Fashion Week is one of the most exciting times of the year. That’s why it has its own season! The four fashion capitals of the world – New York, London, Paris, and Milan – hold shows one after the other, making for a busy calendar full of top designers from around the world. It’s become such an exciting and fast-paced part of our culture that we often forget, don’t know, where or why or how Fashion Weeks came to be.
It all started with an Englishman named Charles Frederick Worth. Not only did he invent some of the sleekest design tactics that are still used in clothing today, but he created the gold standard of haute couture, meaning “high sewing” or “high dressmaking” or “high fashion.” He had been using the practice for most of his life, establishing a name for himself around London and Paris as an extremely skilled designer and maker by the time he was 30. This high esteem eventually led to his label of the House of Worth, a fashion house for his finest work that still releases fine clothing and perfumes today.
Worth’s designs were for women, focusing on the most exciting and newest forms of dresses seen throughout Paris. British journalist George Walden said of Worth, “Charles Frederick Worth dictated fashion in France a century and a half before Galliano.”
Worth is also credited with establishing the profession of modeling, being the first known designer to tailor his designs while on the women they were designed for, creating a more one-of-a-kind piece for his clients while also creating a profession around modeling.
From these early days of innovative design and additions to a new and booming industry, Charles Frederick Worth’s artistry and business strategies were passed down and revamped over and over again. Modeling continued to grow as a profession and became a gateway for more commercialized businesses to gain momentum in the fashion industry.
From the 1940s on, journalists, fashion and otherwise, would crowd into small department stores’ small basements to see the newest in women’s fashion as models made their way through very slim spaces. This was called “Press Week” in the fashion industry, and technology serves as the very first iteration of Fashion Week.
The runway couldn’t be held in a basement forever, though, and was soon expanded into a larger and more looked-after event, rather than just a journalist’s space to see the clothes and report back to the public. More thought was put into the show itself, and that’s when the runway you know and love today was popularized.