Global fashion weeks may share models, magazine interest and front row fashion darlings, but each one is a distinctly different shade of Chanel Rouge. Elbowing aside the traditionally dominant style dictatorships of Paris and Milan, fashion week siblings, London and New York, now draw the majority of attention for their absence of stuffy couture and actually wearable products. We now look to these two cities exclusively for both the latest international fashion news, and the designs that we will don next.
New York is the glossy home of the Upper East side look, and has drawn many a Brit to its stylish sidewalks (Alexa Chung, how could you?). Nonetheless, for all its apparent air of cool, New York Fashion Week could credibly be renamed Anna Wintour’s Fashion Week; her beetle-eyed gaze penetrating the offerings at DKNY, Jason Wu et al. NYFW may be the most important of all to many designers, models and editors for its global coverage and wonderfully glitzy after-parties, but above all it is the offspring of corporate big business. Wintour, as editor-in-chief of the hugely influential American Vogue, decides what ultimately makes the cut (as anybody who watched the September Issue was shocked to learn). It also has the sense of being primarily a mecca of profit at the expense of pushing aesthetic boundaries. NYFW can therefore feel like a place of fashion safety and conservatism for all its expenditure and Victoria Beckham’s presence in the schedules. Nonetheless, European fashionistas view the event as the most exciting on the cards, and receiving an invitation as ‘making it’ fashionably. Spawning from the glamorous Hollywood sirens of the 1920s, stylish political spouses of the 1960s, and the laissez-faire bohemian ambiance of 1970s hippie and 1980s Warhol eras, it is hardly surprising that NYFW has the tone of somewhere unique and trendy. New York may not have the embroidered history of Paris, or the quality cut of Milan, but the city is the first and last word in fashion media and raises designers, models and magazine editors to a whole new level of deity.
Anna Wintour at New York Fashion Week (February 2013)
London in contrast can seem like the rebellious little sister who has the guts to be daring, but a problematic tendency to transcend into the tasteless if memories are cast back to the King’s Road Sex boutique punk era. One thing that the city provides in droves is originality and accessibility. Budding designers can be the highlight of LFW at the Central St. Martin Graduate show, whilst every savvy youth knows that next season catwalk looks will be available for next to nothing on the high street in a matter of weeks. LFW, with its suitably Dickensian backdrop, is an arena where ‘rags to riches’ in the fashion world takes place all the time. Staple British designers, Mary Katrantzou, Christopher Kane and the late Alexander McQueen, were all not so long ago unknown but for the nurturing creative system in the city that was also assisted crucially by the Topshop-designer collaborative and the British Fashion Design Fund. Added to this are the stories of British models spotted in Primark (Jordan Dunn) or in Kentish Town (Aygness Deyn), who go on to make their fortune. Once ignored almost entirely by the international fashion world, London is getting itself back on the style map. British designers such as Julien MacDonald are starting to crawl back, while Burberry, Mulberry, Moss and Middleton are helping to raise the city’s profile. While NYFW’s status is based on a trendy yesteryear, London tries its hardest to cast off a rich history, always creating what is controversial and fresh. Street style provides a major inspiration, as do politics and anything vaguely vulgar and shocking- Vivienne Westwood and Henry Holland’s grunge looks have spurned thousands of broadsheet column inches.
London Fashion Week (February 2013)
Cara Delevigne at London Fashion Week (February 2013)
However, if the fashion weeks were not so diverse, they would all merge rather mundanely into one. London and New York are so magical because their characters are so fundamentally conflicting. Needless to say, I would not refuse an invite to either if anyone was wondering…