- Molli McConnell
Editors, stylists, celebrities, photographers, and models alike will throng to Paris to explore and critique the works of designers’ spring 2016 lines. In 1973, Paris was recognized as one of the ‘Big Four’: four cities that are privileged enough to host the bi-annual event of Fashion Week. The epic fashion month that showcases designers from all over the world at venues in New York, London, and Milan will end in Paris with what some would argue as the most important week of the month.
Although the first official fashion week in Paris wasn’t until 1973, Paris has carried the title of fashion capital of the world for a very long time. Fashion originated in Paris during the 17th century; at this time in history, members of the French Royalty set fashion trends around the world. In 1672, France was the first country to publish a magazine solely for fashion, called the Mercure Galant. In addition to the Galant, many Parisian printing presses began distributing fashion plates; illustrations that depicted the fashionable styles of clothing at the time. This allowed the fashion-conscious from all around the world to have access to the most stylish clothing at the time, many, if not all, of these styles coming out of Paris.
For decades, all of the clothing that was being worn around the world was based on designs that came out of Paris. It is no surprise that Paris is also the birthplace of haute couture. English designer Charles Frederick Worth is credited with officially founding haute couture in Paris in the mid-19th century. Worth was the first to argue that a dressmaker could also be considered an artist, and it was he who began to show his designs on live models at exclusive presentations. He would create a portfolio of designs that were then shown on models, which paved the way for designers to be recognized for their work. The creation of haute couture began a shift in fashion; this switch in methods and techniques brought about the concept of ready-to-wear fashion, which is what is shown on runways today during fashion month.
It is the birth of haute couture that created the first fashion presentation. These presentations became grander and grander, resulting in elaborate shows with press and journalists present. Worth may have been the father of couture but many designers followed suit. Infamous designer Paul Poiret is credited with throwing elaborate parties in addition to his presentations, and designer Jeanne Paquin is the first to show her presentations to the public. This new trend of presenting designs on live models in Paris is what inspired the rest of the world to begin to do the same.
The first fashion week was held in New York in 1943 and was organized by a woman named Eleanor Lambert. At the time, Lambert was the press director of the American fashion industry’s first promotional organization. Lambert created what she called ‘press week’, to attract attention away from French designers during World War II. Because of turmoil in Europe due to the war, many European members of the fashion industry were unable to participate. This press week was meant to showcase American designers to fashion journalists, as they had previously been neglected because of their European counterparts. The press week was a huge success, and this is what began the tradition of the bi-annual showing of designs. Flash forward to 1973 at Versailles Palace, and this is where the first Paris Fashion Week was held.
Lambert is also responsible for creating the first ever Paris Fashion Week. Often called the ‘Battle of Versailles‘, the 1973 shows pitted more established French designers against new American designers. What was originally organized as a publicity stunt resulted in one of the most memorable Fashion Weeks to date. French designers Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior were challenged by newer, less experienced designers Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston and Stephen Barrows. The show was a huge success. Andy Warhol, Josephine Baker, and Princess Grace of Monaco were present, Liza Minnelli performed ‘Bonjour, Paris’ and the American designers included African-American models. The first Paris Fashion Week was a truly groundbreaking moment in fashion history. The show raised money to restore the Versailles Palace, recognized American designers for their work and broke down racial barriers at the time.
From its inception in 1973, Paris Fashion Week is a proud member of the ‘Big Four’. In France, fashion is a part of cultural heritage. This is recognized by the French government and thus the government created an organization to organize and protect its booming couture/fashion industry. It is called the Chambre Syndicale de la Confection et de la Couture Pour Dames et Fillettes. This created copyrights and specific criteria for the number of employees, the number of live presentations on live models per year and season. It is these specific rules and regulations that helped to create the official fashion calendar. This organization is the reason that Fashion Week is held just twice a year.
This year, editors, stylists, models, celebrities, bloggers, and famous photographers will flock to Paris to enjoy Fashion week. Industry heavyweights such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Balmain, and Lanvin will show their Spring 2016 collections in beautiful locales like the Grand Palais and the Palais de Tokyo. Smaller, lesser known labels will also be present, and will show their collections in smaller showrooms and salons. Young models and celebrities such as the Hadid sisters, Kendall Jenner, Suki Waterhouse, and Cara Delevingne will sit front row alongside famous editors-in-chief of fashion magazines such as Anna Wintour of American Vogue and Emmanuelle Alt of French Vogue. These celebrity power groups have begun to share the spotlight with the designers’ collections themselves. In recent years, a new type of show-goer has broke onto the fashion show scene and that is the fashion blogger. French bloggers such as Garance Doré and Jeanne Damas also attend the shows, and their ‘real-girl’ style is refreshing to see.
As Paris Fashion Week quickly approaches, the city prepares itself to be mobbed with the most fashionable set. Shows in New York, London, and now Milan have now set the scene for designers planning to show in Paris. What will the designers in Paris bring? Questions like what Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel will come up with for his Spring 2016 show, whether French designers are just as smitten with the 1970s as the rest of the fashion world, and will the overwhelmingly popular off-the-shoulder trend continue on into Paris will be answered by the French in just a matter of time, and we are on the edge of our seats to find out.
Paris Fashion Week, September 30 – October 7, 2015