KNOW YOUR FASHION HISTORY: A quick introduction to attending a fashion show


Runway show


New to fashion? As the latest Fashion Week in Paris comes to a close, I thought I’d provide a quick overview of fashion runway shows…



Fashion runway - Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington



Who attends a fashion show?

  • Members of the media: fashion editors and bloggers – people who can promote the designer’s wares – and a throng of photographers
  • Fashion buyers: the people from shops such as department stores and boutiques who will put in orders for part or all of a collection to sell
  • Clients and potential customers, friends of the designer, and their stylists: the people who wear (or might wear) items from the collection, including celebrities (who get paid to come), and the people who help style them
  • Public relations, marketing: people involved in getting the collection exposure
  • Fashion students: fashionistas who want to learn from the industry leaders, and/or be noticed as the next design stars, or mix with their idols and other famous folk
  • Other fashion industry types: such as the business people who are responsible for providing investors with a financial return.




Attending Paris Fashion Week - Couture shows




Are collections always presented at a runway show?

No. Many of them are, but some designers choose to have a simple showing in their atelier or another smaller, private venue.

Or they might forgo a public event completely, producing a “lookbook” of targeted looks to be circulated for marketing purposes. This should not be confused with an advertising campaign.



Fashion lookbook



When are the shows held?

The main ready-to-wear (RTW) shows are two times a year, for Spring and Fall (Autumn) but designers will also produce collections throughout the year, such as Pre-Fall, Pre-Spring and Resort collections. And a few designers are allowed to present Couture shows too.

There are “fashion week” shows on all the time, with around 140 locations having “weeks” each year, but the most significant ones are:

  • Fall/Winter collections are shown in February and March, over about 4 weeks, in New York, London, Milan, and Paris.
  • Spring/Summer collections are shown in September and October, over about 4 weeks, in New York, London, Milan, and Paris.

Not sure if there is one being held near you? Just google your city name and “fashion week” and something is sure to come up.



Outside New York Fashion Week


What’s it like at a show?

Initially, it’s exciting.

But essentially it’s noisy, crowded, too hot (or too cold), uncomfortable, and hard work. Everyone is trying to look more glamorous or interesting than the person next to them. And expect t0 have a photographer yell at you if there is a chance you might be blocking a shot of a potential celebrity.

Keep your composure at all times – you never know who might see you or be taking your photo. When seated, cross your legs elegantly, look poised and in control, and pay attention to the runway. Look like you belong.

Depending on where you are sitting (or standing) it can be hard to really see the clothes. But if you’re lucky enough to be front row, it’s lovely to see the detail of the textures, colours and patterns.

Oh, and depending on where you are seated, you might get a “thank you” gift from the designer (on arrival, left on your seat, or as you leave) so be prepared to carry it around for the rest of the day. If done properly, it will come with a carry bag, but sometimes it won’t. Don’t open the gift on the spot – wait until you get home or back to yourhotel.

If you simply have to take a selfie, remember to check with the people around you that they are OK about possibly appearing in your photo. It’s all very well for you to look fab, but if they don’t (tongue hanging out, fixing their lipstick, etc) and they see the photo later, it could be fashion industry suicide.

This is doubly important if you get backstage access.



Tips for attending a fashion show



What should you wear to a fashion show?

Anything you like, but it is nicer when you see people who’ve made an effort.

I’d avoid wearing the designer’s own clothes head-to-toe because it looks a little “try hard”. Perhaps take their handbag or wear a scarf, but show some originality and make your own considered choices.

Prepare to feel intimidated no matter how much effort you put into your look. Sad but true.




What it's like to attend a fashion show




How long does a show go for?

It depends on whether you are seeing just one show, or a series of shows, eg. 5 designers might be grouped in one sitting.

A typical show is only a few minutes long, so it’s an enormous amount of effort each time for the designer and their team.

But if you’re going to a show, remember that you might have to wait in line to get in (even if you have a ticket), then wait in your seat, then spend time watching the actual show, and then even more time trying to get out of the venue again.

If you’ve got tickets for different shows, allow lots of time between them as shows can start late, and transport can be tricky if everyone leaves at the same time and wants a taxi to the next location. You don’t want to be elbowed by a model racing to get to her next show (which, by the way, means that the model should be given the taxi before you).



Fashion runway



Can’t get to a show?

Then watch it live via the designer’s website or later on their YouTube channel. Or visit websites such as who are usually first to publish the photos.

Can’t afford a ticket or have no chance of receiving an invitation but are still desperate to go in person? Consider volunteering or get a paid gig working for the fashion week organisers in your desired location.

Hope this helps!

Natasha xx







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