As journalists, models, designers and sponsors make their way from London to Milan for yet another week of fashion, a quick look at the history of the biannual celebration of clothes and creativity in America's fashion capital.
America and France are at war with Germany. The fashion capital of the world, Paris, is beset by Nazis. The biannual runway shows in the City of Light are either closed off to foreigners or cancelled for the foreseeable future. Fashion and public relations mogul Eleanor Lambert sees an opportunity: America will be Paris's successor and New York, of course, will be the hub. Eleanor gathers the best American fashion designers and invites journalists and buyers (many of whom do not show up) to attend what she calls "Fashion Press Week," later to become New York Fashion Week. Among Lambert's other contributions to the U.S. fashion industry: the founding of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), the Best Dressed List and the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Dianne Von Furstenberg arrives to New York City and debuts the now famous cult item: the DVF wrap dress. Flattering on every body type and suitable for almost any age, the wrap dress is worn by Cybill Shephard (in the movie Taxi Driver), Amy Adams (in the movie American Hustle), Kate Hudson, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Sienna Miller, Susan Sarandon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Coco Rocha, Kendall Jenner, Kate Middleton, Michelle Obama, and at least one woman you know.
Michael Kors showcases his line in a Chelsea loft. A thudding base and shaking walls result in chunks of ceiling falling onto the runway...and the head of Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune and "one of the few editors from Europe who came to America." Kors finishes his show, but does not escape criticism from Menkes, who slams the entire event as second rate – leading to talks among American designers about finding a permanent venue for a more cohesive show.
Anna Sui, a NYFW veteran, holds her very first fashion show after receiving encouragement from her best friends, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista. The three models, known as the "Trinity," walk the show for free, in exchange for some of Sui's outfits. Campbell opens and closes more Anna Sui shows than any other model and Sui becomes one of the most influential designers in the industry.
Always ahead of his time, Marc Jacobs tries to make grunge high fashion and ends up shocking the industry, getting fired from Perry Ellis, and then winning the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year Award.
The NYFW we know today – journalists running from tent to tent, designers wheeling around racks of clothes, models throwing those clothes on in a space no bigger than them – is born. The shows, conceived of by Eleanor Lambert and held in makeshift spaces all over Manhattan, are finally centralized at Bryant Park, and the week of tents and cameras takes on a new name, 7th on Sixth (Bryan Park being on Sixth Avenue, and the Garment District being on Seventh Avenue). Fern Mallis, executive director of CFDA at the time and orchestrator of the move, finally turns "Press Week" into "Fashion Week," an iconic event of international recognition.
Calvin Klein showcases his then-groundbreaking and now-famous Spring 1994 line of women's lounge and sportswear and with just one collection, launches Kate Moss's career and manages to make Anna Wintour smile.
Once upon a time, New York was the fourth of the Big 4 (Paris, London and Milan being the other three fashion capitals of the world) to show designers' spring collections for womenswear. In 1998, however, Helmut Lang, who is about to move his headquarters from Paris to the Big Apple, decides that November is too late to show his collection and New York must come first. After Calvin Klein and Donna Karan follow suit, Lang successfully changes the entire schedule of NYFW, which has split shows that year, and by 1999, New York is indeed showing first.
International Management Group (IMG), a global sports and talent management company, acquires NYFW from the CFDA and criticism about the event's increasingly confusing corporate partnerships and growing reliance on marketing continues to lend credence to the notion that NYFW many not be relevant forever.
Rather than risk the humiliation, or injuries, of a trip down the runway, Dutch model Iekeliene Stange does what perhaps no other model has done before her when confronted with shoes that won't seem to behave: she shrugs, kicks off her slippery flip-flops, picks them up, and walks the rest of the runway barefoot. Oh, and she does this all while opening for none other than Marc Jacobs.
Due to a dispute with Bryant Park's management over the length and timing of fashion week, the shows move from their seminal home at Sixth to the Lincoln Center. Some see it as a logical blending of fashion and performing arts, others are less enthusiastic. With more designers and less space, fashion week becomes, somehow, more chaotic. New York City Park Advocates sue the City of New York and the Lincoln Center for disturbing a nearby park, marquee names begin showing in other spaces due to the Lincoln Center's tight space and disorganization, and the week becomes less about showcasing designers' work than sponsorship and press.
Nordic designer Elise Øverland makes fashion lines when she sends her models down an unusual runway - a small ice rink at the Standard Hotel. To top it all off, the show ends with a black-swan themed performance by figure skater Johnny Weir.
Isaac Mizrahi livens up an overheated and exhausted NYFW crowd at his "CAKE" show by pairing his models' dramatic hair poufs with their inspiration - poodles. Perhaps for the sake of consistency and collection fluidity, Mizrahi makes sure the dogs are the same color as their models' dresses.
Adding to the spectacles of Fall/Winter 2011, Moncler Grenoble chooses perhaps the most fitting venue for its NYFW show - Grand Central Terminal. No one but the Moncler team know that, however. At 7:25 pm, unsuspecting commuters find themselves in the middle of a flash mob, though not one of everyday people, but rather models and dancers dressed in winter jackets and ski goggles. The next day, the New York Times calls it "most ambitious and spectacular event of Fashion Week and the only one impossible to transplant to any other place."
Mercedes-Benz pulls out as the title sponsor of NYFW after eight years, IMG - likely tired from criticism and a long lawsuit - does not renew its contract with the Lincoln Center (because they were kicked out). Once again, NYFW moves, this time to two venues: Skylight Moynihan Station and Skylight Clarkson Square.
For his first fashion show in the US, UK-based Marjan Pejoski decides to base his KTZ Fall 2015 line on...Native Americans. Though Pejoski says he wanted to pay ribute to "the country, to the land, and all of the indigenous people," by basing his line on Native Americans and "their culture," those outside of the fashion industry criticize the designer for failing to do his research, fetishizing a culture, and even stealing designs from actual American Indian designers.
Making history twice with one show, designer Anniesa Hasibuan is the first Indonesian designer to show at NYFW and the first to outfit every look from her Jakarta-inspired collection with a hijab. The designer, whose line is just one year old, closes the show to a standing ovation.
Marc Jacobs closes Spring 2017 NYFW by marching every top model down the runway in platform boots and dreadlocks, raising the familiar question of whether or not the fashion world is exempt from cultural appropriation (or what designers like to call cultural appreciation).
What will February 2017 bring??