In an Internet to Consumer World?
Author: Sofia Davis

Fashion Week, whether it be New York, London, Paris or Milan, most people would cut their right arm off to have a front row seat at this prestigious event.  But…. Do we still need Fashion Week or is it a thing of the past? 

First, let’s find out the purpose of fashion week and some of the history.  Fashion Week (as we now know it was created by Eleanor Lambert and was originally named “Press Week”

In 1903, a New York City shop called Ehrich Brothers put on what is thought to have been the country’s first fashion show to lure middle-class women into the store.  By 1910, many big department stores were holding shows of their own. It is likely that American retailers saw what were called “fashion parades” in couture salons, and decided to use the idea. These “parades” were an effective way to promote stores, and improved their status.  By the 1920s, the fashion show had been used by retailers up and down the country.  They were staged, and often held in the shop’s restaurant during lunch or teatime.  These shows were usually more theatrical than those of today, heavily based upon a single theme, and accompanied with a narrative commentary.  The shows were hugely popular, 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, the first-ever “fashion week,” New York Fashion Week, was held, with one main purpose: to give fashion buyers alternatives to French fashion during World War II, when workers in the fashion industry were unable to travel to Paris.  Until 1994, shows were held in different locations, such as hotels, or lofts. From 1994 to 2009, the event was held in a tent at Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library. Lincoln Center was the Fashion Week venue from 2010 to 2015, after which it moved to Clarkson Square,an events venue in SoHo.

Now that we understand the origins of Fashion Week, is it still relevant in today’s market?  It seems with the takeover of the internet, online stores (independents and established brands) popping up everywhere, internet malls where you can get any and everything, what is the purpose of Fashion Week now?

I believe there is more to fashion week than connecting with buyers; it’s an opportunity to invite your clients, press, media, bloggers etc., to see your collection in advance of stores or boutiques.  Media can live stream collections to inform buyers/clients that could not attend because of calendar conflicts.  It’s a great way for everyone to network and meet new people. 


Fashion Week is necessary as buyers can attend shows, decide if they are interested in the collection and visit the designers’ showroom or make deskside appointments.  Even with Social Media, a buyer/client still may want to see the garment up front, feel the fabric and (buyers) speak to the designer about product turn around, price points etc. 

Many independent designers can show a great Fashion Week show, but can they deliver if a buyer is interested in putting them in stores?  Most cannot, they don’t have the capital, sponsorship etc., to produce a line for department stores.  Therefore, a Fashion Week show is good for them as the audience can purchase or order the garments right off the runway.  Independent designers are more likely to produce made to measure garments also.

Fashion Week brings in an enormous amount of money into NYC with people flying in, hotel stays, dining at restaurants, taxis, ubers, etc.  NYC enjoys Fashion Week due to the amount of money it’s brings in.

Fashion Week allows many Fashion, Beauty, Nail Salons, Stylists, Dressers etc. to work backstage as interns or paid personnel for some of the most prestigious brands.  Most return season after season and move up in rank.  It’s a great opportunity for someone choosing a career path in fashion to get first hand experience.

As a designer, you have to look at everything and decide what is most cost effective for your brand.  Is getting into department stores or developing a line that can be purchased right off the runway the best way to go?

What do you think? 

Comments welcome.

FW History:  Wikipedia

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