New York Fashion Week: A Quick Guide
Who runs New York Fashion Week? (And is there more than one “New York Fashion Week?”)
Technically, New York Fashion Week is a time of year, with multiple producers.
But first, where did it come from?
New York Fashion Week (1943)
New York was the first city to begin organizing shows seasonally.
However, the very concept of the “fashion show,” not altogether surprisingly, originated in France.
The modern concept of fashion — in the sense of luxury apparel that demands constant rules and reinvention — came of age in the 1700s, under Louis XIV, culminating with the first true “haute couture” (literally, “high fashion”) house in Paris (House of Worth) in 1858.
In the 1850s, French couture houses held private fashion shows for their most prized clients.
With the birth of this new couture industry (an exclusive and somewhat secretive world at the time), top designers held fashion shows in their ateliers for their most prized clients.
These often involved a “fashion parade,” wherein models formed a line to showcase the salon’s wares. (Indeed, fashion shows in Paris are still called “défilés de mode” — parades of fashion — today.)
Early Fashion Shows
According to William Leach’s Land of Desire, America’s first fashion show was likely held in 1903, at a New York City specialty store called Ehrich Brothers. By the 1920s, shows had already gone mainstream, mainly held at department stores and hotels.
In 1903, a New York City specialty store held what was likely the USA’s first fashion show.
In 1943,* fashion super-publicist Eleanor Lambert decided to cluster these shows into a particular time frame, called alternately “Fashion Press Week” and “Press Week.” (For a great history of Eleanor Lambert, see the book Eleanor Lambert: Still Here, by John Tiffany.) The idea was to cluster the shows together to boost American fashion during the occupation of France.
(*Small note for the obsessed: You may note the above clipping from the Indian Valley Register of February 1951 announces the “16th Annual” Press Week of New York … which would put the first show date at 1935! Apparently “annual” should have meant “seasonal,” which would, indeed, put the first “Press Week” at 1943.)
In 1943, New York shows were clustered together to boost American fashion during the occupation of France.
The shows were organized into a particular time, but not yet a particular place.
In 1993, the events were first brought together in one location as “7th on Sixth.”
The first time New York’s shows were consolidated in a single location took place in 1993, under Fern Mallis, then Executive Director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (an organization founded by Eleanor Lambert). Even then, the events weren’t branded “New York Fashion Week.” They were called “7th on Sixth,” after the “7th on Sixth” event management company founded by the CFDA.
(Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that London Fashion Week, including the actual words “Fashion Week,” had already been going strong in the UK since 1984.)
In 2001, “7th on Sixth” was sold to IMG, and in 2004, Olympus became title sponsor, and the events were known as “Olympus Fashion Week.” In 2007, Mercedes-Benz became title sponsor, and the events became known as “Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.”
NY’s events have held names like “Olympus Fashion Week” and “Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York.”
Today, NYFW is produced by a number of producers.
NYFW Best “Founded By” Date: 1943
•1943 – Seasonally clustered (under the New York Dress Institute)
•1990s – Began being called “New York Fashion Week,” following the lead of “London Fashion Week”
•1993 – Organizationally grouped by the CFDA as “7th on Sixth”
Shows are still grouped seasonally, but organized by a variety of producers.
Producers include — or have recently included — IMG, FTL Moda, CFDA, Macy’s, Alexander Wang, or last season’s Givenchy.