Paris is synonymous with the word fashion, thanks to the many renowned and talented French designers. Models, celebrities, journalists and others flock to the capital to watch the most famous designers reveal their latest collections during Paris Fashion Week, the finale of the “Big 4” fashion weeks (more on this below). This article will dive into the history of fashion in the capital, as well as the history of Paris Fashion Week itself, including when it is held.
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Where it all began
Although the official launch date of Paris Fashion Week was not so long ago, its history dates back more than a century. In the early 1850s, a designer named Charles Frederick Worth began to showcase several high-quality items together, in a bid to attract customers. This innovative idea set the scene for the future of fashion in Paris, and Worth played an instrumental role in developing haute couture, earning him the nickname of the “father of haute couture”.
At the beginning of the 20th century, more and more designers began to display their clothes publicly, which eventually led to the need to have more rules and regulations for haute couture. The Chambre syndicale de la haute couture became the authority to do this. In 1945, it set out a list of rules that haute couture houses had to adhere to, including the requirement to showcase a collection of at least 35 items. This essentially made a catwalk obligatory for designers, giving rise to the fashion shows we know and love today.
The first official Paris Fashion Week
In 1973, the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture evolved into the Federation française de la couture. This governing body held the first official Paris Fashion Week in the same year, in the famous Palace of Versailles. Since the 1945 collection requirement, designers in France and the United States were in constant competition to outdo each other. It all came to a head at this 1973 Paris fashion show.
It was actually a fundraiser to restore the palace but it quickly became a battle of the top designers out there, both American and French. Designers included Oscar de la Renta and Yves Saint Laurent. Make no mistake, this was no ordinary Paris fashion show, this was the battle of all battles. Liza Minelli performed, caravans led by rhinos were sent down the runway and there was even an appearance of a rocket ship. The event was dubbed “The Battle of Versailles” and it helped lay the foundation of what Paris Fashion Week would become.
Paris Fashion Week today
Paris Fashion Week is now part of the “Big 4”, in other words, the four main fashion weeks held in New York, London, Milan and Paris. The most popular question people ask is when is Paris Fashion Week? It is held biannually in spring and autumn, usually in February/March and September/October. It is always the finale of the “Big 4”’, which is why it’s so important. It rounds off each fashion season, marking its territory as the fashion capital of the world.
The Paris fashion show is split into three different categories: Men’s, haute couture and ready-to-wear. Given the strict rules created by the Chambre syndicale, there are few fashion houses that fall under the haute couture category. Plus, only the top designers can display their collections in Paris’ prime locations, such as the Grand Palais and the Carrousel du Louvre.
The agenda for the fashion week can be found online and fashionistas are spoiled for choice – on average, there are around 100 shows per week. Many of the events at the Paris fashion show are by invitation only, which is why we often see front-row seats filled with models and celebrities.
A dream for fashion lovers
For all our fashionistas out there, whether you’re looking to live in the fashion capital of the world like Emily in Paris, or wanting to stop by for a visit during Paris Fashion Week, you are guaranteed an unforgettable experience. On top of all the catwalk events and parties, Paris also has many designer shops and boutiques to offer…all in all, it’s a fashion lover’s dream!
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Clara Avrillier is a writer, linguist and content manager living in the South of France. She loves getting out in nature, doing sport, reading and playing music. She also works with expats looking to move to France. Connect with her on LinkedIn.