Paris, Milan, London and New York. Four of the finest Fashion Capitals the world has to offer, all brought to a shuddering halt with the outbreak of Covid-19. And with the globe quaking under the mass epidemic that is the Corona Virus, the Fashion Industry quakes in unison, bringing about postponement and cancellations of the Menswear Fashion Week from Italy to the US. As unfortunate as it is sensible, fashionistas may find comfort in the knowledge that there is currently no talk of Womens wear Fashion Week suffering the same blows. But in these uncertain times, it is fair to acknowledge the fact that this may change and change rather quickly. And even if the proceedings do go ahead as planned then what impact will it pose for the biggest events in the calendar and ultimately for the four biggest cities in the fashion sphere. We will be charting the grandiose past of Fashion Week and highlighting key moments in its history alongside an analysis of how the global crisis will alter four of the biggest bi-annual events.
1943 in the midst of World War Two, New York Fashion Week is born. Closely followed by Milan in 1958 with Paris and London joining the ranks in the 70’s and 80’s. And thus, we are presented with the aptly named ‘Big Four’ flaunting the best in fashion biannually in both February and September respectively. Originally entitled ‘Press Week’, Fashion Week has brought both glamour and controversy over its long history, being the perfect outlet for designers to both shock and amuse spectators with trend-setting garments, unusual props and flamboyant catwalks. The list of iconic Fashion Week moments is never ending making it profoundly difficult to chisel them down, but here I will present four of my favourite and most memorable catwalk ‘controversies’ ever to have graced the runways of these fabulous Fashion Capitals.
What could be more iconic than Alexander McQueen? From the ‘Highland Rape’ to Givenchy, McQueen provided the controversy and fine tailoring that the fashion elites craved. In true McQueen style, in one of his most famous Spring Summer shows, animatronics and humanity were intertwined spectacularly at London Fashion Week 1999. A revolving Shalom Harlow can be seen centre stage in a ‘bouffant’ style strapless dress whilst quite literally being spray painted by two robots.
Chanel masterminded the little black dress, how about the little black bikini! Paris Fashion Week 1995 saw Chanel introduce what has to be the skimpiest bikini to ever be debuted on the catwalk. With the Chanel logo imprinted on the ‘cups’ you can’t possibly get any more 90’s than this.
We jump forward in time to Milan Fashion Week 2018. Donatella Versace graces the Milanese catwalk in Spring Summer 18, flanked by some of the 90’s top models. Naomi Campbell an co. parade down the runway dressed in an array of shimmering gold, whilst Donatella walks in stark contrast in an all-black ensemble creating a truly iconic spectacle in tribute to her brother Gianni.
Before the creation of his own successful brand, Marc Jacobs designed for Perry Ellis. At New York Fashion Week 1993, Jacobs caused quite a stir with his notorious grunge collection. Although, ultimately ending his career with Perry Ellis, his mixture of chunky boots and beanies provided him with both fame and notoriety and eventually the Marc Jacobs brand we know and love today. But however consolatory it is to revel in nostalgia, looking to the past only partially paves the way to the future of Fashion Week. These four spectacular moments provide a gratifying window into history, but as a society we now find ourselves in unprecedented times of turmoil, which has global repercussions on almost everything. So, what’s next? Could the industry be looking at a more digital outlet for its runways? Entirely possible. Some people have already disclosed the information that Italy will be looking toward the digital in place of Menswear Fashion week in order to not suffer an economic rift too destabilising. Could womens wear and the three other cities which combine to make the ‘Big Four’ take heed from this train of thought. Again, entirely possible. Due to the uncertainty of the current situation, the practicality of an online platform seems a reputable course of action. However, even with innovation and clever remedies, financial hardship is an unfortunate yet unavoidable outcome. Concerns regarding attendance at the catwalks over the four fashion capitols could not be considered an unintelligent thought. Even with an alternative digital platform, the grandiose nature of Fashion Week is sure to suffer and in turn luxury fashion will unmistakably suffer as well. But Fashion is ‘fantasy’ and although the desire for what could be considered frivolous pleasure is not top priority in a global epidemic, there is no question that once again the desire for escapist ‘frivolity’ will once again take hold. So, I can end with a happy conclusion, there should be no doubt that Fashion Week will be back in full force and back with a bang.
By Natasha Dunn