By Leila Bianco
From New York to London, Milan and then Paris, this year’s fashion weeks have featured astonishing collections from a global range of talented designers. Whilst not even having the time to process the excitement from New York and London, Milan Fashion Week has already begun, and Paris Fashion Week will be up next before we know it. Hence, what is this period in the luxury fashion sector, and why is it so hectic? How did this fashion world phenomenon first start? When does it occur now, and where? In RELUSO’s first article for the year, you will learn everything you need to know about Fashion Week and what makes it so crucial for the fashion industry.
What is Fashion Week?
A fashion week is a notable event where leading figures in the fashion industry showcase their latest upcoming collections through a series of runway shows, aiming to captivate the attention of buyers and media. Fashion buyers are crucial to Fashion Week as they are the industry shapers, getting to decide what elements of collections will be stocked in stores. They need to understand trends and make purchasing decisions based on them and the needs of the consumer. To generate interest for designer’s upcoming collections, the selected audience also consists of fashion editors, who determine the pieces featured within the magazine's pages. Among other attendees are stylists, PR professionals, journalists, VICs (Very Important Clients), celebrities and influencers, which generate brand exposure and enhance its online visibility and appeal.
Hence, with many such professionals attending, Fashion Week also becomes an important source of inspiration for future trends in the fashion sector. And, as Fashion Week is primarily a business event, with the spotlight on not only the runway but experience as a whole, time sensitivity is crucial. With numerous occurring promotional events from store openings, press days, dinners, cocktails, and after-parties to red carpets such as this year’s Vogue World opening night held for London Fashion Week, amongst other social gatherings, it is no wonder that the period transforms into the busiest, most hectic time for the fashion sector.
How Did Fashion Week First Start?
Fashion Week roots trace back to 1943 when Eleanor Lambert, a prominent publicist, orchestrated "Press Week" in New York City. Due to World War II, the press, alongside American designers, editors, and buyers, couldn’t travel to Paris to view the bi-annual atelier “presentations,” that served as a source of inspiration, held with no special lighting or music, just with a model parading quietly around the room. Eleanor saw the opportunity to promote the work of American designers, marking the birth of a tradition that by the mid-’60s would be named New York Fashion Week, alongside Milan Fashion Week being founded by Camera Nazionale della Moda in 1958.
As the concept was swiftly spreading, and the Parisian insecurity about the rapidly expanding United States fashion industry was rising, advancing from the old format of atelier presentations, the official Paris Fashion Week was recognised by the Fédération Française de la Couture and took place in 1973. The inaugural London Fashion Week took place in 1984 following the establishment of the British Fashion Council in 1983. These events provided a platform for designers to showcase their creations to a then-growing global audience, solidifying the cities' reputations as fashion epicentres. Nowadays, the advent of digital technology democratised access, allowing live-streamed shows and instant social media updates to engage an even broader audience.
When Does Fashion Week Occur, and Why In That Time?
Fashion Week is a bi-annual event held in January through February to showcase the spring/summer collections and then September through October to showcase the fall/winter collections. The shows were initially timed ahead of the actual seasons for the once slower retail cycle to give the buyers enough time to place orders and magazine editors to highlight the season’s trends, incorporating the designers into the retail marketing. However, in 2016, designers started moving to in-season shows. That was because the increase in customer expectations and demand to buy clothing right from the runway led to the retail cycle increasing. It is why, nowadays, we might see winter clothing on September’s runways.
Certain fashion weeks have separate dates for womenswear and menswear. Conversely, some fashion weeks consolidate them into a single event. In 2023, we’ve seen menswear fashion weeks bi-annually, in January and June, whilst womenswear fashion weeks bi-annually in February and September through October.
Where Does Fashion Week Occur?
The dates of the fashion categories can differ as well per location. For example, Paris Fashion Week delineates separate dates for ready-to-wear and haute-couture fashion shows, as it is the only one to have a haute-couture week. On the other hand, the categories of bridal and swimwear are showcased respectively in Bridal New York and Miami Swim Week. Hence, leading us to present the distinctive signatures of certain city’s fashion weeks. Cities have their signature fashion week, which mirrors the city's essence. New York radiates with bold urban flair, championing emerging talents, whilst London, the birthplace of the avant-garde, captivates with its eccentricity and inventive ethos. Milan is celebrated for its refined charm and craftsmanship, and lastly, Paris, argued the world’s fashion capital, exudes timeless elegance and houses iconic fashion maisons.
Furthermore, emerging locales beyond the traditional "Big Four" (New York, London, Milan and Paris), such as Tokyo, Seoul, Barcelona, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam, host their unique fashion weeks, enriching the global fashion calendar. They have embraced the fashion movement, infusing it with fresh vitality. From Berlin's audacious and diverse runways to São Paulo's celebration of Latin American culture, each Fashion Week promises a distinctive and enriching experience for all involved.