When thinking about the world and culture of high fashion, there are certain cities that are widely considered to be fashion hubs. Since the inception of the concept of Fashion Week in the 1800s, there have been four core cities that have emerged as the fashion capitals of the world: London, Paris, Milan, and New York City. Though these four cities are similar in their cultural impact on the fashion world, they do have some distinct differences that set them apart in terms of style, culture, and impact.

The History of the "Big Four" Fashion Weeks - London

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London

London Fashion Week takes place twice a year in the spring and fall in London, England. The shows typically consist of showcases from over 250 different designers and have been hosted in some of the cultural epicentres of the city, such as High Street Kensington. The first London Fashion Week took place in the fall of 1984 – making it the youngest among its counterparts – and it was crucial to showcasing British street style on a world stage. As London Fashion Week runway shows progressed through the 1990s, they ended up giving a stage to some now-renowned British designers, such as Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, and Burberry.

London’s style has always been deeply influenced by counter-culture and has roots in punk and club culture, all of which have given London the reputation of its forward-thinking imagination within the world of fashion.

The History of the "Big Four" Fashion Weeks - Paris

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Paris

Paris, France is widely considered the home of haute couture and a powerhouse in the fashion industry, so it’s no surprise that its fashion weeks are one of the most well-established and well-respected. Fashion Week in Paris began as a series of smaller shows in the 1920s and 1930s, from a host of renowned designers that would present their collections as exclusive, high-coveted and highly-protected events. As the city moved into a post-second world war era, it adapted to a growing fashion industry and the rise of other household names by showcasing collections from huge names like Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. The first official Paris Fashion Week wouldn’t come until 1973 after the formation of the Fédération Française de la Couture, which was created to help regulate and coordinate Paris Fashion Week and solidify its role as a fashion capital of the world.

Paris has produced some of the most iconic designers in the high-fashion world, boasting names like Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain, Hubert de Givenchy, and many more. Paris’ overall style is rooted in elegance and refinery and has a reputation for having displays of theatrics and drama on its more modern runway spectacles.

The History of the "Big Four" Fashion Weeks - Milan

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Milan

Milan is an outlier, considering it is the only fashion week not being held in a capital city. Florence and Rome vied to be the top fashion cities, however, Milan set itself apart to become the hub for Italian fashion mostly thanks to the Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italia (similar to the organizations in France and England). The Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italia’s mission is to promote designer talent, which has helped Milan showcase the importance of creating more affordable luxury compared to other fashion hubs. Milan was an industrial city, and as now famed for designers Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace started exploding in popularity – and were seen producing out of Milan – it cemented the city’s reputation as a fashion capital.

Milan is home to a slew of notable designers, including names like Gucci, Moschino, and Miuccia Prada, which lean into the glitz and glamour distinct of the fashion houses of the Italian fashion capital.

The History of the "Big Four" Fashion Weeks - NY

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New York City

The only contender out of the “big four” to be hosted in a city outside of Europe, New York Fashion Week (NYFW) takes place each spring and fall in New York City. NYC has taken fashion week by the reins, bending the rules to create its version of the iconic event. In the 1990s, New York decided to start showing in September over the previously established November. Though the other cities decided to follow in its footsteps, New York is the one that changed the game. NYFW was officially first held in 1943, orchestrated by Eleanor Lambert, who took it upon herself to create the world’s first “Press Week” to pull attention away from the notably exclusive and secretive world of French fashion. It worked, as more American designs started to be featured in big fashion publications like Vogue.

Along with cementing New York as a fashion force to be reckoned with, it catapulted American designers into the spotlight and created some of the biggest names in American high fashion today, like Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, and Calvin Klein. New York continues to be at the forefront of innovation for fashion week even today, pushing forward the movement of streaming and blogging, changing the way that fashion is broadcast worldwide.

Every One of the Iconic “Big Four” Fashion Cities Has Produced Its Laundry List of Household Names in Haute Couture.

From ready-to-wear textiles to avant-garde runway show-stoppers, each city has a distinct style and niche culture surrounding its fashion – you just have to look for it.

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