1945, New York city marks the first fashion week in history.
Travelling to Europe at this time (especially to Paris) was difficult for people working in the clothing/fashion industry. As a solution to this issue, Eleanor Lambert created the “ Press Week” for fashion designers to unveil their collections. Fashion magazines and fashion buyers were at the front row as the main target of these presentations.
Almost 70 years later, is this model of Fashion Week still relevant?
The “Press Week” that was initially created in order to shift attention from Parisian designers to American ones in time of the World War had been a success from the beginning: magazines started to talk directly to designers and publish American Fashion at the time when Paris was ruling the industry; they changed the attention from Paris to New York fashion.
The Press Week was not only for designers to get press coverage, but was organised in order for buyers to get a first glance at the next trends, next designers and to prepare and place their orders.
From New York, Milan, London, and Paris, this model has developed and become a huge hit in order to present to the press the local star designers and their designs. This led to the boom of fashion in major fashion capitals like Ready to Wear in New York.
The post war economic boom contributed to the constant growth of the fashion scene, attracting more fans and becoming more affordable. Department stores became bigger, expanded, and fashion press developed and became more influential. Press Weeks turned into the super famous Fashion Week: the inevitable milestone for any true fashionista.
The zenith of the 80’s showed an exuberance of style and confirmed the importance of Fashion Weeks and their importance on the Fashion Industry.
In the 90s, a more minimalist style trend developed and is a trend which is still relevant today: The Super Model.
In the 2000s, LVMH and Kering (formally PPR) brought large investments into this fashion frenzy. Capital, competition, and the advent of the Internet opened to these companies and brands new opportunities and markets.
With an evolution of the Fashion Week model, we are recently witnessing an event that has gained social and economical power, and visibility. This event has the power to tailor a whole industry. During this evolution, space and legitimacy gave way to Fast Fashion. By copying catwalks and making designs more accessible to the public, fashion became not only an entertainment of the elite and wealthy, but available to everyone.
This presents an issue: how are the high prices of luxurious clothes justified? Especially when you can get the same style, design, and trend at the shop around the street corner for an affordable price? The answer lies in branding for these big fashion houses. By creating the need to buy more coveted products with new lines of: leather goods (commonly shoes and bags), perfumes, accessories and cosmetics. These products are promoted and fashionistas feel a need to buy them through high branding. To do so, one of the strategies has been to use Fashion Weeks as a convector of value. The Fashion Weeks gradually transformed from a presentation of various collections to an extraordinary show.
The Fashion Week as we know it today welcomes all of the hit fashion editors to promote heavy communication about the shows, brands, and celebrities to add value (after all, they are the style leaders). Bloggers and extremely well known models (Kate, Naomi, Gisele, Cara among the many) are new influencers in the industry. From a presentation that targeted buyers and media, Fashion Week has almost exclusively shifted into an event for these two words: public relations.
As a designer company, to be able to present a collection at Fashion Week and gain attendants you need a lot of resources. In 2011, Robert Duffy revealed to the NY Times that the Fall Winter 2011 show of Marc Jacobs costed 1,000,000$. Not every designer can afford that level of investment.
How to get this return on investment? Again, on these leather goods, perfumes and cosmetics. Not on clothing.
So how can new designers get the attention of the media without the same resources as big brands? Where is the place of the fashion designer in all of this frenzy?
The concept of Fashion Week needs a change if we want to get back to the original idea of the concept. Nevertheless, it cannot come back to the event it was 70 years ago.
The target of Fashion Week has to be redefined in order to leave some place to the fashion buyers, give space to new designers that need the attention and excitement around the Fashion Industry.
Several events are on a good track to redefine the target of Fashion Week. The Vogue Night Out and Dublin Fashion Festival, just to name a few are bringing fashion back to fashionistas, bloggers, and customers while allowing branding to continue. Fashion Weeks should run as events held only for professionals: high-end media, buyers and shareholders/investors.
Not only will doing this lead to cuts in needed investments for the event by concentrating on the core of the business, but it will also allow new comers to get the chance to present their work, build networks and gain visibility. Maintaining an event that contributes to the branding of a fashion house and having an additional event could benefit all the audiences that Fashion Week draws.
Now, fashion bloggers get refused at the entrance of some Fashion Week events. Designers have also taken a step back from that frenzy (eg. Helmut Lang and lately Jean Paul Gaultier). The industry is slowly developing new events such as smaller Fashion Weeks (Istanbul, Stockholm, Warsaw, Athens, etc.) and Fashion Festivals. It seems that the industry is realizing the need for a shift in the Fashion Week model for the next decade 2010’s. To attract business and welcome new comers and customers while communicating through the media
Hopefully this will help in bringing more creativity on the fashion scene.
This article was written by Alex. Follow her @Stylindublin
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