FYI: The Big Four of Fashion Week

In Africa we’ve got the Big Five of the wild. In the developed world they’ve got the Big Four of Fashion, we’re talking: New York, London, Milan and Paris. There are a few weeks to go before designers from the “Big Four” showcase their Autumn/Winter Collections for the year ahead and simultaneously set the direction of what’ll be featured in clothing stores worldwide.

Here’s a list of six definitive characteristics about the whys on this aspect of fashion.

  1. Location, location…

Fashion Month commences in New York City, where designs are most often more catered to the mass market, more commercialized, i.e. there’ll likely be designs that are ready-to-wear (see definition below). Next stop is London Fashion Week which is not as commercial as New York with fashion houses presenting more fashion-forward pieces unique to their creative talent.  Milan Fashion Week is next in line, showing off the best in Italian fashion design. The grand finale is in the fashion capital of the world – ‘Ouis’, that’s Paris – showing off the latest in French couture.

2. The Designers

These four cities are home to the biggest fashion houses, the biggest fashion brands and the most influential designers globally. So, who gets to show their collections?  That depends on the degree of influence that the designer has gained as well as their access to budget, considering that a basic runway show racks up costs amounting to 200 000 US Dollars.

3. The Show

The runway show aids in communicating a bigger story behind the fashion showcased on the catwalk. This is evident in the type of music chosen, to the accessories, make-up and shoes worn to the order within which garments are presented. In most cases, this ambience is brought about by a collaboration between designers and stylists. The end result is a 10 – 20 minute display of creativity with garments having a somewhat more dramatic feel in comparison to the versions that end up on clothing racks of fashion retail stores.

4.  The Models

Models are an integral part of marketing fashion. They act as mannequins, yet also add the right kind of personality that would make the outfits a little more appealing to customers.

5. The collections: Haute couture vs Prêt à Porter

Collections are showcased bi-annually to account for the warmer and colder months of the year, hence “Autumn/Winter” and “Summer/Spring”. Another aspect that distinguishes the type of collections showed is Prêt à Porter (or Ready to Wear) vs. Haute Couture.

Haute couture (pronounced oht koo/tewr) is a French term meaning “high fashion”. Clothing items in these collections are of a higher quality in terms of being created with more expensive fabrics that are adorned with more intricate details made possible by highly skilled sewing. Furthermore, these garments are targeted to a niche market and are custom fit for the client. As you can imagine, the clientele for haute couture are the über rich.

Prêt à Porter (pronounced preht ah pohr/tay) on the other hand, means ready-to-wear. Clothing items presented in these collections are manufactured in standard sizes, and on a mass scale in factories. In other words the type of clothing that we, the ordinary majority, would have access to.

6. The Guests

The guests present at the Big Four Fashion weeks are by invite only and consists mainly of those parties that have direct connections to the fashion industry, namely:

  • Fashion Editors attend  as it aids them in forecasting trends for the upcoming season and also scout which looks and pieces to feature in their publications
  • Fashion Bloggers play a similar role in terms of getting an idea of what’s fresh in the world of fashion design. All thanks to the powers of the world wide web, reporting of fashion has now been “democratised”, allowing for more varied and unique perspectives on the world of fashion
  • Retail Buyers determine which orders to put in for the retail stores they represent, also based on trends witnessed for upcoming collections
  • Other guests are made up of famous people, industry influencers as well as clients and friends/family of designers showing

For more information on Fashion week, check out these links

Photographer: Simon Deiner/SDR Photo



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