Photos by Getty Images
Fashion is much more than the latest style or trend. It’s a state of mind; a discipline; a culture. All of which lay the foundation for the industry event best known as Fashion Week. As its name suggests, Fashion Week, is a one week platform (plus or minus a day) used to catapult the upcoming season’s hottest designs and most coveted collections; as fashion houses and designers congregate to unveil the very same to the who’s who of the fashion world.
Imagine being a child in the largest and grandest of candy stores. For miles upon miles all your eyes feast on gumballs, jelly beans, chocolate bars, and lollipops. You are transfixed and in heaven. Now replace the candy with the finest textiles, patterns, garments, and accessories. The jars in which candy was once stored have become fashion racks; and the aisles of the candy store have become red carpets and catwalks. Voila, you have transcended to fashion heaven! This, my dear friends, is the magic and beauty of Fashion Week.
During its infancy, Fashion Week was first known as Press Week. It was born on July 20th, 1943 in the City of New York. It was the offspring of fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert. Her vision was to spotlight American designers who in prior years had been disregarded by fashion journalists. She attained success when journalists shifted their focus; taking the time to acknowledge and report on American designers - the most prominent of which was Vogue.
Eleanor Lambert (Photo courtesy of Amazon)
The fashion industry had been dominated by the French and had been so since the seventeenth century. Its dominance was further propelled into the nineteenth century with the introduction of haute couture in the 1860’s. The birth of Press Week saw the end to Paris’ dominance of the fashion industry.
At the onset of World War II, European design houses struggled to keep their doors open. Amongst those were the design houses of Paris. With mandated fabric rations; and with little to no international audience or prospective buyers; designers found themselves unable to produce the finest garments they were accustomed to.
By the summer of 1940, war was imminent. German forces had begun their occupancy of Paris. It was at this time designers found they were at their ropes end; expediting the closure of several design houses across Paris.
Paris’ demise became New York’s genesis. American Designers and manufacturers were compelled by the rare opportunity brought about from the War. They knew they could make a significant impact on the fashion industry if they acted – and acted they did!
Image from the first Fashion Week (Photo courtesy of Conde Nast)
The second Press Week was held in New York during January, 1944 - six short months after its initial debut; it quickly became a semi-annual event. American Designers spiraled to centre stage in the world of fashion; showcasing their collections at various venues across the City. “Made in America” became a household name and took on a whole new entity.
In 1973, 30 years after its birth, Press Week saw the rise of five American Designers in Versailles, Paris - Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, and African American, Stephen Burrows. The five were chosen by Lambert to showcase on the same catwalk as prominent French Designers Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Emanuel Ungaro, and Pierre Cardin. The Americans brought a new and vibrant concept to fashion, which caught the French off guard. They triumphed over the French. Versailles brought international fame and acclaim to American Designers.
After 50 long years, Press Week reached adult-hood, and was reincarnated in 1994 at which time it became Fashion Week, as we know it today.
Throughout the years, Fashion Week had been held at various venues across the City of New York. In 1993, however, Fern Mallis, whom at the time, was Executive Director, of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, lobbied to bring New York Designers together in one single venue. Mallis’ efforts were soon recognized in 1994, when Bryant Park (the tents), only a few short blocks of the fashion district, become the new home to New York Fashion Week.
Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2012 (Photos by Getty Images)
In 2008, the fashion community observed another reincarnation, when New York Fashion Week became Mercedes Benz Fashion Week (MBFW). There was a subsequent rebirth in 2010, when the tents of Bryant Park came down for the last time; and the fashion world watched MBFW move to its new home at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park.
Call it chance or call it destiny – American Designers have been resilient, and as such, have witnessed the City of New York to take its rightful place as one of the fashion capitals of the world.
Fashion Around the World
Fashion Week is not just one week of the year in which we are transfixed with the world’s greatest fashion houses and designers. Despite what its name suggests; fashion week is a semi-annual event in which spring/summer and fall/winter collections are showcased.
The spring/summer shows kick off in New York City during the month of September and continues throughout the fashion capitals to the end of October; at which time Paris hosts the grand finale. Similarly, the autumn/winter shows begin in New York in February and end in Paris in March.
New York, Paris, London, and Milan are the four major fashion capitals in the world. These four, although the largest, represent a small fraction of the more than 100 fashion weeks held world-wide.
Photo courtesy of Fashion1
As a new year looms upon us, it is with great certainty that designers have been laboring away; crafting the styles of the upcoming season. Nestled away in the confines of their fashion houses, they are tailoring and fine-tuning the most intricate details to achieve perfection on every garment. It is almost without question they are making every effort to outshine themselves from the previous years’ collections and shows - all the while raising the bar in hopes of exceeding their own expectations.
It is with this labor of love, that the glamour and extravagance of Fashion Week lives on.
Read more articles by CJ Ramsaran: TIFF