For designers, buyers, and press, the fashion week phenomenon can feel like an over-the-top fashion frenzy, but for socialites and celebrities, it’s another can’t-miss red carpet event. Haute Living briefs you on the industry’s four pivotal fashion events.
By Marina Cashdan
With actors starring in major fashion campaigns, Hollywood moguls like Simon Fuller backing young designers, and television shows like Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model arresting international television sets, it’s safe to say that the once-elitist fashion world has gone mainstream Hollywood. Editors, like Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, are as celebrity as Oscar winners, hobnobbing with Hollywood starlets and socialites. Fashion weeks have become a symbol of economic success and a major source of revenue, and as a result, are popping up in the most unexpected locations-Iceland, Turkey, India, Russia, and Malaysia, to name a few-creating a nonstop fashion calendar. If it’s done right, fashion weeks can generate millions of dollars, more than major cultural events like music and dance festivals, and on par with major sporting events like the Super Bowl. The Russian Fashion Week, held in Moscow, is the largest fashion event in Eastern Europe, and last summer, Iran held its first Islamic Fashion Week. The more prominent London Fashion Week is quickly gaining ground – if Marc Jacobs goes, they will follow – and shows like the MA Student Show at the highly-competitive Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design – which has pumped out major powerhouse designers like John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Hedi Slimane, and Stella McCartney-calls editors, buyers, and major houses to come nab up-and-coming hotshots. But despite the fantastic number of fashion weeks occurring continually-day after day, week after week-the who’s who stick to the four “big boys,” the promotional marrow of a billion-dollar industry: Paris Prêt-à-Porter Fashion Week, Paris Haute Couture Week, Milano Moda Donna (Milan Fashion Week), and New York Fashion Week. Your home country means nothing these days-Brits Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney and Italian brand Valentino all show in Paris-and designers play their cards strategically. If you’re not showing your line at one of these four fashion events, you might as well not be a high-fashion label.
Paris Haute Couture Week
January (Spring Collections) and July
Just as haute couture was fading into the distance, it was revived with the launch of Paris Haute Couture Week. Since then, Paris is the place to be in January and July to see what high-art measure-to-measure goodies should be expected in the following season. The shows often rival Metropolitan Opera productions: they’re visually stimulating and over-the-top, but that’s precisely the intention-displaying fantastical bespoke clothing in an extravagant, often theatrical, way. You’ll be sure to see the crème de la crème of the fashion world-Chanel, Valentino, Gaultier, Dior, Lacroix and Givenchy, to name a few-hosting celebrity-studded events like Dior’s catwalk show and party at the royal Château de Versailles, which brought celebrities like Charlize Theron, Kate Hudson, and Jessica Alba to the castle of the infamous Sun King (Louis XIV, not John Galliano). Galliano sent out celebrity supermodels like Gisele Bundchen and Helena Christensen to strike poses in his seminal Dior collection.
October (Spring Collections) and late February/early March (Fall Collections)
If Haute Couture is all fun, then Paris’ Prêt-à-Porter fashion week is all business, calling the biggest labels in ready-to-wear fashion, including Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Chloé, Hermès, Balmain, Sonia Rykiel, Stella McCartney, Rick Owens, Hussein Chalayan, Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent and Yohji Yamamoto, among many others. Shows are more or less standard industry catwalk shows, prophesizing the designated season’s trends. Collections by established designers like Valentino, Balmain, and Yves Saint Laurent tend to lean toward a traditional routine, while young designers like Los Angeles-based Rick Owens and Hussein Chalayan challenge classic sartorial notions and the romantic perception of femininity, playing with the past, present, and future, and blending supposedly diametrical elements.
Milano Moda Donna
January (Fall Collections) and late September (Spring Collections)
If Paris’ Prêt-á-Porter highlights designers who are deconstructing romantic notions of femininity, Milan’s Moda Donna might feel like ultra-fem glitz. Established Italian houses like Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Bottega Veneta, Salvatore Ferragamo, Roberto Cavalli, and Gucci grace the Milano Fashion Center (veterans know it as the Fiera di Milano) with dreamy dresses, petal-shaped bodices, soft and tailored pieces with a classic and clean yet soft and feminine edge, while younger labels like Dsquared2, Moschino Cheap & Chic, and Evisu evoke iconoclastic and edgy styles that challenge their elders. Responding to satellite and student shows revolving around both Paris’ Haute Couture Week and New York’s Fashion Week, the Moda Donna recently launched an initiative called N-U-DE (New Upcoming Designers), a collective fashion show featuring up-and-coming international designers.
New York Fashion Week
September (Spring Collections) and February (Fall Collections)
Produced by 7th on Sixth, a subsidiary of management and marketing firm IMG, New York’s Fashion Week (formerly Olympus Fashion Week and now Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week) is perhaps straying most from elitist-fashion and leaning more toward mainstream Hollywood, and for this reason, major houses tend to choose Paris and Milan over New York. However, with established yet fresh powerhouse labels-like Carolina Herrera, Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, Donna Karan, Diane von Furstenberg, and Oscar de la Renta-continuing to show in New York, those who are throwing the stones wind up sitting in the glass house. The established greats are in the company of a crop of major young labels-Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodriguez, Y-3, doo.ri, and Zac Posen among them-that add a major lure.