Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Fashion Week (or Month)

The Fashion Weeks is probably the most exciting month of the year for a lot of fashionistas. Buyers from all around the world fly off to New York, then London, then Milan, the Paris to see the shows as well as editors and models. It doesn't hurt that every now and then socialites, celebrities and lately fashion bloggers join the gank of fashion traveler.

To call it a gank is not an overstatement, you bump into the same people again and again all day long all month. You sit next to each other in a show, most probably you will sit next to each other in a dinner party, and most likely to sit next to each other again on the plane. It's all so glamorous. With the additional bloggers publishing not only the shows but also the people attending the show, or model off duty looks, everyone is treated like a celebrity. Imagine an entire month of Oscar red carpet where people screaming out: "who are you wearing?!" like you're a celebrity.

The fashion crowd are the celebrity. Isn't it interesting that this past year we've come to know individuals like Bryanboy, Suzie Bubble, Tommy Ton, from the blogger gank (who used to be just another fashion adorer), and Anna Wintour, Giovanna Bataglia, Christiane Arp, or Anna Dello Russo who are now just as famous as their fellow front row-er from the celeb gank like Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman or Kerry Washington who each have had their share of gracing the front row of some of the big designer shows.

In fact it didn't at all started that way. Far from the glitz and glam in 1947 in post World-War II New York City, a group of fashion publicists held what is called the Press Week at that time, to basically distract the media from the ever growing French fashion at that time. It was an instant success. Prominent magazines like Vogue began to feature American designers in their magazine. Milan, London and Paris followed soon after seeing the success of New York Press Week, and soon it became big. These 4 cities are the dominant fashion weeks in the world.

Looking at the success of the fashion weeks of these cities, other cities of the world began to create their own fashion weeks. Tokyo in Japan, Sao Paulo in Brazil, even other cities in US (like LA) and Italy (Rome) now have their own fashion weeks.

But what is a fashion week? Why such hooplah about it?

Well back then the only fashion shows held are the Haute Couture shows. The couturiers would held show basically everyday of the week for select clients who wanted to purchase a look from the collection. It was quiet, unlike these days. No grand music, no brilliant lighting, no photographers. The clients would then pick a look from the collection, and have a similar look tailor made for her. The first show of the season would be for the press and international buyers, the next shows are for customers. So it was more of an exclusive thing back then. Not highly covered, but in a way just the way it's supposed to be. Fashion shows were about fashion, and showing garments at their best.

Then because of the Press Week, the idea is made bigger as the industry got bigger as well. And the reason to just sum it up in a week is because then the buyers and editors can just focus on setting a trend, rather than just seeing one collection after another. And it's a much easier solution for a lot of designers who are new, fashion weeks can be an outlet to showcase their work to the bigger audience.

As the first city to do fashion week, New York got the first slot of the fashion month (they used to just randomly decide who goes first, until a rule is set). As the first one to launch the fashion month, New York is where you get the 'real' garments. New York designers are known to be the most commercial of them all. The New York style is easy, light and wearable, that's why they're often called sportswear.

New York is also where a lot of new talents rise. Young designers like Altuzarra, Jason Wu, Alexander Wang, and the Rodarte sisters are some of the many examples of the New York brands that was born in New York, big in New York and stayed in New York unlike it's London counterpart. The other big brands are also always so proud to be a part of the American fashion like Michael Kors, Vera Wang, Donna Karran and Carolina Herrera who apart from their origin are always proud to be a New York brand.

New York Fashion Week used to be centered in one tent located in the Bryant Park. But due to increasing number of shows and guests, they have moved it to a much bigger place in Lincoln Center resulting in a much more organized shows.

London comes next after New York. London is where some of the most talented people started. Big names like Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, John Galliano, Gareth Pugh and Christopher Kane all started in London. But unfortunately most of those names no longer show in London. McQueen, McCartney, Galliano and Pugh have all moved to Paris. And there's a tendency that when a designer got big in London, they will eventually move somewhere.

But despite all the moving, London is still a big fashion destination. And even though a lot of people seems to just skip it altogether, the new talents are always born in London. The latest addition to the London genius are knitwear master Mark Fast and print lady Mary Katranzou. But high hopes are looking up at London. Burberry an old London brand who showed in Milan Fashion Week for a long long time, is now back in London. And so are some of what used to be the fresh talent who have moved to other cities like Johnathan Saunders, Julien MacDonald and Pringle of Scotland who used to show in New York. With the return of these brands back in London, like it or not, the editors and buyers now must stop by in London before then moving on to Milan.

Milan Fashion Week started in 1958. Milan is famous for having some of the most luxurious brands in the world. Not only that, most of the brands that shows in Milan have a long heritage of brilliant design and outstanding quality. Brands like Bottega Veneta, Armani, Gucci, Versace, Prada are long associated with luxury, while others like Missoni, Moschino, Roberto Cavalli, Marni and Fendi are long associated with craft and heritage. And Milan is offically the fashion capital of Italy because those brands come from all over Italy, Gucci and Fendi are from Rome, Cavalli are from Florence, Dolce & Gabbana are from the Sicily.

But compared to Paris, London or New York, Milan is relatively a big fashion show cramped in a small city. It's been long that the editors, models, and designers complain that the schedule is way to messy and hectic. Also, Milan Fashion Week is not known to be friendly towards new designers. It's been a long time since the last time a 'new' designer have risen from Milan (I think the last time was Aquiliano Rimondi formerly known as 6267). So despite the importance of the Milan Fashion Week, freshness is never expected.

Paris Fashion Week closes the month the way a fashion capital should. Paris is a perfect balance of freshness (with increasing number of young designers, eg. McCartney, McQueen, etc.) and heritage (with hundreds of years old brands, eg. Lanvin, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Dior, etc.). Paris is also the most international, hosting not only French brands but also Japanese (eg. Kenzo, Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto), Belgian (eg. Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester), or even British (eg. Stella McCartney), American (eg. Rick Owens), and Italian designers (eg. Giambattista Valli).

Paris Fashion week is also held with the most grandeur festivity. It's famous for having some of the biggest parties during the month. Celebrities are also flocked during Fashion Week. Still, after all these years, Paris have yet to loose it's 'Fashion Capital' title by mixing it up, allowing the foreign brands to show there and therefore making the week a lot more interesting.

Fashion Weeks are held bi-annually for Spring-Summer and Fall-Winter. The Fall-Winter shows usually starts in mid-February (usually starts in New York from 10-17 of Feb) and continues for 4 weeks straight all the way through Paris. The Spring-Summer shows starts in mid September. It's the most fast phased weeks in the fashion calendar. As soon as a show finishes, the next one starts, sometimes the venue is on the other side of the city, with the traffic and everything, sometimes it's running late, causing the next show to start late, and the next one late too. It's basically insanity in 4 weeks.

On the day the fashion weeks starts, the models, editors, buyers, make-up artists and hair dressers arrived in New York. Models scrams off to countless castings and fittings, while the editors hop from one show to another, one re-see to another. The buyers also need to make sure within that show and re-see on what should get into the store. The make-up artists and hair dressers also hop from one show to another going basically the same thing over and over again for 4 weeks straight.

This is also the busiest day for the designers as well. A series of castings, and fittings are done in a mere day (or 2 at the maximum) on a 40 something looks that are about to come down the runway, and basically be judged in an instance. With the advanced technology, twitter and blogger, the review are faster than ever. So you can imagine the pressure that is on the designers, especially those doing more than 1 shows (like Marc Jacobs with Marc Jacobs, Marc by Marc and Louis Vuitton, or Karl Lagerfeld with Fendi, Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld).

The end of the show doesn't mean that their business stops, there's this thing called the re-see, which is an opportunity for the editors and buyers to take a closer look on the garments they just showed. I call it the judgment time, where the designer need to face the people who will have a big influence of their sales for the next 6 months.

The minute the last show of New York Fashion week ended, all the models, editors, bloggers, make up artists, and hair dressers go to the airport and fly off to London (usually even at the same flight!). So you see why it's one big gank. The next day is the beginning of London Fashion Week and the same cycle continues. So I think you can imagine how exhausted these people must have felt.

But then they started to grow kind of like a big group of cool people traveling together, working together, and be feared by a lot of people. I mean, that ought to be fun, no?

There are extra fashion weeks in Paris and Milan. In Milan and Paris, about a month before the regular fashion show, there's the Menswear fashion week that move on from Milan to Paris. Once the menswear week ended, Paris have an extra fashion week for Haute Couture which lasted only 3 days, and ended only about 2 weeks before the start of New York Fashion Week.

I'm not involved in this fashion circus (I call it a circus 'cause of all the big group travelling) but I couldn't help but getting excited when the weeks started. New York Fashion Week just started, and it's going to be a big shift of trend going on from one city to the other.

To be honest, back then it was nicer. I had to wait a few weeks to read the reviews and be able to see the complete collection. I remember how excited I was to read Koleksiana, the fashion week report yearly in Dewi Magazine. Now it's in to the minute, even live report and live streaming. There's almost no exclusivity anymore, no room for mistakes. I could imagine it's more exhausted now more than ever.

But still my eyes are towards New York at the moment, spotting what could possibly the biggest trend of the year 2011 to 2012.


  1. this is a really educational and helpful post! i really really enjoyed it! xxxxx

  2. Everyone is into fashion these days. Especially women clothing needs something luxury in every season of fashion. Luxury fashion stores in Dubai are the best bet into getting the best of designer fashion. Nowadays, a number of online luxury stores exist which showcase designer fashion and lifestyle accessories.