 2023 show in a dress that was spray-painted onto her body using Fabrican, a material from a can that solidifies into wearable fabric. The show was dedicated to “women of this world” and in the show notes designers Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillan wrote, “To you, women who transcend your body and never lower your gaze before the barbed wire of morality.”

She entered the runway in a pair of white underwear, her chest covered with one arm, and left with a tight off-the shoulder asymmetrical white dress, complete with leg slit. Audience members’ mouths were surely agape, but in typical 2022 fashion, it was hard to see anyone’s face behind their phones, and it was more of a spectacle than a commentary on anything. The moment was circulating all over Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter within seconds.

Hadid is the archival fashion poster child for Gen Z, and it feels right that she would be the model for this moment. All those fashion lovers who learned about vintage from Hadid’s street style (recently, she can’t stop wearing a Richard Prince x Louis Vuitton bag from Marc Jacob’s 2008 collection) likely posted a photo of the Shalom Harlow moment on their Tumblrs in High School—and now they have a whole new moment to obsess over.

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