Paris, Milan, London and New York: a Fashion Week comparative
New York, London, Milan, Paris… The marathon of fashion shows for the women's ready-to-wear spring/summer 2016 collections begins this Wednesday September 9th in New York, the first day of presentations before the official start of the runway shows on the 10th, and runs through October 7th. An intense, always exhausting and often dramatic month which, as is the case every season, attracts the attention of all the players in the fashion world: designers, buyers, journalists and other decision-makers.
For fashion houses, the runway show is crucial, even if 75% of ready-to-wear sales take place during the pre-collections. "The runway show is the moment of maximum exposure. The almost spastic attention it attracts is enormous. It's enough to look at what's going on backstage these days, which no one ever worried about before," says the events director of an Italian label. The show remains essential, whether it is as an outlet of the label's creativity or to set the tone for the season.
Far from calming down the fervor, the Web has only intensified it. "The show has become a 24/7 moment of communication. It attracts even more attention than ad campaigns. While showrooms are only frequented by buyers, the runway shows are seen by the entire planet," says the director.
The Fashion Weeks thus play a decisive role, each one with its own specifics, even though Paris still stands out on top. "There was a time when only Paris Fashion Week was worth travelling to. Today, globalisation, Internet and emerging markets have changed the situation," says Jean-Jacques Picart.
By popular opinion, the Paris Fashion Week, organised by the Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode is still the cream of the crop. With its nine days, some twelve shows every day, and presentations and shows not on the calendar, Paris offers the most wealthy and most interesting programme.
"When Paris was in a phase of stepping back 15 years ago, the Federation opened its doors to the Japanese and other countries, becoming a true centre of global fashion! The result today is that the French dominate, both in terms of image and business," says Riccardo Grassi, owner of one of the biggest showrooms in Milan.
Grassi opened a branch in Paris two years ago that he puts into action at every fashion week. "I opened this temporary showroom on avenue Hoche because there are 200 stores stooped in fashion in the world, particularly Asian and American retailers, who only come to Paris. It is the place to go in terms of buying. But it's also the only real capital of fashion, with an international image and a very elevated selection," says the fashion business man!
The Paris calendar attracts more than 20 nationalities, from the biggest names in fashion and luxury to the youngest brands. Over the last few years, the French fashion week has notably opened up to emerging names, with practically the entire first two days of the event dedicated to them, reflecting the increasing importance of the contribution from young designers in the current panorama of fashion.
More focused on its local players and audience, the three other Fashion Weeks undeniably have less aura. Milan, known for its more "commercial" offer, the result of a typically Italian balance of industry and creativity, has come to be one of the most must-go places of fashion after Paris.
Sporting so many major labels, from Giorgio Armani to Prada, along with Gucci, Versace, Roberto Cavalli etc., it has also opened up to young talent over the past few years, but it is missing the international side which, in an increasingly global world, may not be the right card to be playing.
Meanwhile, London has become a heavyweight over the years. It of course has major fashion house Burberry on its side, but what sets it apart is that it has always put a focus on talented young designers with diplomas from prestigious schools and benefitting from significant support from institutions. But excess and intense creativity often take the spotlight away from the real clothes.
Finally, New-York. Even though a new generation of designers now spice up a week considered to be "less boring", this Fashion Week, highly geared towards industrial fashion rather than creative, seems to be still finding itself. All while having to rebuild itself.
With a plethora of brands which don't always seem to belong there, it has a very faithful public since "it is the coolest place in the world with its thousand parties, major press and lots of money," says a NYFW regular.
It is also the place to make an appearance if the goal is to make it on the North American continent. Especially now, with the luxury market in full bloom in the United States, with the countless European stores that have opened stateside serving as witnesses.
It is in this context that the Givenchy show will exceptionally be taking place in New York this season. Meanwhile, the very cool label from the Olsen sisters, The Row, is crossing the pond to show in the French capital in hopes of giving the brand more international visibility.
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