The Fashion Week Agenda can seem confusing, if not downright barmy, to anyone not wholly immersed in the fashion world. While we are yet to feel the first warmth of spring, the runways will soon be awash with next winter’s coolest trends. Moreover, with Women’s and Men’s Fashion Weeks occurring in a plethora of cities around the world, it probably makes sense to filter out the relentless wash of fashion commentary and just focus on the important bits. Great. So, what are the important bits? Well we’ve put together a handy bite-sized guide to the key things you need to know right now.
The Big 4
While there are a number of cities now snapping at their heels, the Big 4 Fashion Weeks are still New York, London, Paris and Milan. These are the most widely reported, the most widely attended and the most prestigious. This is where designers really go to town, and where upcoming trends are determined and debated.
A Note On Haute
Just to throw a cat amongst the pigeons, Paris has separate Haute Couture showings in January and July each year. Age old (French) rules stipulate that Haute Couture (one of a kind designer originals) can only be showcased in Paris. Compris?
The Fashion Week Cycle: Autumn/Winter & Spring/Summer
Each of the Big 4 cities hosts two Women’s and two Men’s Fashion Weeks a year: Spring/Summer (SS) and Autumn/Winter (AW). To allow buyers to plan their retail marketing, the fashion houses showcase their wares for the following summer at the end of the one before. So SS17 was showcased in September/October 2016 and AW17/18 will shortly be on a runway near you (February/March), determining many of the trends you will be wearing next Christmas. Makes sense yes? Many designers now also offer inter-seasonal collections, namely Resort (Pre-Spring/Summer) and Pre-Fall (before Autumn/Winter) so consumers don’t have to wait so long to get their hands on desired items. These tend to be showcased in smaller shows or presentations around three months prior to the main SS and AW shows.
Except…. change is afoot. The internet has increased consumer expectations and access to fashion trends to the point that many houses have sped up their fashion cycles to near immediacy. Many designers are not only launching in-season ready to wear (RTW) collections but they are also streaming their runway shows live online, allowing consumers to shop outfits as they see them. Want that peplum sleeve, oversize shirt just strutted onto the catwalk by Karlie Kloss? Yep, it’s yours. Delayed gratification is officially dead.
Essentially, there’s a handful of renowned designers who have the top jobs. They may work for established fashion houses (e.g. Raf Simons for Calvin Klein, Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen or Christopher Bailey for Burberry) or they may establish their own eponymous labels, typically after cutting their teeth at the traditional houses (e.g. Tom Ford, Alexander Wang or Vivienne Westwood). Or they may do both (e.g. Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel/Karl Lagerfeld). When one designer (often known as Creative Director) moves on (or dare I say it, pops off), a vacancy is created which one of the other top designers will fill. There’s a great little resource here at the NY Times if you want to study this fashion incest further. The result is enough change to keep the fashion media on tenterhooks as to what that designer’s first collection at his/her new fashion house will be like. Will they be sensitive to that house’s fashion roots or will they stamp their own authority and individual style? If they take the latter approach, bruising noses on their way, it may be a short-lived stint before they move on again. It’s a pretty brutal world and nigh on impossible for new designers to break in, although, of course, it does occasionally happen if someone has serious talent and/or an awful lot of money behind them, as we have seen with Victoria Beckham.
Glossies vs Bloggers
Last year saw a long-standing simmering tension really kick off into full blown war. The glossies, increasingly threatened by shifting readership preference from print to digital, shifting media preference from runway to street style, and shifting advertising budget from magazines to bloggers, launched a scathing attack on those who “preen for the cameras in borrowed clothes”. While the circus of paid-to-wear bloggers who change outfits more often than they eat does seem somewhat bizarre, you can’t help but feel the cutting criticisms are the protestations of a sinking ship. The front row is destined to be increasingly populated by bloggers whether Vogue likes it or not.
Below are the AW17/18 Womenswear Fashion Weeks for each of the Big 4 and what you can expect from each:
New York, 8-16 February 2017 – New York began the first fashion shows in the early 20th century and continues to kick off the Big 4 womenswear cycle to this day. Look out for classic American names like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.
London, 17-21 February 2017 – look out for Emilia Wickstead, Erdem and Roksanda, as well as a plethora of up and coming British designers like Molly Goddard, who won Emerging British Talent in 2016.
Milan, 22-28 February 2017 – look out for some of the biggest names in Italian fashion design, notably Prada, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana
Paris, 28 February-8 March 2017 – arguably the most prestigious, after all, the French do take their fashion terribly seriously.