Fashion

London, New York, Paris, Milan: What sets each fashion week apart?

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Billie Bhatia and Moya Lothian-McLean
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Ever wondered why we need four weeks for fashion? Stylist has the ultimate guide to the biggest bi-annual events in the fashion calendar.

To the non-fashion insider, the ‘Big Four’ fashion weeks – New York, London, Milan and Paris – that take place bi-annually in February and September, can seem like a blur of (faux) fur and endless streams of strutting models.

To those enmeshed in the industry however, each of the ‘weeks’ (a loose term, given the showings in Paris and New York can last up to nine days, whereas London and Milan are typically shorter) are four very separate entities. Each has a hugely different identity and offering and they serve as a lookbook. The weeks are where the fashion industry’s top talent to present upcoming collections – and show us what we’ll all inevitably be wearing in three months.

In lay(wo)man’s terms, New York is polished, London is cool, Milan is glamorous and Paris is serious. Here’s the Stylist guide to knowing the ins and outs of the biggest events on the fashion calendar. 

New York 

NYFW is what you’d typically expect of The Big Apple. It’s a jam-packed opener to the month and serves as the host to showings from the glossy all-American designers like Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, DVF, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta and Tommy Hilfiger.

It’s a slick production of catwalks, mega celebrity front rows (and shows – we all saw Savage x Fenty’s star-studded runway debut) and the clothes iterate the fast-paced ‘I don’t have time for you’ New York lifestyle we’ve come to know and slightly lust after in films like The Devil Wears Prada.

The street style is vast in in terms of show-goers but not entirely varied in terms of aesthetics. New Yorkers like a more polished look and when in Rome, so do the attendees from further afield. Heels, pencils skirts, crisp white shirts are the order of the day; even the PRs manning the shows have scraped back hair and wear all black (remember Kelly Cutrone from The Hills? It’s real).

In previous years, New York’s cool factor has been maintained by a wave of younger, less established New York designers that have been making NYFW cool over the past decade like Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, The Row (the Olsen twins’ brand), Rosie Assouline and Alexander Wang. But now more of these of-the-moment youthful guard are opting to show in alternative cities – and the important of NYFW beyond the big designers hangs in the balance. 

London

LFW has always been best known for brilliant emerging talent and for setting a more avant-garde agenda than any other city.

And even without Stylist’s biased opinion, London is unanimously agreed to be the coolest of the cities – there is a nonchalance to presentations in the UK capital that you just don’t feel at the other fashion weeks.

It was the city that pioneered the Swinging Sixties, punk, grunge and in recent years has birthed designers like Alexander McQueen, JW Anderson, Christopher Kane, Simone Rocha and Molly Goddard.

And accompanying the shows produced bright young designers are heritage brands like Mulberry and Burberry –now helmed by former Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci, whose debut collection was celebrated as injecting a new lease of life into the brand on Monday – that gives London the gravitas it needs to stand proudly alongside the other weeks. 

Milan 

The big hats, sharp tailoring, that indomitable polish… the classic image of Italian women is what Milan Fashion Week embodies. It’s all about the Italian heavy hitters (and often the advertisers) and the A List names like Prada, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Moschino and Fendi are the houses drawing the crowds to Italy’s capital of design.

Street style is also serious business in Milan with show-goers often opting for head-to-toe designer looks. Much like the catwalks, these are not pared-back pieces either: it’s full-blown maximalist pieces. More really is more.

The parties are sparse (unlike New York and London) but appointments with the crème de la crème of Italian shoe designers are plentiful. As the penultimate instalment of the fashion weeks, Milan shifts the mood towards serious fashion and leaves behind the cool quirks of London and New York. 

Paris 

The most important of the fashion weeks comes at the close. Paris is both plays host to the biggest fashion house in the world but also is the sole occasion during fashion month where all the editors and buyers are in one place.

And PFW is the longest of all the showings too, mainly because there is so much going on. Think of the biggest designers in the world: Chanel, Celine, Saint Laurent, Chloe, Givenchy, Dior… Paris is their stomping ground and so with it comes the most powerful editors, the big-name guests and the most serious front rows.

Big celebrities that front campaigns are flown in, street style is ramped up to an incredulous level and the dinners and parties are a-plenty. Paris is also normally where a huge number of the trends seen popping up at the other cities are either legitimised or condemned to the imagination bin forever. Because the rule is: unless there is one of the supernova PFW designers doing it, it’s not a trend. 

Images: Getty