Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum, for New York Look

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When the Backdrop Is the Star

SHOW: Alexander McQueen

THE STAGE: A towering winged structure made out of neon-tube lights
SET DESIGNER: Joseph Bennett; built by Simon Kenny
LIGHTS: Warren du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones
INSPIRATION: Isabella Blow
HOW LONG IT TOOK TO BUILD: Four days
… AND TO BREAK DOWN: One day
WHERE IT IS NOW: Stored by the production company

SHOW: Stella McCartney

THE STAGE: A 30-foot-high wall of 2,000 plants
SET DESIGNER: Patrick Blanc, botanist
INSPIRATION: An English country garden
HOW LONG IT TOOK TO BUILD: Three days
… AND TO BREAK DOWN: One day
WHERE IT IS NOW: Donated to the city of Boulogne, France (outside Paris), and relocated in a low-income housing project maintained by Espaces, a nonprofit organization

SHOW: Nina Ricci by Oliver Theyskens

THE STAGE: A tent in Paris’s Tuileries, peeled open at the back to create two curved, Richard Serra–esque walls that let in air and sunlight from the garden
SET DESIGNER: La Mode en Images, Paris
INSPIRATION: A country road in the early morning
HOW LONG IT TOOK TO BUILD: One night
… AND TO BREAK DOWN: Half a day
WHERE IT IS NOW: Stored with the production company

SHOW: Hermès by Jean Paul Gaultier

THE STAGE: Spices drifted down a vibrant red backdrop onto the runway
SET DESIGNER: Etienne Russo
INSPIRATION: The colors and ceremonies of India
HOW LONG IT TOOK TO BUILD: Eighteen hours
… AND TO BREAK DOWN: Six hours
WHERE IT IS NOW: Discarded

SHOW: John Galliano

THE STAGE: A carnival, complete with a fin-de-siècle carousel and boardwalk
SET DESIGNER: Michael Howells
INSPIRATION: Grey Gardens, Sweet Charity, and Andy Warhol
HOW LONG IT TOOK TO BUILD: Four days
… AND TO BREAK DOWN: One night
WHERE IT IS NOW: Some of the pieces were rented, some were destroyed after the show, and others will be reused in Galliano’s store window displays next summer