Paris Fashion Week: All You Need to Know

Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week happens twice a year and depending on your point of view it is either the best time to be in the city, or the worst. Hundreds of fashion editors, assistants, stylists, models and the general cool crowd descend on the French capital to see what they'll be wearing the next year.

One of the "Big 4", Paris Fashion Week has the honor of hosting the finale of every bi-annual fashion fest that takes place in the city.

Along with New York, London and Milan, Paris Fashion Week is the culmination of weeks and weeks of work for the exhibiting designers and only the beginning of the work for all the editors and journalists who will write about it.

The official French name for Paris Fashion Week is Semaine des Createurs du Mode and, in accordance with its slightly pretentious name, current fashion weeks take place in Carrousel du Louvre. Normally, about a 100 shows in total span the city, ranging from the top fashion houses to lesser-known names.

The Fashion World's Heavyweights

The big boys - Chanel, Christian Dior, Givenchy - exhibit their collections in iconic Parisian locations such as the Grand Palais or the Espace Eiffel while the smaller fish are left with less high-profile, but often cooler, locations such as nightclubs and warehouses.

Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week, has the objective to show the fashion industry what's in in the season and what is definitely out. Paris Fashion Week and it is divided into three categories: Men's Fashion, Haute Couture, and Prêt-à-Porter.

The term haute couture is protected in France so that only the very few fashion houses the meet the strict criteria can claim to have Haute Couture collections.

These collections are shown at a different time to the prêt-à-porter (meaning ready-to-wear) collections which is what most modern fashion houses exhibit during Paris Fashion Week.

An International Flavor

Paris's cultural diversity as a city is often highlighted by the fashion weeks as designers from all over the world choose Paris as the city to host their shows.

There are always designers from all over the world, for instance Elie Saab from Lebanon or Issey Miyake from Japan, that show in Paris. Ethnic accents show up on the clothes too whether it be Russian furs strutting down Impasse de la Defense or braided Grecian belts and bright African patterns dominating in the Louvre.

Since its inception in 1973 Paris Fashion Week has been a Mecca for the fash pack, and naturally these fabulous people need fabulous parties. As well as all the serious work (runway events and trade shows), PFW is also a great excuse for grand openings, promotional events and lavish celebrity-studded parties thrown by anyone who's anyone.

Paris, being one of the cultural metropolises of the fashion world, has no shortage of experience in throwing big parties (think Louis XIV) or a lack of luxurious party locations so it is a match made in heaven really.

The History of Paris Fashion Week

For a while in the fashion industries' youth, French fashion eclipsed much of the world with its beauty and elegance and it was for this exact reason that the the first big pre-cursor to a fashion show took place in August 1914.

Paris Fashion Week

Vogue's American editor-in-chief, Edna Woolman Chase, realized that work in the French couture ateliers could very well come to a standstill because of French involvement in World War I.

At the time Paris was fashion's leading light so without French designs to buy or copy, there would be no fashion in America and therefore nothing to fill the pages of Vogue.

Mrs Chase took matters into her own hands and encouraged the best dress-makers to come up with their own designs to show at a charity show in the Ritz-Carlton ballroom. Mrs Chase persuaded high class women to buy tickets and go to the show. She also took models to the dressmakers' shops and taught them to walk the walk, sway their hips and swish their hair.

It was a a hit. Though most French couture houses didn't close during the First World War, and Mrs. Chases' apprenhension was unfounded during those years, it did happen some decades later.

War Strikes Again

In 1943 the fashion world found itself in the same predicament, only this time more serious.

It was during the Second World War and fashion workers were unable to get to Paris, the fashion capital, due to the Nazi occupation of the city.

In a bid to distract the world from French fashion, uber-publicist Eleanor Lambert organized a "Press Week" in New York to showcase American designers that had been previously spurned or ignored by fashion journalist who had been blinded by the bright Paris lights.

The "Press Week" was a roaring success that even won Vogue over, who began to feature more and more American designers in their previously French-dominated magazine.

Paris Fashion Week started in 1973 and Milan was the next to follow in 1979. Just over a decade later London joined in with an event staged in a West London car park. And as they say, the rest is history.