Fashion Week History
In 1943, the first New York Fashion Week was held,
with one main purpose: to distract attention from French
fashion during WWII, when workers in the fashion industry
were unable to travel to Paris. This was an opportune
moment – as for centuries designers in America were thought
to be reliant on the French for inspiration. The fashion
publicist Eleanor Lambert organized an event she called
‘Press Week’ to showcase American designers for fashion journalists,
who had previously ignored their works. The Press Week was a success,
and, as a result, magazines like Vogue (which were normally filled with
French designs) began to feature more and more American innovations.
Until 1994, shows were held in different locations, such as hotels, or lofts.
Eventually, after a structural accident at a Michael Kors show, the event
moved to Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library, where it remained
until 2010, when the shows relocated to Lincoln Center. However, long before
Lambert, there were fashion shows throughout America. In 1903, an NYC shop, called
Ehrich Brothers, put on what is thought to have been the country’s first fashion show,
to lure middle-class females into the store. By 1910, many big department stores
were holding shows of their own.
It is likely that American retailers saw that they were called
‘fashion parades’ in Paris couture salons and decided to use the idea.
These parades were an effective way to promote stores, and improved
their status. By the 1920s, the fashion show had been used by retailers
up and down the country. They were staged, and often held in the shop’s
restaurant during lunch or teatime. These shows were usually more theatrical
than those of today, heavily based upon a single theme, and accompanied
with a narrative commentary. The shows were hugely popular, enticing
crowds in their thousands – crowds so large, that stores in New York in the
fifties had to obtain a license to have live models. Nowadays, access to
New York Fashion Week is by invitation only, and only fashion magazine
editors, fashion magazine journalists, models (and ex-models)
and celebrities are invited.
Other buyers are restricted to the showrooms and stores, and the
articles in the magazines. The dominance of the big four has been
criticised for benefiting industry participants. For example, buyers,
journalists, models and celebrities can limit their travel and simply move
from one city to the other over the four week period. This arrangement
has been criticized for stifling manufacturing employment in the UK
and design talent in emerging fashion hubs such as Los Angeles.
Fashion Week Schedule
New York, London, Milan and Paris each host a fashion week twice a year with
New York kicking off each season and the other cities following in the
There are two major seasons per year – Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer.
For Womenswear, the Autumn/Winter shows always start in
New York in February. Spring/Summer shows start in September
in London. Menswear Autumn/Winter shows start in January in Milan
for typically less than a week followed by another short week in Paris.
Menswear Spring/Summer shows are done in June. Womenswear Haute
Couture shows typically happen in Paris a week after
the Menswear Paris shows.
Over the past few years, more and more designers have shown
inter-seasonal collections between the traditional Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer seasons.
These collections are usually more commercial than the main season collections and
help shorten the customer’s wait for new season clothes. The inter-seasonal
collections are Resort/Cruise (before Spring/Summer) and Pre-Fall (before Autumn/Winter).
There is no fixed schedule for these shows in any of the major fashion capitals but
they typically happen three months after the main season shows. Some designers show
their inter-seasonal collections outside their home city. For example, Karl Lagerfeld
has shown his Resort and Pre-Fall collections for Chanel in cities such
as Moscow, Los Angeles and Monte Carlo instead of Paris. Many designers
also put on presentations as opposed to traditional shows during Resort and
Pre-Fall either to cut down costs or because they feel the clothes
can be better understood in this medium.
Some fashion weeks can be genre-specific, such as a
Miami Fashion Week (swimwear), Rio Summer (swimwear),
Prêt-a-Porter (ready-to-wear) Fashion Week, Couture
(one-of-a-kind designer original) Fashion Week and Bridal
Fashion Week, while Portland (Oregon, USA) Fashion Week
shows some eco-friendly designers.
“There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they would mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.”~Virginia Woolf