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15 Facts You Never Knew About New York Fashion Week

The first NYFW was organized to dethrone Paris as the fashion capital of the world.

This year, Afterpay, the official presenting partner of New York Fashion Week, The Shows in partnership with IMG. New York Fashion Week (NYFW) has undergone several major overhauls in the past decade. New York Fashion Week takes place from September 9 to September 14. The Council of Fashion Designers of America has confirmed that 109 designers will be presenting collections. The shows commence with Proenza Schouler and conclude with Tom Ford.

Historically, designers would debut their latest collections in September and February during NYFW for department store buyers, journalists, and the like to preview the clothing and trends that will be available for the upcoming season. In today's landscape, so much has shifted, but the core business case for fashion week remains — make money by generating as much publicity around your brand as possible. While some fashion aspirants may have dreamed of attending shows since they first laid eyes on their favorite fashion personality perched front row at the buzziest designer show, here are 15 facts about New York Fashion Week that everyone should know.

NYFW Street Style Photographers
NYFW Street Style Photographers

1. Roughly 125,000 people attend New York Fashion Week annually (pre-COVID).

2. In September 2021, nearly 30 percent of NYFW shows were virtual, whereas an estimated 33 percent were hybrid in-person and virtual.

3. Historically, Fashion Week generated $532 million in direct visitor spending per year. With a total economic impact of $865 million each year according to the New York City Economic Development Corp. From oat milk lattes to hotel suites, NYFW is big business for NYC.

When was the first New York Fashion Week?

4. Only 53 of the 150 journalists invited to the first New York "Fashion Press Week" bother to attend. In an effort to dethrone Paris as the fashion capital of the world, publicist Eleanor Lambert organized the first New York Fashion Press Week in 1943.

An honorable mention, the first fashion show held in New York was in 1903 at the Ehrich Brother department store.

5. "New York Fashion Week", as we currently know it, began in 1993 and was organized by the Executive Director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Fern Mallis. The event was branded "7th on Sixth".

Yellow taxis in front of Fashion Week tents at Bryant Park
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Bryant Park

Where is New York Fashion Week?

6. Beginning in 1993, The Tents at Bryant Park was NYFW's home, but in 2010 the main events were relocated to Lincoln Center. By Fall 2015, the two primary venues were Skylight Clarkson Square and Skylight Moynihan Station, the first of which was also the short-lived New York Fashion Week: Men’s venue. Today, the plurality of designers on their show their collections at Spring StudiosChelsea Piers and Park Avenue Armory have also become popular locations for shows and events, with a few other shows scattered throughout downtown Manhattan. Iconic venues include the Hammerstein Ballroom chosen for Marc Jacobs’ Spring 2017 show or the Museum of Modern Art used for Carolina Herrera’s Spring 2018 show.

7. New York Fashion Week: Men's debuted in January 2015, then disappeared in 2019 and reemerged in 2021 as a two-hour showcase of 10 menswear designers during NYFW. The extra trek to NYC ahead of the regular shows was just too much for the market to bear. No more men's week.

8. The "New York Fashion Week" discussion is mostly focalized on the shows produced by IMG as well as other large productions by established designers. During NYFW there's also the more avant-garde Flying Solo and Kia Style360 which feature celebrity designers.

9. NYFW is experiencing an ongoing "Identity Crisis". Originally an invite-only trade show for designers to show their collections to buyers and press, currently, brands at NYFW face the challenge of creating consumer-facing strategies like see-now buy-now and showing fall clothes in fall instead of 9-months ahead for the retail buying season.

Many designers have left their New York slot for cities that more closely fit their market strategy. Tentpole NYFW brand Tommy Hilfiger experimented with shows in Los Angeles and Paris. While Thom Browne, Proenza Schouler, Rodarte, and Altuzarra have debuted collections in Paris "off-calendar."

Beyonce front row at NYFW
Anna Wintour, Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Diddy, Cassie, and Rihanna at Kanye West’s Adidas show.

Who sits front row at fashion week?

10. At its height, the average capacity for a show at New York Fashion Week tipped in at 130 seats at venues like Lincoln Center and The Tents at Bryant Park. Not nearly enough front-row seats to go around. Some editors have been known to resort to slapping publicists in the absence of front-row immolation in their honor. Filling the limited number of seats are the press, buyers, influencers, show sponsors, and friends of the designer.

Recently, NYFW organizers have begun testing the sale of "NYFW experiences". These show packages include things like first-row seating, welcome cocktails, and gifting that cost upwards of $3,000 per ticket.

11. Many celebs are paid to attend and sit front row. Upwards of $100,000 for an A-list celeb and $5,000 can get you a buzzy Reality TV star. Good luck getting celebs to come out for the frigid February shows.

12. As a model, being the first one out, better known as "opening the show", is a big career moment. Models new to the industry can achieve what seems like overnight success opening for one of the big shows like Tom Ford or Marc Jacobs. Ultimately, this is seen as a huge endorsement from the designer.

13. Arguably more important than opening the show, is closing the show. The last model to walk out, sometimes hand-in-hand with the designer, is often referred to as the designer's Muse — either by the designer or by assumption.

Zac Posen and Naomi Campbell holding hands on the runway.
Zac Posen and Naomi Campbell during NYFW show.

Which fashion week is the most popular?

14. Among the "Big Four" fashion weeks, New York Fashion Week is first, followed by London, Milan, and Paris. "It's always fashion week somewhere" has become a recurring refrain in recent years, with emerging fashion capitols gaining traction in the media: Copenhagen, Moscow, Lagos, and Shanghai are capturing some of the mindshare.

15. NYFW is the biggest hit online in terms of audience attention. Google searches “fashion week” — a search term used even in non-English-speaking fashion cities like Milan and Paris — skyrocket during the first two weeks of September, primetime for New York shows, and then the searches trail off just as the European fashion shows begin.

Did you discover anything new about NYFW? Leave a comment below. Follow Fashion League on Instagram, and subscribe to our newsletter for Faux or Fashion™ trivia, and the latest job postings from some of your favorite companies.


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