A fashion week is a fashion industry event, lasting approximately one week, wherein fashion designers, brands or "houses" display their latest collections in runway shows to buyers and the media. These events influence trends for the current and upcoming seasons.
There are many fashion weeks worldwide. In 1943, the first New York Fashion Week was held, with one main purpose: to distract attention from French fashion during World War II, when workers in the fashion industry were unable to travel to Paris. This was an opportune moment, as "before World War II, American designers were thought to be reliant on French couture 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. 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, a New York City 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 what were called 'fashion parades' in 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.
Paris began holding couture shows in 1945, Milan Fashion Week was founded by the Italian Chamber of Commerce in 1958, Paris Fashion Week was further organized in 1973 under the French Fashion Federation, and London Fashion Week was founded by the British Fashion Council in 1984.
Although these key organizations still organize most shows, there are independents and multiple producers in all cities, as well.
Fashion week happens twice a year in the major fashion capitals of the world: New York, London, Milan, and Paris (in that order). Fashion weeks are held several months in advance of the season to allow the press and buyers a chance to preview fashion designs for the following season. In February and March, designers showcase their autumn and winter collections. Fashion week for spring and summer is held in September and October. This is also to allow time for retailers to arrange to purchase or incorporate the designers into their retail marketing. The latest innovations in dress designs are showcased by renowned fashion designers during these fashion weeks, and all these latest collections are covered in magazines such as Vogue.
"Big Four" fashion weeks
There are primarily two kinds of shows: womenswear and menswear. There are also shows particular to each location. For example, there are "haute couture" shows in Paris, and in New York, there are "resort / cruise" and "bridal" shows.
Womenswear shows are held in February and September/October, in the following order: New York, London, Milan and Paris.
Menswear fashion weeks are held in January and June/July, in the following order: London, Milan, Paris, New York.
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 Miami Fashion Week (swimwear), Rio Summer (swimwear), the haute couture shows in Paris (one-of-a-kind designer originals), Indonesia Islamic Fashion Week (Moslem Fashion), Festive Wear at Bangalore Fashion Week and Bridal Fashion Week, while Portland (Oregon, USA) Fashion Week shows some eco-friendly designers. Bread and Butter Berlin hosts the leading fashion show for everyday fashion.
The advent of "see now, buy now" shopping is expected to further transform fashion week, as collections become "in season" and select items are offered from the runway in real time.
- Amanda Fortini, "How the Runway Took Off. A brief history of the fashion show." Feb. 8 2006
- Leach, William R. "Transformations in a Culture of Consumption: Women and Department Stores, 1890-1925". The Journal of American History. Vol. 71, No. 2 (Sep., 1984), pp. 319-342. Accessed August 14, 2011.
- "The Long and Winding History of Fashion Week | New York Fashion Week". New York Fashion Week. Retrieved 2016-04-07.
- Ward, Maria. "Introducing the New Vogue Runway App: Your Digital Front Row Seat to Fashion Week". Vogue. Retrieved 2016-04-07.
- Emling, Shelley. "Big 4 fashion weeks get new company - Style - International Herald Tribune - The New York Times". Retrieved 2016-04-07.
- "Is This The Last Traditional New York Fashion Week?". Harper's BAZAAR. 2016-02-14. Retrieved 2016-04-27.
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