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Paris Fashion Week History

How Paris Became a Fashion Capital
Fashion model walking down the runway.
October 20, 2020
Although Fashion Weeks are now held around the world, the French fashion capital is where fashion shows got their start. Today, fashion fans flock to the Paris twice a year to take part in the exclusive event.

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The fashion capital is also the birthplace of the first fashion shows which later launched Fashion Week. In January or February and September each year, Paris welcomes the fashion elite into its most prestigious venues where leading designers reveal the latest in Fall and Spring styles, with separate Men’s and Haute Couture shows taking place in January. But how did Paris become the center of couture?

It was in the early 1850s when a dressmaker named Charles Fredrick Worth first presented his new collections on live models, a novel idea at the time. By helping to establish the trade association Chambre Syndicale de la Confection et de la Couture pour Dames et Fillettes, Worth was instrumental in setting the stage for the French fashion industry. This was when the term “haute couture” came into use, but only by those who merited it.

Paris fashion in early 1900s
Les élégances Parisiennes: publication officielle des Industries françaises de la mode. Date: 1916. Paris, France.

Bespoke fashion events held at private homes and designers’ ateliers continued well into the 20th century, with France reigning as the global capital of fashion. In time, these stylish soirées became grander and more sophisticated, morphing into full-blown fashion shows, complete with set design, music, and of course, paparazzi.

Have a thirst for fashion? Try one of these chic Paris bars and restaurants to enjoy drinks or dinner surrounded by the city’s stylish set.

With France under Nazi occupation during WWII, such fashion shows began being held in the United States. In 1943, New York Fashion Week, originally called “Press Week,” was born. Italy followed suit, first in Milan in 1958 and later in Florence in 1972. London Fashion Week commenced in 1984.

Models walking down the runway at a fashion show.

It was in 1973 that Paris once again returned to the forefront of fashion, with the Grand Divertissement à Versailles or the “Battle of Versailles.” In the regal Palace of Versailles, new American designers Oscar de la Renta, Anne Klein, Bill Blass, Halston, and Stephen Burrows competed against the French masters, Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior. This event sparked the official Paris Fashion Week in which Haute Couture, Ready-to-Wear, and Men’s Fashion all took center stage.

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