You know from the runway photos, street style snaps and celebrity-packed parties that Fashion Week is a glamorous otherworldly event.
You are partially right, but Fashion Week is much more than glitz and glamour. It is serious business.
Fashion Week is when designers show their seasonal collections of apparel and accessories to the industry and public. Hundreds of runway shows occur over the span of a few days. These shows are short, showing 30-40 looks in about 15 minutes, but they can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and have major impact for business.
Some brands, usually lower end or specialized lines, choose to have presentations instead of runway shows. Businesses show off their lines by displaying accessories or positioning models on elaborate sets for guests to view.
Presentations like Kate Spade’s floral line up and Sophia Webster’s mermaids-at-the-laundromat scene are increasing in popularity because they provide a more intimate and relaxed environment without sacrificing the artistic performance factor.
Fashion Weeks are held twice a year, starting in February and September, in the major fashion capitals of the world: New York City, London, Milan and Paris. Insiders informally refer to it as “fashion month” because all the major shows occur over a month. Fashion Week presents womenswear collections, but other shows and presentations are held throughout the year for menswear, swimwear, Haute Couture, Pre-Fall and Resort/Cruise.
Designers are currently showing their Spring/Summer 2016 collections, and six months from now they will show Fall/Winter 2016 looks. They work this far ahead because it takes time to determine trends and sales direction, collect orders, produce the garments, develop merchandising plans and deliver clothes to stores on time.
Fashion Week is essentially a trade show. Retail buyers come to forecast trends and choose which designers and pieces to offer their customers. Not everything we see on the runway will be available for purchase. Some pieces are shown only to bring attention to the collection and characterize the brand. Others are altered slightly to be more wearable and therefore more profitable. Still, others may not receive great response and won’t get produced at all.
On the magazine side of the industry, editors attend shows to determine upcoming trends and scout for styles they want to feature. The pieces shown on the runway are samples and usually the only one of their kind. So if Vogue wants to photograph one of Proenza Schouler’s ruffled cutout dresses, it must request to borrow it from the designers. With magazines working about three months ahead, all the publications have to fight for use of a single coveted sample.
In the past, these insiders got exclusive access to Fashion Week while the general public had to wait to see the collections when they were showcased in magazines and debuted in stores.
Now anyone can watch runway shows through live streams and view entire collections online immediately after they debut. New York Fashion Week was a featured live story on Snapchat, and the Burberry show even got its own live story on the app.
Designers are also taking to fashion’s favorite social media outlet, Instagram, to get their customers more involved in the shows. Misha Nonoo chose to forego the traditional runway show altogether this season and showed her entire collection on Instagram in what she titled an “Insta-show.”
While some in the industry scoff at the recent commercialization and transparency of Fashion Week, most brands are taking it as a marketing opportunity.
Celebrities, fashion bloggers and social media stars often borrow or are gifted clothes from designers to wear to shows and parties as publicity, as street style is covered almost as much as the collections themselves. Customers aren’t limited to just viewing the new collections instantly; they can preorder pieces online which are fresh off the runway.
Making Fashion Week more accessible to consumers may expose much of the seductive mystery that has historically surrounded the fashion industry, but it is smart business.
This impact isn’t limited to fashion companies.
According to a report by Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Fashion Week generates almost $900 million for the New York economy each year; that’s more than the New York City Marathon and Super Bowl combined brought in last year.
Now that’s where the glamour gets real.