New York Fashion Week...Then vs. Now
In the midst of this arctic, sub-zero weather currently taking over the city, I frolicked out to Lincoln Center to partake in a little people watching and catch some pictures to share with this article. Yeah…this was not my best ideal; instead, I though best to borrow some images of my favorite Style Frolics floating around online. Enjoy...
When we think of New York Fashion Week, we tend to think of all things relating to opulence, glamour, and celebrity. Though this is how these events are currently viewed, the idea was spawned from humbled beginnings. The first organized fashion week took place in 1943 as a “trade-only” event; strictly business without any glitz or glam. Now it has evolved into the super bowl of the industry that attracts not only fashion insiders and buyers, but over 230,000 attendees, generates over $400 million in visitor spending and nearly $1.6 billion in annual revenue to the City’s fashion industry. The spring and fall events have become a global fashion driver that showcases the most established and up-and-coming designers. Even though New York’s fashion week has changed drastically over the decades, it all began with World War II…
First called “Press Week”, American fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert planned the event when the domestic press could not attend the Paris shows due to the Nazi's occupation during of WWII. Ms. Lambert thought this was a prime opportunity to bring American designers to the fore front and choose New York City to serev as host. Fun Fact: The shows were held in various apartments and warehouses around the city until 1993 where it found a home at Bryant Park. The initial shows also included a segment called "Borough Belles" that compared the fashion styling of local women from all 5 boroughs of NYC.
While powerhouses, like Vogue, mainly featured Parisians designers that catered to the elitist, "Press Week" was designed to: (1) highlight the over looked American designers and (2) establish contact with the undiscovered market – the middle class woman. With many of the middle class men deployed, their wives now had to assume the role of bread winner and entered the workforce in droves. Donning the nickname “Rosie the Riveter”, many were called into industrial occupations and therefore it was necessary that their wardrobes adapted also. Dresses were made shorter to reserve fabric for the troops, synthetic fabrics were produced to cut down on cost and the two-piece bikini was invented. The most significant gain for American designers was that due to the need of functional work clothes for woman, the sportswear style of dressing was created and became synonymous with the New York fashion scene.
Throughout the years, American designers gained worldwide exposure and finally able to compete with the major players of Paris, Milan and London. This style encouraged women to use self-expression with their clothing; so much that it was largely responsible for the emancipation of the American woman. It allowed her to show her personality and the functionality aspect allowed her to get dressed without a maid’s assistance. These early sportswear designers showed collections that were not only original and ready-to-wear, but were viewed as works of art while remaining utilitarian in their style.
Fast forward to 2015, hundreds of designer from all corners of the globe ascend on New York City to show their interpretation of American sportswear. Unlike its origin, a majority of the collections are not geared to the “middle-class” nor do most offer a utilitarian style. Now it has evolved into the super bowl of the industry that attracts not only fashion insiders and buyers, but over 230,000 attendees, generates over $400 million in visitor spending and nearly $1.6 billion in annual revenue to the city’s fashion industry. The spring and fall events have become a global fashion driver that showcases the most established and up-and-coming designers. To me, the best part of fashion week is gazing at street style or as I like to call it, the Stylish Frolics. Regardless of the weather, there is always a sweet air of creativity that blows through anyone remotely interested in the art of dressing and which greatly contributes to the backdrop of the season. The desire to challenge your style is infectious. I love it! Good or bad, both fashion weeks are my favorite 2 weeks of the year!!!