Fashion Week Evolution

...the catwalk, season after seaon

by Marquita Harris
Fashion weeks: those ceremonious, frenzied affairs that leave the insatiable salivating for more. They turn conservatives into eccentrics and allow eccentrics to overindulge. Though with the countless fashion weeks already in existence and more designers opting to show collections off the catwalk, are fashion weeks still valid? And will New York, Paris and Milan’s grip on the fashion world loosen up?

“There are so many different fashion weeks around the world – it seems as if there is always a fashion week going on somewhere,” says Anne Christine Persson, manager of Copenhagen Fashion Week. “Some are definitely better than others, while all of them are trying to claim their position on the global map of fashion and it’s becoming increasingly more difficult…to position themselves in a whirlwind of fashion weeks.”

CFW celebrated a record-breaking 42 shows this past season, making it a new city to watch. But make no mistake; Copenhagen has its own identity. Many of the budding fashion cities have no desire to become an average place. “The fact that you can find interesting Scandinavian brands, which you can’t find elsewhere is our unique selling point,” says Persson. She also feels that the city, offers a more intimate laid-back atmosphere - an appealing alternative for press accustomed to the chaos of larger cities.

The days of the March and September catwalk schedules are distant memories. Now, numerous cities are holding their own events January through December, leaving no space to catch a breath. Because of this, the industry’s geographical Trinity - Paris, New York and Milan - are no longer the only sacred cities.

“A fashion business no longer has to show on a specific catwalk to conquer the world,” says Maia Guarnaccia, Vice President of IMG Europe. In addition to their large-scale shows, IMG is also responsible for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin, which received a great deal boost of support this past summer. Designers such as Kai Kühne and Patrick Mohr dazzled the press, while the city’s past - this November marks 20 years since the crumbling of the Berlin Wall - added unfound distinction.

As the geography of the fashion world shifts, so are its methods. This couldn’t be more obvious than with London-based label Antoni & Alison. For years the British designers, Antoni Burakowski and Alison Roberts, have often opted to show their collections using various mediums including film, installations and slide shows.

“The catwalk to us actually seems a very old fashioned way of explaining our ideas at the moment, but then we might change our mind next season,” the designers exclaimed. They also noted how film still feels “unacceptable” and how it’s still seen as being a “quirky alternative” to showing their work. Nevertheless, for them, that’s also the appeal. The duo represents a growing trend of designers using other means to further drive their visions. But what makes them so unique is that while the industry is more recently adapting to this trend, they’ve been doing it for years. Their devotion to London - the fourth “fashion city” sandwiched somewhere between the solidarity of Paris and newness of Berlin - also makes them special.
However, it’s the creative mechanisms they’ve utilised that have kept them ahead of the times. Now more than ever, that decision has been spot on.

“Frankly, I'm getting a bit tired of runway shows and much prefer films and installations,” says Diane Pernet, founder of cult-blog A Shaded View on Fashion and previous curator for NJAL. “Most of the outsider fashion weeks are well done but a lot of the collections in the smaller cities do not necessarily need to do a catwalk show,” she says.

Pernet’s been a fixture at so many fashion shows over the years that she’s lost track of her past attendance. Although with fashion weeks sprouting worldwide like wildflowers, this is unsurprising. In spite of being an avid supporter of designers using alternative means, she does feel that it “doesn’t hurt to have a commercial presence twice a year in either Paris, NYC, London or Milan.”

Not to mention like her, many of us do still have a soft spot for a great live show. After all, where would we be without memories of an ephemeral hologram of Kate Moss at Alexander McQueen and the theatrical showmanship of John Galliano? After speaking with many one thing seemed certain, the standards aren’t changing; they have changed and will continue to evolve.