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New York Fashion Week: A Guide

Yep, New York Fashion Week is officially here! (And if you want to catch a sneak preview, check out the amazing picture of PH5 Spring 2018, above. Story coming soon.)

The streets are already buzzing with amazing street style and the hum that comes with editors, influencers, and buyers flying in for Fashion Week. As Carrie Bradshaw once said, “Every year the women of New York leave the past behind and look forward to the future … this is known as Fashion Week.”

I turned to several industry experts for their words of wisdom and I have a feeling you’ll love what they have to say. Here’s everything you need to know about NYFW:

What is Fashion Week? Why does it matter?

“It’s a valuable opportunity for American designers to enter the public consciousness and become better known,” says Pablo Starr, publisher and president of Fashion Week Online and RNWY.

Indeed, Fashion Week is an industry event for buyers, reporters, editors, etc. It’s full of shows, presentations and events where top designers showcase their latest collections. The shows are timed so that editors and magazines can create editorials around the new trends and the season’s must-have items — and also where buyers place their orders.

“NYFW matters because it is the best possible way for brands to get out there and show the world their vision for the company, the line, and the collection in one day,” says Adriana Marie, founder of AMCONYC, a top NYC production house.

“Runway shows provide emerging brands all of that, and so much more — including the chance to be seen and discovered, without paying the 6-figure price tag the more known designers pay.”

Where is NYFW?

NYFW used to be held at large tents in Bryant Park and then moved to Lincoln Center. Now — much as in Paris — the events are scattered all over town. Designers choose the venue based on their aesthetic, the amount of creative control they want to have, and budget.

With more than 130 shows on the schedule, you could easily find yourself running all over the city!

Does every city have their own Fashion Week?

It really depends on the city. There are about 40 fashion weeks held in different countries around the world each year. Fashion Week’s “Big Four” are located in New York, London, Milan, and Paris, with each city known for a different style. Some designers show in the same city every year, while others jump among the Big Four.

Very roughly, New York is known for ready-to-wear; London for edgier, avant-garde designs; Milan for its over-the-top looks; and Paris for haute couture.

When did Fashion Week start?

New York Fashion Week was started by fashion publicist Elenor Lamber in 1943. She wanted to give American designers the opportunity to showcase their work and draw attention from Paris during the height of World War II. Back then, it was referred to as “Press Week” and was held at The Plaza Hotel.

When is Fashion Week? And didn’t it just happen?

If it feels like it just happened, that’s probably because it did.

Each of the Big Four holds a fall/winter collection show in February and spring/summer collections show in September. The collections are shown about six months ahead of time so that buyers can place their orders and have the pieces arrive in time for the new season.

The collections are shown about six months ahead of time

This season, NYFW runs from Thursday, September 7th through September 14th.

There are various other runway shows that happen throughout the course of the year, but fashion people are referring to the biannual shows when they mention “Fashion Week.”

How long are the shows?

They’re surprisingly short. The majority of runway shows last 7-10 minutes. Running behind? Here’s a little Fashion Week Online tip for you: a majority of the shows start 20 minutes late!

Chris Lavish, Fashion Week Online’s social media director, says, “It’s many weeks of preparation for a pivotal 15 mins in which the brand can excel or fail.”

What is a show actually like?

After the aforementioned schmoozing and battling the crowds to get to your seat, the lights dim and music starts to pump through the speakers. Not all runways are linear, in order to make more room for VIPs and industry insiders.

No matter what the runway looks like though, there are always at least 15 photographers standing on the risers or “the pit” snapping away at every outfit. There are typically 30 to 40 outfits or looks that come down the runway and at the end of the show, the designer comes out for a final wave.

And just like that, the show is over. The crowds rush out, selfies are taken, and the amazing people behind the shows scramble to get set up for the next one.

Marie describes it as “15 minutes of fame,” while Lavish deems it “luxurious.”

Who goes to the shows?

Most shows are invitation-only and tickets are reserved for those in the industry. (There are, however, some open-to-the-public shows.) This means that you’ll see buyers, industry influencers, friends or clients of designers and fashion editors. You’ll also see a slew of celebrities in the front row.

How do you get invited?

Reach out to the publicists or public relations team for any brand that you’d love to see. The key is to reach out at least a month in advance, as that’s when the teams are just starting to put together their invite lists.

To raise your chances of getting into shows, email the publicists as early as three months in advance to start developing a relationship with them.

The fashion industry is all about relationships, and having a good rapport with a brand’s core team will make all the difference when it comes to Fashion Week.

What should I do besides go to shows?

The possibilities are really endless. Fashion editor LaShauna Williams recommends, “Try restaurants! You can travel the world in New York City’s cuisine offerings. Italian! Jamaican! Indian! Chinese! Japanese! And the list goes on.”

Can’t make a show? Try emailing the PR teams of the brands you really love and scheduling a visit to their showroom. This is a great opportunity to take your online relationships offline as well!

Try scheduling a visit to their showroom

Email your Instagram friends and set up a brunch so you can finally meet face-to-face. Ask around and figure out what presentations and after parties are around.

“Go to pop-up shops, fundraisers, and attend free lectures if you want to learn more about the business of fashion,” Starr also suggests.

What should I wear?

Finally, the question we’ve all been waiting for. Are you ready for the answer? It’s a good one — just wear whatever you’d like.

I’ve seen everything from hoodies and sneakers to ball gowns and 6-inch stilettos. Fashion Week is all about setting trends and breaking barriers, so there’s no better time to pull out your craziest ‘fits.

“If you want to be photographed, be bold in your dress,” recommends Starr. “If you’re coming to work, wear comfortable shoes and bring extra power for your phone and laptop!”

Says Williams: “I know that, as women, we gravitate toward heels, and I don’t discourage it! But, do carry flats with you. Even the best heel walkers can get run down during this week. You’re running from LES to Murray Hill to SoHo and you don’t want to look haggard.”

Even the best heel walkers can get run down during this week

What should I bring with me to the shows?

Fashion Week can be crazy, so it’s much better to be safe than sorry. I would bring the following:

– Flats that you can put in your purse. There are few things less attractive and generally uncomfortable to watch as a person with blisters hobbling along the streets.

– A fully-charged phone and a portable charger so you can snap and Instagram your way through the shows, after parties and showroom meetings.

– Business cards are a must.

– Lipstick. This is one of the easiest ways to change your look and adds a bit of pop to your outfit.

I can’t go. :’-( How can I still participate?

More than 50 designers will live stream their shows through Fashion Week Online, so you can still watch them no matter where you are.

Follow along with the #NYFW hashtag and you’ll be in the loop of everything and anything happening.

Be sure to also check out #LTF, #MFW and #PFW. When in doubt, keep a close eye on Fashion Week Online for everything you need to know.

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