Everything You've Ever Wanted To Know About Fashion Week

Anyone who has even dipped their toe into the wild world of the fashion industry can tell you that the elusive fashion show cycle is nothing short of crazy. The schedule of women’s, men’s, couture, and ready-to-wear runway shows, repeated twice a year for fall/winter and spring/summer, are enough to make your head spin. Not to mention the arrival of pre-fall and resort collections (more on that later, for those of you who are wondering what in the world pre-fall is). In honor of the start of New York Fashion Week, let’s break down fashion week and try to understand this bizarre cycle.


Fashion Week is a Month Long

Each “fashion week” is actually comprised of four weeks: one in New York, London, Milan, and Paris. Each week is not necessarily seven days long either. Depending on how many designers in each city want to show their runway collections, a “week” may be four or five days long, as in the case of London, or up to nine days long, as it is for Paris. The four major fashion weeks occur one after the other, usually in the order presented above. Other cities may hold fashion weeks as well to show their local designers (for example, Kiev and Berlin), but New York, London, Milan, and Paris are the main cities for fashion talent, and thus hold the most importance in the world of fashion.


Men’s and Women’s Collections

Men’s and Women’s fashion weeks have typically been held separately. First, all four major cities will hold their respective men’s shows, where menswear designers show their collections. Then women’s fashion week will begin, where women’s clothing collections are shown in the four major cities. Many designers design both men’s and women’s collections. Women’s fashion week tends to be more significant, due to the larger amount of designers and attention paid to women’s fashion. However, a new trend of holding mixed men’s and women’s shows or gender neutral shows is on the rise. Vivienne Westwood presented a mixed gender looks during the most recent men’s fashion week, and many designers have intentions to do the same. The effect that combining men’s and women’s runway shows will have on the industry, and the crazy fashion week cycle, remains to be seen.


What Fashion Season is it again?

Men’s and women’s fashion weeks are actually held twice a year, once for the spring/summer season and then again for the fall/winter season. What’s so confusing about these seasons is that their respective shows are held much earlier than one would actually wear the clothes that are shown. The spring/summer collections are typically held in August (men’s) and September (women’s) for the following spring and summer seasons, and the fall/winter runways are shown in January and February for the following fall and winter season.

Clothes are shown practically nine months before they can even be worn so that buyers for department stores have time to decide what they would like to purchase for their stores. It also allows fashion editors, who may work for magazines or other fashion news outlets, to preview the looks and discover the trends.


Haute Couture

Shown twice a year, exclusively in Paris, couture collections are produced by only a few design houses who have been approved by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, and follow a distinct set of rules. In addition to incredibly high prices and an exclusive clientele, couture pieces are made to order, and are mostly hand made with traditional techniques. Since clients order couture individually, department store buyers don’t need to place orders and couture shows are held closer to the actual season they are designed for. The fall/winter couture shows usually occur in September, interrupting the spring/summer shows, and the spring/summer couture shows in January, interrupting the fall/winter shows. These collections often feature elaborate, expensive gowns and often end with a “couture bride” wearing the collection’s wedding dress.


Pre-Fall and Resort

These mini seasons typically don’t warrant a full fashion show, and many designers will simply release a lookbook of the clothes. Arguably an example of fashion’s excesses, pre-fall bridges the time period between summer and fall, and resort collections are typically to be worn during warm vacations, presumably at a resort, taken in the dead of winter.

There’s no arguing that the fashion week cycle is incredibly confusing, but hopefully a bit of the mystery has been cleared. Stay tuned for next Saturday’s article covering the fall/winter 2017 shows at New York Fashion week, and the following articles on the other major fashion weeks.


Image Sources: 1,2,3,4,5,6

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