Posted on by Somdutta Singh

It’s the start of a new year and fashion weeks are dotting fashion centres across the globe, from Paris to New York, from India to Milan, from Tokyo to London. Fashion Week can seem like a mysterious, seemingly glamorous machine that churns out countless runway shows, copious amounts of street style photos and lots of celebrities preening in the front rows. 

Here’s your quick Fashion Week 101 – what it is and why it matters?


So, What is Fashion Week?

In a super condensed nutshell, Fashion Week is when the industry’s top designers present their upcoming collections in a series of runway shows and presentations.

What is the history behind the world’s fashion week? Where did it all start?

The first official Fashion Week began as “Press Week” in 1943 at the height of World War II. The American fashion media couldn’t get over to Paris to see the next season’s collections. It was New York (and America’s) chance to show the world what they could do. From then on, Press Week turned into Fashion Week and shows were staged in venues all over New York City.

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) happens twice a year—once in February and once in September. There are various other series of runway shows throughout the year, Haute Couture, Swim Week, etc. but when people refer to Fashion Week, it’s this biannual event they’re talking about.

Who decides which designers get to show at Fashion Week?

There isn’t an official board or council or overlord that officially decides who gets to sit at the Fashion Week table. But it’s still a bit more politically complicated. In the official Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tents, clout and seniority are important for designers to score one of the limited spots and call dibs on a time slot. The other issue is budget—not every designer can afford an elaborate show at an expensive venue.

Do different designers show in different cities? How is that decided?

Yes, different designers show in different cities around the world. There’s no hard and fast rule, but mostly it depends on where the designer’s business and studio are headquartered. It’s a way to demonstrate support for their local economy, fellow designers and retailers.

Is the runway collection different from what you see in stores?

Yes. Think of a runway show as a designer’s form of artistic expression. They want to make the biggest impact that they can, while imparting the theme of the collection for the next season. So that means they’ll show exaggerated or more dramatic versions of what ends up in the stores.

Is a runway the only format for designers to show their collections during Fashion Week?

Nope! You have the runway show production, in which models walk out to show the audience next season’s creations, but there’s also the presentation set-up in which models basically double as mannequins standing and posing in some sort of themed vignette. This allows guests to get a close-up look at the collection, at any time, within the presentation. Some designers opt out of showing their collections altogether and invite editors to visit their showrooms for a peek at the next season’s clothes instead.

Who goes to shows and how do they get invited?

We’re talking fashion editors, retail store buyers, fashion bloggers, industry influencers, friends or clients of designers, and oh, famous people. Celebrities in the front row are there either to support their designer friend or, most likely, they’re present to promote the brand.

Why is Fashion Week important? Why do editors care so much about it?

Well, despite the parties and street style spectacles, Fashion Week is for work—traditionally meaning store buyers come to see the upcoming season’s offerings and put in orders while fashion magazine editors use it to forecast trends and see what looks and pieces they want to feature in their publications. It helps to spark ideas for editorials and fashion features for the next six months!