History Of New York Fashion Week

New York Fashion Week

Photo: Sam Aronov / Shutterstock.com

Normally, New York Fashion week is held each February and September as semi-annual events that usually last anywhere from a week to as many as nine days. Each year, international fashion collections are brought to the stage in hopes to win over potential buyers, positive reviews from the press, and the appeal of the general public. It is one of the four major fashion weeks that take place in the world. Aside from New York City, other cities from the “Big Four” are London, Milan, and Paris. In 1993, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) were responsible for creating a modern notion of a centralized New York Fashion Week (NYFW), despite London already using their city’s name to associate it with the term “fashion week” during the 1980s. NYFW has been based on a considerably older series of events, namely Press Week since 1943. The CFDA keeps a centralized calendar of citywide events thanks to its founder, Ruth Finley.

In the Beginning

The first New York Fashion Week event was created by Eleanor Lambert in 1943. Lambert was a press director the New York Dress Institute, which was the American fashion industry’s first promotional organization. Press Week was the world’s first organized fashion week event, which was created to attract attention away from French fashion during the timeline of the second world war. At that time, fashion industry insiders were not able to travel to Paris to witness its French fashion shows. This was also a means to showcase American designers for fashion journalists that were previously ignoring fashion innovations from the U.S. For Press Week, this was a successful start as fashion magazines like Vogue were now finally paying attention to American designers instead of just looking overseas to see what the French were coming up with. Come February 1951, the Annual Press Week of New York enjoyed its sixteenth anniversary of its Spring Show event.

Usually, admission to a New York Fashion Week show came by invitation only. Those invites are typically given to designers, celebrities, as well as people of influence. Even before the concept of the internet, as well as content creators that use sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube, the key influencers were people who worked for various media sources that included printed publications, radio, and television.

Photo: Sam Aronov / Shutterstock.com

New York Fashion Week Timeline

As of 1993, President Stan Herman of the CFDA, as well as executive director, Fern Mallis, consolidated the citywide events known as New York Fashion Week by having them staged in a cluster of white tents located in Bryant Park. This event became branded with the Seventh on Sixth trademark. In 2001, the Seventh on Sixth brand was sold to the International Management Group (IMG), but the scheduled September exhibition was canceled due to the events that unravelled on September 11, 2001. The terrorist attacks that occurred that day happened on what would have been the fourth day of the NYFW event.

During the year of 2007’s New York Fashion Week, Mercedes-Benz became the title sponsor of the IMG-sponsored events which saw the inclusion of international Mercedes-Benz fashion weeks. This became identified as MB Fashion Week New York. In 2010, the IMG/Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York relocated themselves to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts as the popularity and size of the event had become too big to properly accommodate them in the Bryant Park tents. A year later, during the September 2011 fashion week event, New York designers began to live-stream runway shows as a means to reach out to a broader audience.

The streams first began through YouTube before expanding to other visual media sites. This continued until January 2015 when Mercedes-Benz opted out as title sponsor from future WME/IMG events. This came after a December 2014 ruling by the state court of New York in regards to a lawsuit that was filed by community activists over the usage of tents in Damrosch Park as they felt this was a violation of the public trust doctrine. This resulted in the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, as well as the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, to not renew any contract with IMG. Upon the departure of Mercedes-Benz as title sponsor, American rapper and producer, Kanye West, stepped in to take their place.

In the meantime, for $2.3 billion USD, William Morris Endeavor (WME) purchased IMG and its New York Fashion Week events in 2013. A year later, the CFDA acquired Ruth Finley’s Fashion Calendar.com, which evolved from papered periodicals to digital format since its 1943 start. In March 2015, WME/IMG announced the acquisition of MADE Fashion Week, an event that takes place during the events held by WME/IMG. During that same year, IMG moved its events from the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts to Spring Studios, which is located at 50 Varick Street. The location has included features such as a waterfront carnival, as well as the conversion of an old railway terminals and an old post office.

Also in 2013, Trisha Paravas’ Fashion Week Inc. registered New York Fashion Week, NYFW, and NYFW The Runway Shows as trademarks upon realizing these consumer-based fashion events and shows were only accessed by invite only. This began after her first few shows grew by interest. This action spawned an investigation about naming rights and trademarks, which the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA) filed a motion to have the trademark names cancelled.

The attempt was unsuccessful. On June 28, 2016, through Trisha Paravas as CEO of Fashion Week, Inc., filed a ten million dollar lawsuit against CFDA and WME/IMG over trademark issues and unfair competition. There was also a motion on her part for a preliminary injunction, which was denied by Judge Koeltl and the court on August 12, 2016 as it was pointed out that while Fashion Week, Inc. does the rights to the New York Fashion Week trademark, those rights are limited to entertainment ticket agency sales through the internet only. Otherwise, the CFDA and WME/IMG have full rights to the organization and production of their fashion shows.

Today, the New York Fashion Week hosts two types of shows. There is one that is industry specific while the other is open to the public. Access to the public showing events can be made through sites like NYFW’s own site, as well as sites like TimeOut.com. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has since been a number of new protocols and safety measures in order to comply with the ever-changing dynamics that continue to play a role in how all industries operate.

New York Fashion Week History

Photo: FashionStock.com / Shutterstock.com

Making History: New York Firsts

New York Fashion Week has held a series of firsts in regards to the promotion of more than just something deemed fashionable. Dr. Danielle Sheypuk became the first model, sporting designs for Carrie Hammer, during the February 2014 event. Later in the year for the September show another model to sport Carrie Hammer’s designs was Karen Crespo, the first quadruple-amputee to walk the runway at a NYFW event. Also for Carrie Hammer, actress Jamie Brewer from American Horror Story fame became the first Down Syndrome model to walk the red carpet during the February 2015 run of New York Fashion Week. Since her 2014 debut with NYFW, Carrie Hammer has stated her designed are inspired with role models in mind and not the typical stigmas that classify runway models. Both the woman and her designs have since become an inspiration to the fashion industry, as well as individuals who know there is more to a person’s beauty than what’s on the surface.

As the popularity and usage of social media spreads, New York Fashion Week, as always, had to adapt according to the sign of the times. In December 2015, the CFDA made an announcement they hired the Boston Consulting Group to look into revising the NYFW’s format as a means to accommodate the demand for changes brought on by discerning members of fashion-related society. One of the changes that were explored was to arrange private showroom appointments. This was also the same year the dedication to menswear began its production, which was titled New York Fashion Week: Men’s. Another change that occurred was further experimentation by designers with a see-now-buy-now setup that became available straight off the runway after its showing. This sped up the otherwise wait of six months that normally resulted during a New York Fashion Week event.

New York, New York

Not only is New York City dubbed as the city that never sleeps, it is also known as the city where big business movements happen. The fashion industry has been a big business ever since Paris, France made it become fashionable to come up with new designs and styles for people to wear. When the New York Fashion Week got into an industry that was dominated by the French, the door to the fashion world was blasted wide open. Much has changed since the humble beginnings of 1943 that not only has seen every corner of the globe contend with a series of political and social changes, but how fashion itself has changed along the way.

As today’s world still seems to be embarked in too many uncertainties, one thing that remains for certain is making fashion statements never becomes outdated. New York Fashion Week not only has managed to keep up with the sign of the times but has also set a series of trends that extend well beyond what sort of clothes people wear on their backs.

New York Fashion Week History

Photo: lev radin / Shutterstock.com

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