Fashion weeks, the pinnacle events of the fashion industry, have a storied history. Eleanor Lambert, an American super-publicist, founded the first-ever “New York Press Week” in 1943. While Paris, the undisputed fashion capital, started its fashion week three decades later in 1973, during the event known as the “Battle of Versailles.” This face-off between five American and five Parisian designers ended with a surprising victory for the Americans. Meanwhile, Milan had already established its fashion week in 1958, and London, another fashion powerhouse, began its iteration in 1984.
Originally, these biannual weeks were designed primarily for department store buyers, including giants like Harrods, Dover Street Market, and Bergdorf Goodman. The print media played a significant role too. These events were timed perfectly to align with retail cycles, allowing magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar ample opportunity to cover and photograph the latest designs, which would then hit stores six months later. However, in recent years, this has evolved to incorporate pre-autumn and cruise collections.
While buyers, media, photographers, stylists, and models remain at the heart of the global fashion week calendar, the nature of these events has transformed. They’ve become closely intertwined with entertainment, evident from American rapper turned designer Pharrell Williams’ debut with Louis Vuitton. These events now also witness the presence of numerous celebrities who don the latest designs, sometimes as gifts.
For industry insiders, fashion week is a hectic period. Julie Ragolia, a New York-based stylist, describes it as a time of intense focus. Similarly, street fashion photographer Phil Oh, aka Mr Street Peeper, speaks of the physical and mental toll. For many professionals attending all major fashion weeks, they’re constantly on the move, sometimes attending up to eight shows daily.
Yet, these events also serve as reunions. Professionals from across the globe come together, share private jokes, and engage in profound conversations. Regular routines like yoga, long walks, or simply listening to music can offer solace amid the frenetic pace.
The glamour and glitz seen from the outside is just the tip of the iceberg. Julie advises budding stylists that success is a process, and keen observation is crucial. Model Mae Mei Lapres emphasizes the importance of always being prepared. For her, life post-fashion week returns to other ventures like her vintage marketplace business.
Lapres’s career transition underscores a valuable lesson for models: they play a pivotal role in marketing. She advises taking oneself seriously, using earnings to fuel dreams, and leveraging connections to build a supportive network.