Imagine you’re a kid in a candy store. The owner greets you with a radiant smile.
Surrounding you are rows and rows of candy. Jars filled with chocolate, lollies, anything
you can imagine. Now replace the candy with clothing made from the finest textiles,
replace the owner with models adorning oneofakind garments, replace the wooden
floor with a runway, then there you have it, you’ve stepped into the magical world of
What Fashion Week is:
A fashion week is a riveting event in the fashion industry, running over the duration of a
week. Fashion Week enables designers, brands and fashion houses to display their
latest collections in the form of runway shows, providing buyers and the media a glimpse
of the latest trends. What’s most important, is that it is an event dictating what’s “in” and
“out’ for each season. The Spring/Summer fashion weeks run January through March
and the Fall/Winter fashion week’s run between September and November. The reason
they are held prior to the season is due to it giving the press and buyers time to preview
designs in advance. This also allows time for retailers to arrange, purchase or
incorporate the designers into their retail marketing.
Obviously, in an industry like this, there’s hierarchy. The four most prominent fashion
weeks are held in the world’s four fashion capitals; New York, London, Paris and Milan.
There are 100’s of other fashion weeks held in different countries such as Auckland,
Tokyo, Chicago and Miami. However, the “Big Four” attract the largest fashion magazines
and retailers. It’s at these shows, where designers like Chanel, Dior, Valentino and any
other designer of a $6k dress, show off their latest creations.
Fashion week was created during WW2 in 1943, its birthplace being no other than New
York City. Originally it was called “Press Week”. Press Week was originally implemented
by American Fashion Publicist, Eleanor Lambert, whose vision was to place a spotlight on
American designers, who had been disregarded by fashion journalists over the years.
She succeeded when journalists began to acknowledge American designers.
Throughout the seventeenth century, the fashion industry was dictated by the French.
When it introduced Haute Couture in the 1860’s, they were only pushed further in their
dominance. Press Week ended this French dominance over the fashion industry. When
World War 2 broke out, many European fashion houses struggled to keep their doors
open due to material rationing, a large lack of buyers and they no longer had an
international audience. In 1940, many fashion houses in France had to close. This
delivered an opportunity to American designers. If they acted quickly they could make a
heavy impact on the fashion industry so they did.
Only 6 months after it’s initial debut, Press week occurred for a second time. American
Designers were propelled into the spotlight and placed on a stage they had never been
on before. After 30 years, Press Week saw five American designers rise in Versailles,
Paris. Oscar de la Renta, Halston, Bill Blass, Anne Klein and Stephen Burrows. These
designers were chosen to show their designs on the same catwalk as distinguished
French Designers, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, to name a
few. These American designers triumphed over the French, bringing a new and energetic
concept to fashion which the French were not prepared for. What occurred here
propelled American Designers onto a world stage and brought them a great deal of fame.
Shorty after, other cities started to catch on, with Milan hosting their own Fashion Week
in 1974, followed by London in 1984.
In 1994, Press Week was reincarnated when it was given the new name of ‘Fashion
Week’, as we know it today.
What it consists of:
The whirlwind of Fashion Week begins in none other than New York city. It is followed by
London, Milan then last but certainly not least, Paris. There are two major seasons each
year; Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer. Womenswear Haute Couture shows occur in
Paris, which are followed by the menswear shows in the same city. Haute Couture can
only be shown in Paris due to Chambre Syndicale rules, which are in place so Haute
Couture designs are not enabled to be copied in any way. Other countries hold their
Fashion Weeks throughout the duration of the year.
Effect of Fashion Week:
Everything we wear has been influenced by Fashion Week. All designers look at what is
being shown in Fashion Weeks around the world and from that, create their own lines for
everyday wear. Designers don’t just create something because they like it, they create
something because it’s in season, it’s going to sell and sell commercially.
In the popular film, “The Devil Wears Prada”, there is a scene where Andy, newly working
at a fashion magazine is helping out Miranda, the editor of the magazine. The script goes
Andy Sachs: “…You know, it’s just that both those belts look exactly the same to me. You
know, I’m still learning about all this stuff…”
Miranda Priestly: “…what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not
turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact
that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was
Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? … And then
cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh,
filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic
Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin… it’s sort of
comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion
This is a precise example that what we buy from a clothing store has been influenced by
the garments shown at a fashion week. It is something which generates questions about
just how influential fashion designers are. Is this extract a reflection of what truly
happens? Do designers make conscious decisions about what the next trend is going to
be or is it a guessing game? Do they follow trends or are they the trend?
What it’s like from backstage:
A fashion show from back stage ranges from being an organised walk in the park to an
unorganised frenzy. If a designer has picked professional models, put time, effort and a
lot of money towards the show, it will run smoothly. Designers who have been in the
industry for a while tend to have more organised shows as they know exactly how things
work and what to do. Where as newer designers tend to be more unorganised which
results in a more hectic show.
Model, Michaela Steenkamp, put it this way, “Backstage is crazy… People are running
around hair dryers on full blast and hairspray everywhere, hundreds of models waiting
for their turn. It was the coolest vibe. We would head to our stage taking secret doors
and passages so that the public didn’t see us… The adrenaline can be felt so strongly
just before a walk, everyone is nervous and excited and as the music starts all the
models begin to smile at each other and do silent squeals to the person behind them in
excitement. Once you come off the catwalk it’s all go go go. I was literally running back to
my station to get into my second outfit within a 1 minute 30 second time frame, I had 4
people on me; undressing me and dressing me. I just had to put my arms and legs in the
right holes, get my heels on and run back onto the catwalk … Backstage is always my
favourite part of fashion week.”
However, in an environment as hectic as this, something is bound to go wrong. At a
BCBG Max Azria show in 2013, a fire broke out at the makeup stand backstage. The fire
was quickly controlled but people quickly took to twitter with things like, “the Max Azria
show is one fire…literally!”, trying to make the best of the situation. Another fashion week
disaster was after the S/S 2014 Natalie Ratabesi when several highprofile editors
elevator broke down. They all got out safely when help arrived but that fashion show was
definitely one to remember.
Today, a fashion week is the most important event on any fashion calendar. Through the
lense of social media, anyone can watch the shows and catch a glimpse of what happens
backstage.The frenzy of Fashion Week is a fashion addicts ‘candy store’; endless rows
of shoes, racks of clothing, front rows filled with the industry’s finest is enough to get
Interview with Model: Michaela Steenkamp
What was it like walking in New Zealand Fashion Week?
“My very first fashion week was really intimidating and scary, I think I was just happy to
have been chosen from the casting to walk for such amazing brands like World and
Moochi. I was terrified not knowing what to expect but it was so much fun, getting hair and
makeup done made me feel like it was my job to be pampered and I loved it. Walking was
crazy filled with adrenaline and nerves … but when I finished I ALWAYS wanted to do it
Describe the experience as a whole
“The experience as a whole was a learning one. Watching models who have been doing
it for years and years taught me a lot about how to carry myself around cameras and
clients because at the end of the day, they’re watching you and your work ethic and
asking themselves if you’re a potential client for them in the future, so it was important to
be professional all the time. It was really fun as a whole and an experience to treasure for
years to come.”
What was the highlight of being at Fashion week?
“The highlight of fashion week would be the cool parties we got to attend for free, mostly
so we could network with designers and potential clients to book jobs in the future. It was
all really glamorous and fancy, everyone is always in good spirits and ready to have a
good chat and a good time.”