The number of international Fashion Weeks keeps rising.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks: a film by Mercedes-Benz and I-D.

The number of international Fashion Weeks keeps rising. A film on the evolution of this global phenomenon.
Text: Alex John
  • Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks: a film by Mercedes-Benz and I-D.

  • Lagos, of all things.

    Joan Burstein, the founder of directional London-based fashion emporium Browns, is considering attending Lagos Fashion Week. Lagos in Africa, the capital of Nigeria. But is fashion from Lagos really relevant to a venerable institution like Browns? A business that – since its launch in 1970 – has served as a springboard for designers like John Galliano or Sonia Rykiel and introduced a certain Giorgio Armani or Jil Sander to London’s fashion circles? It is very much relevant.

    A model on the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week catwalk.
    Joan Burstein, founder of directional London-based fashion emporium Browns.

    Fashion, a culture with many sites, scenes and stages.

    The fashion business has changed – as reflected in the growing number of international Fashion Weeks, or so Joan Burstein explains. “In the beginning, there was just Milan and Paris – and London sort of slotted itself in. By now, I could spend half of the year travelling, just going to different fashion weeks.” Beyond traditional fashion hubs like Paris and Milan, where sartorial attention has been part of culture for centuries, new sites, scenes and stages are starting to demand our attention.

    Imbued with a welcome streak of eccentricity and a healthy sense of humour, London thrives on British design.

    Nordic optimism and British humour.

    Imbued with a welcome streak of eccentricity and a healthy sense of humour, London thrives on British design while New York reflects America’s penchant for sportswear and Ivy League chic.

    And the list goes on: Scandinavian designers showcase their collections in Stockholm or Copenhagen twice a year as well, often brimming with smart and minimal designs that mirror the subtleties of sparse Nordic nature and the locals’ forward-looking optimism.

    Each Fashion Week has its own focus.

    When asked about the Mercedes-Benz Kiev Fashion Days, the event’s creative director, Daria Shapovalova, declares that “we decided this event should not only be about fashion, but also about education.” Here, countless of collections reference the former tsardom’s aesthetics in opulent colours, precious materials and grand evening dresses, turning the designs into hands-on lessons in cultural history. And then there are plenty of other countries and cities around the globe with fully established Fashion Weeks like Berlin, Cape Town, Beijing or Sidney, all with their own fixed slot in the Fashion Week calendar and a firm focus of their own.

    The Mercedes-Benz Kiev Fashion Days turn designs into hands-on lessons in cultural history.

    Fashion Weeks become part of contemporary culture.

    Considering the sheer wealth and range of global presentations, journalists and buyers have to whittle down their attendance to a personal selection of cities. Aware of this dilemma, Michael Roberts – fashion and style director of the US edition of Vanity Fair – nevertheless welcomes the rich spectrum. “You don’t need to go to Paris to see African fashion.“ After all, the many and diverse Fashion Weeks give different countries a platform to present their national identity, traditions and cultural heritage to the outside world, spliced with international influences: Fashion becomes international by nature without losing its national identity.

    During one of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks.

    Imran Amed, founder and editor-in-chief of the digital fashion industry newsletter The Business of Fashion, adds that “there is an appetite for fashion. As digital media have really opened up fashion to a global consumer, it has become part of popular culture around the world.”

    Imran Armed, founder and editor-in-chief of the digital fashion industry newsletter The Business of Fashion.

    Sharpened profiles make room for all.

    At the same time, any budding Fashion Week needs to offer more than a mere runway round-up of the best local talents. To establish relevance and momentum – and leave a lasting impact – each Fashion Week has to hone its own profile and identity. “I think it really comes down to knowing who your audience is and what you can offer that’s different or special“, explains Imran Amed. And when all of this comes together, fashion turns into a truly global cultural phenomenon, reflected in the wealth of facets and perspectives revealed by the range of Fashion Weeks.

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