The Changing Role of Cities in the World of Fashion

New York, Paris, and London Fashion Weeks are among the most influential and important dates on the style calendar. While internationally renowned designers and models gather to showcase the Autumn/Winter 2016 collection to celebrity audiences, there’s a tendency to believe that fashion is a domain for the elites.

History shows that the fashions we wear in the streets are not simply a reflection of what is seen on the catwalk. London was a style icon in the 1960s. Designers such as Mary Quant typified the swinging sixties boutique culture, while fashion editors like Diana Vreeland looked to London as a symbol of style.

London subcultures, such as Mods, Punks, and New Romantics, were also beginning to gain strength. They were the antipathy to fashion. Punks wore bondage trousers, safety pins, ripped tee-shirts, and Mohican hairstyles. Mods favored suits and scooters.

Mods rocking suit. brizzlebornandbred/FlickrCC BY-NC

These subcultures helped street fashion become a global phenomenon. Fashion was rewritten by street style: instead of being dictated to us by major labels, the trends were set up and influenced by these alternative groups. Street style is a visual form of self-expression within urban environments.

As the fashion crowd arrives, they will focus not only on the catwalks but also on the streets. Hoxton in London’s East End is seen as a hotbed for original and unique style. These streets are not about presenting a “London” style that is coherent and distinctive but rather a place for individual expression.

Let’s get digital.

The democratizing power of street fashion has now found a new outlet. Fashion Week used to be the exclusive domain for invited fashionistas. However, with the rise of social networks and fashion bloggers like Susie Lau from Style Bubble, the spotlight has been shifted towards the style of people who are supposedly more ordinary.

Vogue’s site is filled with street-chic images that show the original and unique style of people, whether they are on their way to London Fashion Week or out and about. Since Scott Schuman started The Sartorialist back in 2005, an array of fashion bloggers has also taken to capturing street style in cities all over the world.

Style has evolved to be both universal and individualistic. Cities are melting pots for type as globalization leads to the mixing of cultures. Fashion blogs on the internet have been able to capture the uniqueness and similarities of urban trends around the world. Easy Fashion, for example, captures the essence of Parisian chic. Istanbul Fashion Addict, on the other hand, focuses on street style around the world.

Fashion is a world of its own

The best of both worlds. shutter_b_ CC by

These developments have led to a number of other cities being added to the radar of the fashion industry. Last year, the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York held an exhibit to celebrate the rise of new fashion centers around the world. As well as the more predictable locations like Copenhagen, Berlin, and Shanghai, a number of cities are surprising us with their new style.

Helsinki’s style of sneakers and asymmetrical layering is a reflection of the city’s culture. In Mumbai, the style blog The Wearabout offers a new perspective on India. It is not defined by stereotypes such as class or poverty. This blog’s style is heavily influenced not only by Bollywood culture but also by India’s interest in Western fashion.

Stepping out. Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

In Lagos, Africa’s biggest city, fashion and style are a way to live. They reflect a vibrant culture that values being well-dressed. In fact, the relatively new Fashion and Design Week in Lagos is putting style on the cultural agenda and allowing aspiring designers to showcase their work on the catwalk.

Melbourne was voted as one of the 15 most fashionable cities in the world. Its style is a fusion between European and Asian cultures that reflects the city’s creative and international vibe. Nylon Magazine describes Melbourne as a city with an eclectic style. This is due to the fact that Melbourne bridges different cultures.

Dressed up to the nines. jaybergesen/Flickr CC-BY

Tokyo is Asia’s most distinctive and unique street style, centered around subcultures like the Gothic Lolitas or the Harajuku Girls. The majority of these group styles are played out by teenagers in the various areas of Tokyo. Fashion is influenced by Cosplay and Manga fantasy worlds, which provide an escape from the uniformity of culture.

Fashion is becoming more and more influenced by cities. Instead of displaying geographically isolated fashion trends, cities are creating a space to celebrate individuality. As the fashion crowd descends on your city, don’t forget that true style isn’t just found in DKNY and Dior. It can be found all over the place.

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