Nika Mavrody is a longtime New Yorker now living in Berlin. She writes about food, fashion and books. This is a reprint from her article at Savoteur.com.

Fashion Industry Insiders Weigh In On Their Favorite Fashion Capitals

Grace Hartzel for Calvin Klein. ©Damien Neva @Next Models
Grace Hartzel for Calvin Klein. ©Damien Neva @Next Models
New York has transformed the way the world gets dressed in the morning. London favors aesthetic vision and innovation, whereas Milan has a deep tradition of craftsmanship and Paris oozes with glamour. We enlisted fashion industry insiders to help us put each one of fashion’s Fantastic Four cities under the microscope.

(This story first appeared in Savoteur.com.)

Cheekbones sharp enough to cut glass. Blasé bob-haired ladies, arms crossed in the front row. Impossibly long-legged models, like flamingos holding pose after pose. And then the clothes: floaty, diaphanous gowns, stitched from chiffon. Big gleaming buttons affixed to bouclé blazers. Such is the fantasy of fashion week, as filtered through the media: a series of jump cuts, high-octane colors and whirring noise. But the truth is that beyond this delirious fever dream, the fashion industry is a business like any other (give or take some glamour, of course).

And this week, when the big four events kick off in New York City, casual observers looking for a way to penetrate the shiny surface should consider this: In each of the historic fashion capitals (NYC, London, Milan and Paris) there’s a hive of nine-to-fivers living, working and sashaying down the streets. These people form their city’s style identity, giving it a distinctive personality on the global stage. To that end, being able to differentiate between the four fashion weeks in terms of mood, feeling and style is the ideal starting point for understanding how the industry works.

Ready to take a close look at fashion's Fantastic Four?

 

New York City


Karlie Kloss for Donna Karan f/w 2014 by FashionStock.com / Shutterstock.com

Each season, this is where it all starts. NYFW may not have the historic legacy brands you’ll find in Paris, but its tradition of clean, sportswear-inspired designs (think Calvin Klein, Halston, Perry Ellis, Michael Kors) has transformed the way the world gets dressed in the morning.

Novelty is the key to NYFW’s charisma. Separated from the rest of its fashion peers by a big blue ocean, New York’s style scene resolutely pushes toward the new.

In fact, when we asked top model Catrinel Marlon — whose deep ties to the Milan fashion circuit recently included a worldwide contract with Giorgio Armani — to name her favorite fashion week city, her answer was simple: "New York City, for sure. [It’s the] one city that combines glamour, excitement, novelty, beauty and art."
 

 
What the insiders say

My personal favorite aspect of New York Fashion Week is its ever-growing influx of emerging designers, giving the city a fresh and youthful air. New York welcomes new talent so much so that these up-and-coming designers are given their own spotlight and exclusivity in conjunction with the big-name designers.

Pujah Shah, U.S. communications manager for Stylight

A photo posted by Leandra Medine (and Cohen) (@leandramedine) on

Quintessential figures

Designer: Marc Jacobs
Season after season, the crown prince of American fashion fuses commercial appeal and eccentric glamour to unforgettable effect.

Model: Karlie Kloss
With limbs for days, this wholesome Midwestern-born beauty is heir to the legacy of the ’90s supermodels.

Editor: Anna Wintour
A living legend, Vogue’s editor-in-chief has grown New York City’s status as a worldwide fashion capital to unfathomable proportions.

Street Style Star: Leandra Medine
The so-called Man Repeller has earned millions of followers for her offbeat style, distinctive voice and goofball persona. 

London


SS 2015 by Mary Katrantzou. photo by Sonny Vandevelde / Indigitalimages.com

The British may have a reputation for almost impossibly refined etiquette, but London’s fashion industry revels in the rude.

And no wonder: Fast on the heels of the Swinging Sixties, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren defined the visual vocabulary of punk fashion and brought it into the mainstream. The city’s deep ties to the 20th century’s most influential subcultures have left an indelible mark on the fashion scene. Today, London is welcoming to creative young designers, often disregarding commercial viability in favor of aesthetic vision and innovation. 

As the London-based journalist behind Mademoiselle Robot, Laetitia Wajnapel, says, “London, while possibly being the ‘smaller’ event out of the big four fashion weeks, is most certainly the place for designers to experiment with their collections, and there is scope for young and emerging houses to fully express themselves.”

The fact that it’s home to two esteemed fashion schools — Central St Martins and the London College of Fashion — may also play into its risk-taking reputation. And it’s worth noting that many of those bright young things grow up to become fashion royalty: Alexander McQueen and John Galliano are two of the many luminaries who started their careers as fashion students in London.

 
What the insiders say

If London’s style had a personality it would be an Ab Fab Patsy and Edwina hybrid. Which translates to the runway with the outrageous attitude and hecticness of London Fashion Week.

Clara Paget, British model and actress


Laetitia Wajnapel of MademoiselleRobot. Courtesy of Liz Seabrook.

Quintessential figures

Designer: Mary Katrantzou
This Athens-born designer’s trippy digital prints and structural frocks are beloved by A-listers, fashion editors and well-heeled shoppers worldwide. 

Model: Cara Delevingne
This social media–savvy British It girl embodies the city’s relentless energy, IDGAF attitude and idiosyncratic style. 

Editor: Suzy Menkes
The former fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune (now at Vogue International) has a sharp eye, an iconic quiff and an unparalleled authority in the fashion world. 

Street Style Star: Susie Bubble
Within certain circles, imitating this trailblazing blogger’s extraordinary and outlandish Technicolor looks is now practically a rite of passage.

Milan


street style during fashion week s/s 2015. Stefano Tinti / Shutterstock.com

Italian fashion. Two words that conjure up old-world elegance and a deep tradition of craftsmanship. But unfortunately, Milan’s fashion output has acquired a bit of a bad reputation in recent years.

As Italian journalist Federico Poletti wrote in Business of Fashion this March, “A recurring narrative being circulated in certain corners of the media would have us believe that there is nothing but negativity on the catwalks of Milan.”

Home to big brands like Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, Milan Fashion Week is sometimes accused of being overly commercial and excessively glossy, catering to the broadest possible audience instead of pushing fashion forward. But the truth is, every fashion week is home to a handful of highly visible establishment brands that prefer to please the crowds instead of challenging them. Not to mention: Anyone who wants to be challenged might think twice before criticizing the birthplace and longtime home of Prada — arguably the most intellectually rigorous show of the season. 

 
What the insiders say

I love Italy and I will always defend Milan Fashion Week. This fashion week is unfairly disparaged every which way, when it should be roundly praised for its range of designers from Moschino to Prada. Oh, and the coffee is brilliant. Caffè doppio, per favore!

Damien Neva, director of social media for Next Models

A photo posted by Anna Dello Russo (@anna_dello_russo) on

Quintessential figures

Designer: Miuccia Prada
This PhD-holding former activist is broadly celebrated for her exquisite and thoughtful collections. 

Model: Mariacarla Boscono
Named one of the top 30 supermodels of the 2000s by Vogue Paris, Boscono’s otherworldly beauty has been a fashion-week fixture for countless seasons.

Editor: Franca Sozzani
Sozzani’s courageous and controversial Vogue Italia spreads have taken on issues the rest of the fashion world wouldn’t dare touch — like race, weight and violence against women.

Street Style Star: Anna Dello Russo
Surely one of the most photographed fashion figures in the world, this larger-than-life creative consultant builds her unbelievable outfits with the runway’s most memorable looks. 

Paris


BINX WALTON FOR Chloé F/W 2015-16. © Damien Neva @ Next Models

And here’s where it ends. We wouldn’t dare to play favorites with the fashion cities … but we might have to: Paris takes up the distinct strands that define the other three fashion weeks and subsumes them into a glorious cornucopia of visual delight.

Like New York, Paris is electric with energy and vitality; like London, the city is friendly to free-thinkers and iconoclasts; and like Milan, Paris oozes with glamour. But here’s the rub: What most people know of the Paris runways begins and ends with establishment labels. It’s a saturated market, which means that it can be harder for younger designers to get off the ground. 

 
What the insiders say

Odély Teboul, co-founder of the emerging couture label Augustin Teboul, praised the impressive offering — “Paris Fashion Week is just not comparable to any other city, since it presents the collections of all the big brands” — but noted that since “the calendar is full, it’s not the easiest place for new brands or young designers that want to get a start.

And one more:

All the weeks are but time trials for Paris, the granddaddy of them all. Every day serves up a handful of shows from top houses that are simply unmissable. The mind boggles. All told, the ready-to-wear season is a marathon in which the stars of tomorrow are born.

Damien Neva, director of social media for Next Models

A photo posted by Garance Doré (@garancedore) on

Quintessential figures

Designer: Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel
The man, the myth, the legend. Lagerfeld also shows his collection for Fendi at Milan Fashion Week, but his high-concept, attention-grabbing Chanel shows are always one of the month’s main attractions. 

Model: Caroline de Maigret
With a touch of rock ’n’ roll swagger, this iconic models nails that whole effortlessly cool Parisian thing almost as if she had personally invented it. 

Editor: Carine Roitfeld
Over the course of her career, the former Paris Vogue editor — now the global fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar — has imprinted her dark, raw sensibility onto fashion’s DNA. 

Street Style Star: Garance Doré
This French fashion blogger and photographer essentially kicked off our contemporary street style mania together with her ex-boyfriend, Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist.

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This story is reprinted from Savoteur.com.
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