A Leaf Out of the History of Fashion Weeks

“Every year the women of New York leave the past behind and look forward to the future… this is known as Fashion Week.” Carrie Bradshaw.

This line from the iconic show Sex and the City depicts in some small measure the frenzied interest around the extravaganza and vividness that are Fashion Weeks. Except that it is not just women anymore who look forward to it with baited breath – there are brands, buyers, bloggers, social media influencers and simply fashionistas who anxiously wait for these major fashion events to commence every year, twice a year.

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Could one have imagined that the genesis of such big events around modern day fashion happened in departmental stores? Or that World War II played a significant role in the growth of one of the major fashion weeks, the New York Fashion Week?

It is believed that way back in 1903, a New York City based shop named Ehrich brothers organized the first ever fashion show in order to gain the attention of its female customers belonging to the middle-class. It led to a trend among departmental stores to hold shows of their own.

Years later in 1943, the first official New York Fashion Week began as “Press Week”, which was organized by fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert. Incidentally, owing to World War II the American fashion media could not fly down to Paris for the next season’s collections and hence New York got a chance to show the world what they had got. This marked the beginning of Fashion Weeks that were subsequently held in different parts of the New York City. It gave a chance to prestigious fashion magazines like Vogue to talk about these shows extensively.

In the fashion industry, New York, London, Milan and Paris form the coveted quadrant of Fashion Weeks. With primarily two kinds of shows, menswear and womenswear, shows specific to a region such as “Haute Couture” in Paris and “Resort/Cruise” and “Bridal” shows in New York are generally held. Genre-specific Fashion Weeks such as Miami Fashion Week and Rio Summer that feature swimwear have also gained much prominence.

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It is interesting to note the significant evolution that fashion weeks have gone through since its inception and what they mean to relevant stakeholders now. In the words of designer, stylist and entrepreneur, Rachael Zoe, fashion weeks 20 years ago “was all about the glamour and the flash. Now more than ever, there is a significant commercial undertone that encompasses the experience.” Another major change is the advent of social media. The relationship and connectivity it creates between designers and their audience is monumental, according to Zoe.

Back home in India, fashion weeks have made stars out of many a model, and given wings to the career of numerous designers. From humble beginnings in departmental stores to becoming the cynosure of the global fashion industry, fashion weeks have come a long way.

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