How New York Fashion Week was born

New York Fashion Week began last night. Celebrities, bloggers, and designers (and an increasing number of “slashies” who embody them all) descended upon the Big Apple last night to drink champagne, admire eye-wateringly expensive clothes, and air kiss each other.

Kim Kardashian will make her first appearance in public since giving birth at Kayne West’s Yeezy Fashion Show later today. West will debut his new album, The Life of Pablo ( previously known as WAVES), and live stream the concert/show starting at 8 am AEST.

After a brief hiatus, Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen’s cult label, The Row, will return to the American catwalk on February 15th.

Anna Wintour, 2013 Paris Fashion Week. Charles Platiau/Reuters

You can bet on Anna Wintour watching, sphinxlike, behind her huge Chanel glasses as Marc Jacobs, a close friend, brings the week to an exciting conclusion with his final show.

New York Fashion Week is a must for a certain type of person. The event is a highlight for those who are of a certain social standing, age, and income.

The slavish devotion the events inspire can be seen in many fictionalized or semi-fictionalized explorations of New York City. Think Sex in the CityGossip Girl Project Runway, and The Real Housewives of New York City.

How did all this begin? Why was it started? There was a New York Fashion Week prior to Anna Wintour.

Fashion Press Week

New York Fashion Week was not always a prestigious event. It is a relatively new phenomenon. Fashion Press Week, which began in 1943, was the first event. The American fashion industry had been overshadowed until then by the Parisian one, as American women were overwhelmingly buying American copies of French designs.

Eleanor Lambert. 1963. Council of Fashion Designers of America

The German occupation of France during the Second World War prevented access to the Gallic Centre. The American fashion industry was presented with an opportunity. Eleanor Lambert took full advantage by combining the American fashion shows to create a single event.

These weren’t the very first fashion shows. Since the turn of this century, individual fashion labels and shops have hosted their shows at department stores and hotels in Paris and New York to boost business. Fashion Press Week, however, was the first coordinated event that showcased multiple designers from the same country.

The event was also a demonstration of the new approach’s effectiveness. The initial response was not encouraging. Only 53 out of 150 journalists Lambert had invited to attend the first Fashion Press Week were present. However, the event’s impact was powerful and quick.

The American press praised local designers like Claire McCardell, and New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia boasted:

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