It’s that time of the year again. The season of international Fashion Weeks is upon us; the big names in the industry are sharing their collections with the world and we’re all getting a flavour of the trends a lot of us will be living our lives in next autumn. At the time of writing, New York and London’s time in the spotlight has been and gone and it is now Milan’s time to shine, with Paris closing the show, no doubt with a bang, come Monday 24th February.
This time of year along with September, as I stream the shows online and imagine myself on the front row with the editors and celebs, always gets me thinking. What is it that sets each Fashion Week apart? Naturally, as a Brit through and through, my bias will lead me to say it’s London of course, that comes out on top. But as a philosopher, I’ve decided this isn’t enough of a reason, as if I were American, (as I so often wish I was)Italian or French no doubt my conclusion would be a different one. Every Fashion Week has something different to offer and to me, here’s what…
First in New York, the emphasis falls dominantly on wearability. To me, the American designers have a knack for designing for real women. With the US being the powerhouse that it is, this isn’t really surprising; the creative influence of these designers is exerted all over the states and the world, to an extent that the other three fashion capitals can’t quite compete with. American style is all about simplicity. It’s easy to wear, it prioritises comfort and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s these things that shine through during NYFW. The likes of Alexander Wang, Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors present, season after season, collections which we can all be inspired by. It’s nearly always possible to incorporate the trends we see into our wardrobes, often at minimal cost. This is dependable fashion, fashion that slots into your wardrobe and stays there with no need to budge. Despite my earlier bias towards London, it’s an American brand that’s my all-time favourite. With their vivid colour palette and super slick tailoring, I’d wear Proenza Schouler day in, day out, if I could come up with the funds. New York is without a doubt an unstoppable force in the industry.
Next in London, for me, things get even more exciting. London is an inspirational creative hub, in my opinion, like no other. What the majority of these designers value is forward-thinking, pushing boundaries and challenging us to reinvent our personal style and to never be afraid to turn heads in the street for what we’re wearing. ‘Originality’ would be my word of choice, if I were restricted to just one to sum up London Fashion Week’s (particularly the young) designer talent. But equally, ‘heritage’ plays an important part in distinguishing British fashion from the rest. Since the creative direction of Burberry came under Christopher Bailey’s wing in 2001 for example, the iconic British brand has evolved into an international phenomenon. The classic tailoring and quintessential ‘Britishness,’ which is brought to our attention during the spectacles that are the Burberry shows, is the perfect example of London’s ability as a fashion capital to a) challenge our conventional way of dressing, but b) also get this way of dressing down to a T. To me, British fashion is something we have numerous reasons to be proud of.
On to Milan, Italy’s very own force to be reckoned with. It may be a naïve assertion to make as an outsider of the fashion industry, but Milan Fashion Week for me seems to take more of a back seat with us ordinary folk. I think this is a mistake if it really is the case because the Italians certainly have a lot to offer when it comes to creating fashion influence. For me, two particular qualities come to mind when Milanese fashion comes down the runway: sensuality and sexuality. These are clothes which reflect the Italian woman’s more feminine kind of power-dressing. The collections of Versace and Gucci for example, are the ultimate glamour. Then there’s the dream-like creations of Dolce and Gabbana, which for me represent the ultimate in femininity. As in London, heritage holds strong in Milan, with many of the most famous names having maintained their prestige in the industry for decades and even centuries. What the Italian dressers have like none of the rest of us, in my opinion, is natural and effortless class.
Finally, there’s Paris. Ah, Paris. Fashion Week here is something I dream of one day experiencing. London’s ability to balance forward-thinking with heritage is a balancing act the French achieve as well. Here the balance is between simplicity and extravagance, both of which are in abundance during PFW. Of course, Paris is the exclusive home and founder of Haute Couture, which exerts its influence in its very own fashion week. If you want to watch a spectacle, watch some Couture Fashion Week shows on Youtube, you’ll be struggling to hold in your ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ throughout, believe me. That classic (and even stereotypical) French colour palette of whites, blacks and navy really never does and never will cease to be present during this period on the fashion calendar. The classic French dresser is well-aware of her ability to look chic whatever the occasion, she knows what works on her; she’s comfortable with her personal effortless style. PFW is also fun to watch because of the venues in which a lot of the shows take place; exquisite surroundings make them even more of a spectacle. Watch the Alexander McQueen AW13 runway show or any of the Chanel shows held at Le Grand Palais; you’ll see what I mean. Paris is a dream, it’s plain and simple.
So these four cities all have something different to bring to the table. While there are similarities, there are also differences in abundance and twice a year I find myself in envy of all those industry insiders who get to experience each one in all its glory. I might make it to the Frow someday, but for now I’m going back to my computer, ready to soak up the atmosphere of the runway shows from the comfort of my room.