Perry Farrell at Trovata.

Fashion show or rock concert? This season, a handful of designers did away with prerecorded soundtracks and DJs and set their collections to live music, ranging from the soft and melodious to the loud and raucous. Oscar de la Renta, whose show took...

Fashion show or rock concert? This season, a handful of designers did away with prerecorded soundtracks and DJs and set their collections to live music, ranging from the soft and melodious to the loud and raucous. Oscar de la Renta, whose show took place inside a former church, booked The Polyphonic Spree, a 23-person symphonic rock collective that resembled a chorus of hipster angels. Dries Van Noten hired the Bamboo Orchestra to pound out traditional Indonesian rhythms, while Trovata had both bongo drums and former Jane’s Addiction lead singer Perry Farrell at the mic. Adding a more lyrical touch was French popstress Micky Green, who serenaded the audience at Vanessa Bruno (and then became a hot attraction offstage at Chanel as Karl Lagerfeld escorted her through the frenzy).

Some bands transformed into models, such as Brit rockers Sister, who wore Luella Bartley’s geek-chic designs as they entertained on her catwalk. And then some designers transformed into bands. Rodnik’s Richard Ascott and Philip Colbert morphed into a rock group and played to a crowd of scenesters following their London presentation (the next stops on their tour: 10 Corso Como in Milan and Maxfield in Los Angeles, of course).

Prince started singing before his bum even left his front-row perch at Matthew Williamson. He quietly crooned in his seat, then hopped up onstage, where a small band had been assembled; strapped on his guitar, and played “Chelsea Rodgers,” named after his eponymous muse – who also happens to be a friend of Williamson’s and was a model in the show.

“The whole thing was so bizarre,” said Williamson. “It was only when Prince arrived at the tent that I started to calm down.” Those who missed the spectacle need not fret – the footage from the performance (which Prince did free of charge in honor of Williamson’s 10th year in business) will be used in the artist’s upcoming music video for the tune.   

You can’t blame an entrepreneurial superstar for trying to get the most promotional mileage out of her fashion show. Jennifer Lopez blasted her new single, “Hold It Don’t Drop It,” over the sound system as her spring collection went down the catwalk, while hubby Marc Anthony sang along from his front-row seat.

Elsewhere, designers’ playlists gave musical shout-outs to their rocker pals in the crowd. Rihanna strutted down the Dsquared runway to the sound of her own voice singing “Shut Up and Drive.” And when the lights went up on the Dior by John Galliano show, Sting’s “An Englishman in New York” boomed, much to the delight of the Englishman himself, poised in the front row with wife Trudie Styler.

But some celebs showed up simply to catch the action and cheer on their friends. Lily Allen hit Luella, Mary J. Blige went to J.Mendel, Kanye West sat for no fewer than 10 shows and Paul McCartney came out for his daughter, Stella. Even seldom-seen Carole King braved the paparazzi frenzy, sitting in Zac Posen’s front row alongside fellow musicians Lisa Marie Presley; her daughter, Riley Keough, and Bette Midler.

The lyrics to The Pierces’ song, “Boring,” are racy for even the most risqué designer – “Sexy boy/Girl on girl/Ménage à trois/Boring/Marijuana/ Cocaine/Heroin/Boring” – so when they came blaring over the sound system at Ralph Lauren’s 40th anniversary show, editors couldn’t help but look at each other in disbelief. Was this really the soundtrack for the Lauren lifestyle? It got even more outrageous with the second verse: “Galliano/Donatella/ Dolce & Gabbana/Boring.” One can only assume the designer dis was all in good fun.

Some audience members couldn’t help but sing along when their favorite tracks played at the shows. At Vera Wang, frontrower and socialite Jamee Gregory gleefully joined in on The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” and when Olivia Newton-John’s “Xanadu” started at Michael Kors, Mario Testino and Hal Rubenstein matched the campy songstress note for note.  

Any editor or buyer who considered adding folk singer Feist’s album, Reminder, to their collections got a pretty good taste of the record this season when no less than three designers played tracks off the album. Pringle chose “1234,” Carolina Herrera opted for “My Moon My Man” and Erin Fetherston went for “Sealion.”  

The designers in Milan raised the bar for playlists with the most creative collaborations. At MaxMara, a techno pop and electronic arrangement of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly was mixed with Malcolm McLaren’s “Buffalo Gals 2 Remix.” Giorgio Armani was inspired by Southern Italy and opened his show with stornelli (short popular tunes) and the electronic sounds of Agricantus, a Sicilian band. And Jil Sander combined the instrumental “Moss Garden” by David Bowie and Brian Eno with the sounds of a koto, a traditional Japanese string instrument, and a synthesizer.