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The history of Fashion Month

NYFW 2016Fashion Month is the unofficial title for the weeks that make up the Big 4 fashion week events that happen in February/March and September/October each year. The Big 4 is a name that refers to the four major fashion week events, which are New York Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week, and Paris Fashion Week, which happen in that order.

Fashion Week events give brands and fashion houses the opportunity to display their latest collections during runway shows to buyers and the media. These shows play a big part in influencing future fashion trends, and give other designers the opportunity to put their own spin on the styles that feature on the catwalk.

While the Big 4 are the major events that make up Fashion Month, recent years have seen important events occur across the world including Berlin, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Rome.

Fashion Month happens twice a year, and show off styles in advance of that fashion season. The shows that occur in February to March showcase autumn and winter styles, while the shows in September-October are about next year’s spring and summer trends.

With the advent of ‘See Now, Buy Now shopping’ the Fashion Week model is set to change, with fashionistas and high-street brands being able to purchase the outfits showcased on the runway immediately.

New York Fashion Week

New York Fashion Week officially began running under that title in 1993, but a Fashion Week-type event had been running in New York since 1943.

In 1943 an event called Press Week was organised by Eleanor Lambert, the press director of The New York Dress Institute, an American business focusing on promoting fashion. The event was created in order to draw attention away from French fashion during the Second World War. This was because American fashion insiders were unable to travel to Paris to watch French fashion shows.

This led to The Press Week of 1943 becoming the first organised fashion week event. The focus on showcasing American designers was an instant success and led to magazines such as Vogue giving more page space to American fashion designers.

By the mid-50s, the annual event became known as the ‘Press Week of New York’.


London Fashion Week

London Fashion Week began in 1984, and was organised by the British Fashion Council. Currently, most on-schedule events take place in Somerset, though other off-schedule events have started to occur across the city.

In 2010, London Fashion Week was the first of the Big 4 to offer live streaming of the catwalks, something that we now take for granted thanks to leaps in technology as well as social media such as Snapchat and Periscope.

Milan Fashion Week

Milan Fashion Week was one of the earliest events to be established, beginning in 1958. This event was partially organised by The National Chamber for Italian Fashion, a non-profit company that focused on the promotion of Italian fashion. Several key fashion names appeared during the event’s Memorandum of Association, including, Roberto Capucci, Emilio Schuberth and Germana Marcuelli.

During Milan Fashion Week, several of the city’s major buildings become home to catwalks, including the Palazza Reale.

Greenpeace protested the event in 2014 by hanging signs in the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II; they were unhappy about the amount of toxic emissions caused by Italian fashion houses, and their protest was a demand for ‘toxic-free fashion’.

Paris Fashion Week

Though New York threw the first fashion week-type event, it was actually based on a tradition of French fashion shows. These salon shows took place in Parisian couture salons, and were held as early as 1700s. These shows were only open to clients who were making purchases, and the clothes were displayed on mannequins.

The first recognised Paris Fashion Week was in 1973, and was advertised as a fundraiser to restore the Palace of Versailles, where the event was taking place. This event was organised by Eleanor Lambert, the woman who had organised the first New York Press Week.

The first Paris Fashion Week showcased clothing by both American and French designers, including Anne Klein, Hubert de Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent. Fashion pieces included clothing that looked like a rocket ship and a rhinoceros pulling a gypsy caravan.

The event was informally referred to as the Battle of Versailles because of the tension between the French and American designers!

Fashion Week, and Fashion Month are now an iconic staple of the fashion industry, and are events which fans and designers look forward to. Do you have a favourite Fashion Month moment? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

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