Focus On: Fashion Week in 'The Big Four'

Posted on 17 August 2016

With the merry-go-round of fashion weeks kicking off in New York on 8th September, followed hotly on its killer heels by London, Milan and Paris, ENLIST.ed decided to look into the history and economic impact of this modern phenomenon that sees every major designer in the world coming together to showcase to buyers and the media their latest collections, as well as the impact that these events have on each economy.

Air miles travelled by the international fashion pack during the months of September and February

London to NYC, 3459 miles    ✈    NYC to London, 3459 miles     ✈     London to Milan 597 miles    ✈    Milan to Paris, 400 miles    ✈     Paris to London, 470 miles    =    8,385 miles

 The ENLIST Editor's Fashion Week Wardrobe


The Birth of ‘Fashion’
The modern concept of fashion – in the sense of luxury apparel that demands constant reinvention – came of age in the 1700s under Louis XIV, culminating with the first true “haute couture” house in Paris (House of Worth) in 1858. 

With the birth of this exclusive couture industry, top designers held shows at their ateliers for their most prized clients.  These often involved a fashion ‘parade’ where models formed a line to showcase the store’s wares. Fashion shows are still called ‘défilés de mode’ – fashion shows– today.

New York (1943)
In 1903, a small department store in New York City, Ehrich Brothers, put on what is thought to have been the country’s first fashion show to lure middle-class females into the store. By 1910, many bigger department stores were holding shows of their own.  By the 1920s, the fashion show had been used by retailers up and down the country, enticing crowds in their thousands – crowds so large, that stores in New York in the fifties had to obtain a license to have live models. 

In 1943 fashion super-publicist Eleanor Lambert decided to cluster these shows into a specific time frame, called Fashion Press week, to boost American fashion during the occupation of France. However, the first time New York’s shows were consolidated in a single location didn’t take place until 1993, and today all 143 shows are spread over three venues and known New York Fashion Week: The Shows. 

The city’s semi-annual fashion weeks draw approximately 240,000 attendees to more than 500 shows, creating a total economic impact of almost  $900million - more than the U.S. Open, the New York City Marathon or the 2014 Super Bowl. 

London (1984)
Now in its 32nd year, the first London Fashion Week, was organised by the British Fashion Council in the car park of the Commonwealth Institute, Kensington in February 1984. The British Fashion Council, in its search for venues that could offer more exhibition space and press space decided on staging it at the National History Museum, and in 1993, as part of its endeavour to educate and give recognition to up and coming designers, the British Fashion Council offered new designers the opportunity to showcase at LFW. Alexander McQueen was the first designer to benefit from this program, and he presented his now iconic show, ‘Les Incroyables’. In 1995, Stella McCartney, then a student designer, showcased her collection that was sold out the next day, another moment of LFW history.

The stately backdrop of Somerset House became the new venue in 2009 and in 2010, it became the first Fashion Week to embrace the internet with all the catwalk shows broadcast over the web. The event was also responsible for generating orders worth almost £100 million across clothes, shoes, handbags and accessories.

During LFW, there are 96 shows helping contribute to the 26 billion pounds that the fashion industry gives to the UK economy. 

Milan (1958)
Milan Fashion Week (‘settimana della moda’), was founded by the Italian Chamber of Commerce in 1958. Presently, most events are organised under the auspices of the National Chamber for Italian Fashion, founded in 1958, but some of the largest design houses - such as Dolce & Gabana and Gucci, show independently. There are 67 fashion shows (68 with two for Giorgio Armani);  with 15 million euros revenue generated for hotels in Milan and surrounding provinces during fashion week. The longest distance between shows in Milan (Les Copains to Gucci) is 4.3 miles - that's quite some distance for all those Manolos to cover!

Paris (1945)
Unlike the other fashion capitals, there are actually two fashion weeks in Paris, discounting the menswear shows - the haute couture shows and the prêt-à-porter shows.  Haute couture is the art of dressmaking on a luxurious and grandiose scale, with the shows showcasing some of the most beautiful clothes in the world. They have been held in Paris since at least 1945, when the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture required couture houses to present a collection of at least 35 runs to the press, however the more organised “semaine de la mode” that we know today was put together by the French Fashion Federation (Fédération Française de la Couture) in 1973, and held originally at Versailles Palace to help raise funds to maintain the palace. 

Today the Federation oversees the main Paris Fashion Week calendar with shows taking place at venues throughout the city, but with the majority held at the Carousel du Louvre, below the iconic Louvre Museum.

During Paris fashion week there are 98 shows. The most famous of all the shows, Chanel has become as well known for its elaborate sets as the clothes themselves, with the 2800 strong guests attended each being transported on a visual journey to Chanel Airways, Chanel Supermarket, Chanel Brasserie & Chanel Casino in recent years. 

The economic impact on Paris's economy, excluding sales in stores is 400 million euros.

The impact of fashion it seems, can never be underestimated.

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