We’ve all been enamored by Paris, London, New York and Milan for years now, drawn in by the high-fashion both on and off the catwalks and the mix of famous and fresh faces. The French are said to have invented the concept of showing their designs on live models, having started over a century ago, and London has been going 30 years ago, making it the youngest of the big four.
These are the shows the industry thrives on both economically and conversationally – live coverage of catwalks, daily updates on the street style inspiration, beauty tips live from the runway… fashion month captivates the media’s attention. (See: MY EDIT: Fashion Month’s Street Style Highlights)
The smaller fashion weeks are newborns in comparison- Russia only began at the start of the millenium, and others aren’t even that established; Seoul, Medellín, Copenhagen, Moscow, Sydney, Berlin, and Tbilisi all started less than 20 years ago, and have been building momentum since. And yet, it seems we get more and more interested in them every year.
Although it started in 2000, Russian fashion week was not graced with a Vogue article until 2006 – until then, the showcasing of mainly Russian designers did not capture the interest of the fashion media. Today is a different story; type in ‘Seoul Fashion Week’ into Google and multiple articles come up from big hitters – Vogue, W Magazine and CNN are the top articles at the time of writing.
Google Trends documents a massive upwards trend worldwide of those searching for ‘Seoul Fashion Week’ since 2004, suggesting March 2014 as the moment it really captured global interest. Try the same search on, say, Medellín Fashion Week, and you get told there is insufficient trend data. Columbia still has a long way to go, it seems.
So why is it that some smaller fashion weeks seem more popular than others? Perhaps it’s our interest in other parts of their culture – KPop from South Korea has crept up on the Western music industry and has grown in popularity. BTS (arguably the biggest KPop band right now) sold out tickets to their 2018 concert in London in 2 minutes, and Berlin in 9 minutes. Their music, fashion and amazing skin all draw us in, and it’s the inspiring street style and interesting culture that makes us stay.
Maybe we’re also drawn to other fashion weeks for the diversity. The catwalk shows are just as much about ideas than established designers and familiar faces, and during fashion month there seems to be a lot of the same from the coverage of the Big 4; the same trends, the same models, the same setting, to an extent.
Newer and less established brands bring fresh ideas to the fashion landscape, as well as beautiful and slightly unfamiliar backdrops for the street style shots. Gone are the countless articles about achieving breezy Parisian style or New York cool; we now see Danish girls as a fashion muse, Korean beauties as skin-care icons.
Alex Finch (@iamalexfinch), a photographer based in Seoul currently taking photos of their fashion week for publications like Vogue, thinks the appeal comes from how “exotic” everything is.
But they still pale in comparison to the big 4 in terms of numbers of experienced designers, ‘supermodels’, influencers and fans that flock to London, Paris, New York and Milan, and it will take many years before the smaller locations become as mainstream or celebrated globally. Often countries see their best designers move to the established runways when they themselves become well-known, leaving a deficit for homegrown talent in the emerging locations.
So what has to happen for newer locations to become mainstream and solidified on the fashion calendar? Bigger names migrating over? Famous faces walking the runway? What do you think?
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If you liked this article, why not read: Where Did The Obsession With Street Style Start?