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Fashion Week usually takes place twice a year, with womenswear shows beginning in February and September, and menswear shows starting in January and June. Designers, brands, and fashion houses put on luxurious runway shows to showcase their latest collections for buyers and the media. These shows drastically influence the fashion trends for seasons to come.

New York. London. Milan. Paris.

The cities, considered the fashion capitals, or "Big Four", of the 21st century world, are the destinations graced by Fashion Week.

Origin of Fashion Shows

Fashion shows, initially coined as fashion parades, the main event during Fashion Week, originated in 1850, when Charles Frederick Worth, who is considered to be the father of haute couture, started to invite customers to his atelier. He organized the first fashion show to display his collection for the House of Worth.

Before fashion shows were deemed a form of art and entertainment, it was solely to promote the sale of the collection being showcased. Instead of being grand events, like today, the first fashion shows were very intimate. Photographers were rarely allowed and seats were exclusively reserved for a designer’s clientele. These shows served as a designer’s personal showing of a collection before the pieces were put into production and available for everyday consumers.

After receiving positive feedback on his first show, Worth started the tradition of biannual shows, to ensure his clientele could be present to see new collections. This tradition quickly gained popularity in Paris, and many designers began to adopt Worth’s tradition of hosting fashion shows for clients.

Source : Lily Absinthe

American Fashion Shows

By the early 1900s, the Parisian trend of hosting fashion shows for customers had reached the United States, hitting the ground first in New York City. Inspired by Charles Frederick Worth, a brand called the Ehrich Brothers hosted the first fashion show in the United States. Ehrich Brothers took it even a step further by implementing themes that the show was based around, making their runway shows more artistic and theatrical than Worth’s.

Source : Maft Magazine & The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Soon after, in 1910, department stores and designers all over the country were organizing fashion shows to bring attention to their collections. In a short span of 10 years, fashion shows became the new norm when it came to promoting new collections.

New York Fashion Week

In 1943, New York became the first city to host a formal Fashion Week. Up until this point in history, Paris was the center of fashion. However, because of World War II and Nazi occupation in Europe, travel to Paris was extremely limited. Because of this, the hub for fashion had to temporarily find a new home.

Eager to solve this problem, Eleanor Lambert, who is also credited with starting the Met Gala, the CFDA Awards, and the International Best Dressed List, launched the first Press Week, which would eventually evolve into what Fashion Week is today. She saw the perfect opportunity to both promote the American fashion scene and give consumers an alternative to French fashion.

The inaugural Fashion Week was held at the Plaza Hotel. Mainly focused on showcasing American designers, the event attracted reporters from all across the country. The event was a major success and quickly caught the attention of publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

Source : Forbes

Paris, Milan, & London Fashion Weeks

After New York Fashion Week took off, Paris quickly jumped on board, hosting couture shows starting in 1945 and formally holding the first Paris Fashion Week in 1973. Shows in Paris originally utilized mannequins, but after realizing that mannequins did not provide the same mobility as human models, designers quickly made the switch.

Jeanne Paquin, a female designer and pioneer in fashion, was the first to make fashions open to the public, instead of shows exclusively for customers of the brand. Additionally, Paul Poiret, a designer in the early 20th century, was the first to host, the now popularized, after parties following his fashion show. Now, Fashion Week in Paris is often hosted at historical venues such as the Carrousel du Louvre and the Grand Palais.

Milan was the next city to follow suit, with Milan Fashion Week being established in 1958. Milan Fashion Week is mainly organized by the National Chamber of Italian Fashion, which is a nonprofit that promotes and oversees Italian fashion, with Milano Moda Donna, or Milan Fashion Week Women's.

London is the latest of the Big Four that has started hosting Fashion Week, starting in 1984. Similar to New York, Paris, and Milan, London Fashion Week is held at culturally significant locations through the city.

Modern Expansion of Fashion Week

The Covid-19 Pandemic caused big waves in transforming the traditional definitions of the "fashion show" and even "Fashion Week". Because of travel restrictions and quarantine mandates, Fashion Weeks were forced to be held virtually, with guests attending from home, instead of the front row.

In the modern fashion scene, Fashion Week is an international event, with approximately 230,000 people attending in person, and millions watching from home. 90 million dollars is also generated by New York Fashion Week for the city’s economy every year. Fashion week ultimately serves as a “North Star” for the fashion industry, with everyone from designers to consumers, looking towards it for inspiration and direction.

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