Fashion Week In The Digital Age, A Look Back

According to Style, Fashion GPS, a brand that manages fashion show invites and RSVPs digitally, hosted a talk last night titled “Fashion Week and Technology,” with panelists including Fashion Week maven Fern Mallis, Jenne Lombardo of Milk Made, Peter Levy of IMG, Rachna Shah of public relations and production firm KCD, and Dirk Standen of

(Wait a minute… where were all the bloggers on this panel!? Anyway, I digress.)

“When I started New York fashion week in 1993, digital cameras did not exist and photographers used actual film,” Mallis noted to the audience (which included bloggers). “Today is a different world, everyone is a critic and the only photographer that uses film is Bill Cunningham.”

“The fashion calendar is an extremely antiquated system,” Lombardo pointed out, “It does not necessarily make sense for a younger breed.”

Last night was also the unveiling of Fashion GPS's newest platform, Radar, an iPhone application that gives editors and buyers instant access to collections, allowing them to upload images to social networks like Facebook and Twitter and to request looks in real time — all the while alleviating the need for attendees to be constantly taking iPhone pics of the runway action.

If you really think about it, the digital age has infiltrated the runways so much that they are now trying to create ways to make it easier to experience the shows in person without worrying about how fast you can upload your photo. Talk about a digital fashion paradox! But how did it get to this point, and where will it go from here?

The idea of a singular “Fashion Week” is still a relatively young idea, and the event has grown and changed immensely in this short period of time. Take a look back here with our Fashion Week timeline:

1943 –  As France was fighting in World War II, fashion journalists were unable to get to Paris for their biannual style excursions — so prominent fashion publicist, Eleanor Lambert, pieced together a showcase of American designers for the national and regional media and dubbed the event “Press Week.” Lambert offered to pay the expenses of any out-of-town journalists who traveled to New York for Press Week, and as a result, fifty three designers held shows at the Plaza Hotel in a block schedule format. Editors received packets with photos of each runway look, but as Lambert's events were specifically for the press, buyers were required to schedule showroom visits to view the collections.

1944 – Ruth Finley launches her famous Fashion Calendar, which is still used today.

1973 – Eleanor Lambert takes five American designers to Versailles to be showcased along with the leading European designers, such as Chanel and Dior. American designers like Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass and Anne Klein showed their work to a global audience. After that, the U.S. fashion industry was able to compete with the international “fashion” cities.

1988 – Anna Wintour, newly editor of American Vogue, makes her first appearance at New York Fashion Week.

1990 – For three decades, designers continued to stage their own shows throughout New York City in hotels and design schools, but one unified location didn't exist. After models were hit with falling piece of plaster in a loft during a Michael Kors show, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) started to talk more about finding one location for Fashion Week.

1993/1994 – New York Fashion Week moves to a singular spot. After a first run at a hotel on 44th Street, the event moves to Bryant Park under the white tents. As head of the CFDA, Fern Mallis does most of the event organizing, and the 90’s became a decade full of supermodels, with the likes of Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, and Naomi Campbell.

2001 – The first day of New York Fashion Week 2001 was September 11 — subsequently, the rest Fashion Week was canceled that season.

2002 – New York and London Fashion Week exchange dates so that New York doesn’t fall on the first anniversary of 9/11.

2003: Kathryn Finney of The Budget Fashionista was invited to New York Fashion Week.

2003 – Sixty years later, founder Eleanor Lambert makes her last appearance at fashion week, one month after her 100th birthday.

2006: Twitter launches as one of the first “micro-blogging” communities that allows user to publish and receive short posts via the Web, text messaging and instant messaging. The fashion industry starts using this as a tool to report on fashion shows before articles are published.

2008 – Condé Nast’s released its first smartphone app, allowing the fashion-obsessed to browse look-by-look slide shows of designer presentations, behind-the-scenes photos, and reviews—making “outsiders into insiders,” according to an article on AdWeek.

2009 – BryanBoy, Tommy Ton, Garance Dore, and Scott Schuman sit front row at the Dolce & Gabbana show and are given laptops.

2009:  IFB hosts an event with two panels about fashion blogging which eventually evolved into the IFB Conference (and we are now presenting our 7th conference this September)!

2010 – In September 2010, producers of New York Fashion Week move their tents uptown to Lincoln Center. Along with the relocation, additions also included digital check-ins, free wi-fi, and more space.

2011 – There are approximately 230,000 attendees at each New York Fashion Week, which is responsible for more than $446 million in visitor spending. The week also has approximately 200 shows — with an estimated 30 models per show, in which about 10 of those models do an estimated do four shows a day. “Top” models may do up to six shows a day.

2011 – For the first time, the organizers of Fashion Week are stream more than 30 Lincoln Center shows — including those of Diane Von Furstenberg, Narciso Rodriguez and Carolina Herrera — on YouTube and on mobile.

2012:  The iPhone app Fashion GPS Radar, which lets users register for Fashion Week events, locate shows on an interactive map, and check in by scanning their own personal barcode, launches.

2012: Digital Fashion Week is inaugurated in Singapore as the world's first live stream only fashion week.


Where do you see the digital age going with Fashion Week? Will we all eventually be watching from screens? Or is their value to being next to the runway in person?


[Sources: TIME, Stylelist, Yahoo, Grazia Daily, Pretty Little Fashion, New York Times, AdWeek]

[Image credit: Shutterstock]


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3 Responses

  1. Seventh Sense

    There is nothing like fashion in person.
    On screen you can never tell the look of something, the 360 movement because you’re always looking from one angle.

    In person fashion is, well personal!

  2. Megan Jones

    What a great history of fashion week! I had no idea that the concept of Fashion Week at all one location at Bryant Park was so new (relatively). I think it is great that the fashion industry is really taking advantage of all the new technologies. It makes sense to me that an industry that values innovation so much utilizes the innovations in other industries as well.