What is Fashion Week? Everything You Need to Know

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A fashion week is a bi-annual fashion industry event organized in large cities worldwide during which several fashion shows take place with models parading on the runway designers’ upcoming fashion collections, showcasing them to buyers and media.

The world’s most influential Fashion Week cities are – in chronological order – New York, Paris, Milan, and London, also known as the Big Four Fashion Week cities.

What is the Origin of Fashion Week?

Before Fashion Week, fashion designers showcased their creations at clients’ homes via small fashion parades (défilés de mode’ in French).

Over time, these home-based fashion shows evolved into weekend-long social events that powerful and influential people attended.

Fashion Week Origin
Home-based and Department Store Fashion Shows

The concept of weekend-long fashion shows reached the United States, and in 1903, Ehrich Brothers, a Manhattan clothing shop, organized the country’s first fashion event dedicated to middle-class women.

The shows were hugely popular, leading to the launch of the world’s first Fashion Week in New York City on July 19, 1943.

What Are the Biggest Fashion Weeks?

Paris, London, New York City, and Milan organize the world’s most famous fashion weeks (known as the “Big Four” Fashion Weeks) with shows that impact upcoming fashion trends.

The Big Four fashion weeks benefit from excellent funding, infrastructure, media coverage, top fashion critics, celebrities support, awards, and the shows of the most famous fashion designers of modern times.

New York Fashion Week

The world’s first ‘Fashion Week’ event occurred in New York City on July 19, 1943, in continuation to Eleanor Lambert’s work, who set up the New York Dress Institute in 1941 and the Press Week in 1943.

The purpose of New York Fashion Week was to provide fashion buyers with alternatives to French fashion during World War II, when workers in the fashion industry could not travel to Paris.

New York Fashion Week 1943
New York Fashion Week 1943

The 1990s yielded plenty of memorable moments, from Marc Jacobs’s infamous, grunge-inspired spring 1993 Perry Ellis show to Kate Moss strolling down the catwalk at Calvin Klein.

Aside from the rise of supermodels, the event was marked by front-row celebrities like Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio, Drew Barrymore, and Mariah Carey.

Newyork fashion week 1993
Newyork Fashion Week 1993 – At 16 years old, Kate Moss strolled down the catwalk at Calvin Klein

The move to Bryant Park led to corporate sponsorship opportunities – the biannual event was rebranded Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in the late 1990s.

From 2010 to 2015, the home of New York Fashion Week – expanded to nearly 300 shows – was Lincoln Center, and since 2016 it has taken place at Tribeca Spring Studios.

Milan Fashion Week

Before Milan became Italy’s fashion capital, Italian aristocrat Giovanni Battista Giorgini held several fashion shows, like the 1951 event at Palazzo Pitti in Florence, with designs from Emilio Pucci and Fontana sisters.

However, the city’s narrow streets forced the organizers to move the event to a bigger city.

The first Italian fashion show on February 12, 1951 in Florence
The first Italian fashion show was on February 12, 1951, in Florence.

As such, in 1958, the Milan Fashion Week was launched in collaboration with Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana.

Between the 1970s and 1990s, shows organized by Milan-based fashion designers like Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace with models like Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, and Linda Evangelista became immensely popular, cementing Milan’s status as a sartorial capital of the world.

Paris Fashion Week

By the end of the 1930s, Paris had become a hothouse of renowned fashion designers like Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Madeleine Vionnet.

Between 1945 and the 70s, Parisian fashion houses shifted from small, individualized events dedicated to wealthy clients to big parties where models interacted with buyers, fashion critics, and celebrities.

Battle of Versailles First Paris Fashion Week 1973
First Paris Fashion Week 1973 in Battle of Versailles

Organized by the French Fashion Federation, the first Paris Fashion Week took place in 1973, October 1/9, as the ‘Battle of Versailles Fashion Show’ – a fight of sartorial nature – where the fashion tensions between Paris and New York were brought to life on stage.

The event featured Yves Saint Laurent, Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin, and Hubert de Givenchy on the French side against Anne Klein, Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, and Stephen Burrows, representing America.

London Fashion Week

The first London Fashion Week was organized in October 1983 by the British Fashion Council in a car park in West London, with tents placed outside Kensington’s Commonwealth Institute.

London Fashion Week Runway 1993
London Fashion Week Runway 1993

Young fashion designers like Betty Jackson, David Fielden, and John Galliano debuted at this successful event, prompting the UK government to step in and provide official funding.

In the 90s, Alexander McQueen showcased his creations for the first time at London Fashion Week (1993), followed by Stella McCartney in 1995.

When Are the Fashion Weeks?

Nowadays, Fashion Week takes place twice a year, in February and March, when designers showcase their Autumn/Winter collections, and in September and October, for the Spring/Summer collections.

New York City is the first to start the Fashion Week (February 7–15), followed by London (February 15–19), Milan (February 19–25), and Paris – the last of the Big Four – closing the event (February 25-March 5).

What is the Format of the Fashion Week

While all Fashion Weeks showcase womenswear and menswear, each show depicts particularities according to the event’s location.

Paris Fashion Week is renowned for haute couture, New York Fashion Week for business and leisure fashion, London Fashion Week for highly creative fashion designers, and Milan Fashion Week for traditional fashion styles.

Formats of the Fashion Week

Apart from the Big Four Fashion Weeks, several cities worldwide organize Fashion Weeks and thematic fashion events like Miami Fashion Week and Rio Summer Fashion Week for swimwear, Indonesia Islamic Fashion Week for Muslim fashion, and Bangalore Fashion Week for festive wear.

How Many Fashion Weeks Are Around the World?

Since the 2000s, the globalization of fashion has contributed to the rise of non-traditional fashion cities to significant relevance in the fashion calendar.

In addition to the four fashion capitals, fashion cities like Tokyo, Madrid, Berlin, Seoul, Toronto, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, and Shanghai organize impactful fashion weeks.

There are 67 fashion weeks. Here is the full list in alphabetical order:

  • 080 Barcelona Fashion (Spain)
  • Afro Fashion Week Milano (Italy)
  • Amsterdam Fashion Week (Netherlands)
  • Arab Fashion Week (UAE)
  • Athens Xclusive Designers Week (Greece)
  • Austin Fashion Week (United States)
  • Bangalore Fashion Week (India)
  • Barcelona Bridal Week (Spain)
  • Belarus Fashion Week (Belarus)
  • Berlin Fashion Week (Germany)
  • Bogota Fashion Week (Colombia)
  • Buenos Aires Fashion Week (Argentina)
  • Cheshire Fashion Week (United Kingdom)
  • Chicago Midwest Fashion Week (United States)
  • Columbus Fashion Week (United States)
  • Copenhagen Fashion Week (Denmark)
  • Couture Fashion Week (United States)
  • Dakar Fashion Week (Senegal)
  • Dutch Sustainable Fashion Week (Netherlands)
  • Fashion Week Brooklyn (United States)
  • Fashion Week El Paseo (United States)
  • Fashion Week Honduras (Honduras)
  • Fashion Week Stockholm (Sweden)
  • Fiji Fashion Week (Fiji)
  • Graduate Fashion Week (United Kingdom)
  • Hong Kong Fashion Week (Hong Kong)
  • Hub of Africa Addis Fashion Week (Ethiopia, Africa)
  • India Beach Fashion Week (India)
  • India Kids Fashion Week (India)
  • Indianapolis Midwest Fashion Week (United States)
  • Indonesia Fashion Week (Indonesia)
  • Jakarta Fashion Week (Indonesia)
  • Lagos Fashion & Design Week (Nigeria)
  • Lakme Fashion Week (India)
  • Liverpool Fashion Week (United Kingdom)
  • London Fashion Week (United Kingdom)
  • London Fashion Week (United Kingdom)
  • Los Angeles Fashion Week (United States)
  • Melbourne Spring Fashion Week (Australia)
  • Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (Russia)
  • Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin (Germany)
  • Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Istanbul (Turkey)
  • Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Mexico (Mexico)
  • Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Panama (Panama)
  • Miami Fashion Week (United States)
  • Miami International Fashion Week (United States)
  • Miami Swim Show (United States)
  • Milan Fashion Week (Italy)
  • Moda Lisboa (Portugal)
  • Montreal Fashion Week (Canada)
  • MQ Vienna Fashion Week (Austria)
  • National Bridal Week Chicago (United States)
  • New York Fashion Week (United States)
  • New Zealand Fashion Week (New Zealand)
  • OC Fashion Week (United States)
  • Odessa Fashion Week (Ukraine)
  • Paris Fashion Week (France)
  • Pune Fashion Week (India)
  • Seoul Fashion Week (South Korea)
  • Shanghai Fashion Week (China)
  • South Africa Fashion Week (South Africa)
  • South and East Asia (UAE)
  • Swahili Fashion Week (Tanzania)
  • São Paulo (Brazil)
  • Tbilisi Fashion Week (Georgia)
  • Ukrainian Fashion Week (Ukraine)
  • Vancouver Fashion Week (Canada)

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with the latest in fashion, beauty and style!

After years of managing hundreds of fashion brands from London's office of a global retailer, Mandy has ventured into freelancing. Connected with several fashion retailers and media platforms in the US, Australia, and the UK, Mandy uses her expertise to consult for emerging fashion brands create top-notch content as an editorial strategist for several online publications.

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