When we think of the geographical influences in the fashion world, 3 cities come to our mind – London, New York, and Paris. Everything that is anything in fashion starts in these big cities.
But there is a big fashion world out there beyond these cities. The newly emerging fashion capitals are competent enough to challenge the traditional fashion capitals and they are all putting up a good fight to be at the top of the fashion world.
In this article I will cover:
Why would you call a city a fashion capital? What is fashion capital?
For starters, a city is called a fashion capital if it has a great influence on the world of fashion. A fashion capital will have the biggest fashion brands located within its premises; big names in fashion (read ‘the revered fashion designers’) will have their shops and production houses within the city; there will be influential fashion magazines in circulation there; the city will play host to fashion weeks showcasing innovative fashion creations and will also conduct exhibitions, award shows and trade fairs related to the fashion industry.
A fashion capital city will serve as an inspiration for all budding fashion designers with its vibrant and creative energy and may have fashion schools teaching the students everything they want to excel in this field. And to top it all, the city will have a thriving population which is interested in fashion and welcomes the newest trends with open arms.
The most popular fashion capitals are Paris, London, New York, and Milan. Emerging fashion capitals from regions like India, Japan, the USA, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Australia, and other countries also have a noticeable influence in the fashion industry. Here is the list.
Fashion capitals of the world
In the 19th century, America witnessed a revolution in the area of ready-to-wear garments. This period also witnessed the birth of some of the most famous department stores like Tiffany &Co., Lord and Taylor, etc. Once the garment industries started setting up their factories in New York, New York’s Seventh Avenue became synonymous with fashion.
Today, New York is the headquarters of many global brands hosting a world-famous fashion week twice a year. The industry is renowned for a classic minimalistic fashion style.
Legendary fashion designers and world-class fashion houses/ boutiques, illustrious fashion schools, museums, exhibitions, and fashion shows – there is no question as to why Paris is considered as the foremost fashion capital and fashion leader of the world.
The dominance of Paris started in the court of King Louis XIV. The french aristocracy and the royals spearheaded a fashion revolution in Paris. This led to the evolution of a fashion industry that has continued to dominate the world of fashion
The term ‘Haute couture’, the pinnacle of custom dressmaking has its origin in France. Paris fashion week is held semiannually every year with their spring/ summer collections and winter/ autumn collections. Famous Designers/ brands around the world hold their shows in venues arranged throughout the city.
One of the big four fashion capitals of the world, Milan has a strong history in fashion dating back to the 19th century but the contributions of 20th-century designers are what made it a fashion capital.
Milanese fashion is considered synonymous with luxury; it is also known for its artisanal workmanship, and top-quality fabrics. Their designs are luxurious as well as artistic.
Milan is one of the pre-eminent trendsetters in fashion and is known as the leader in the prêt-à-porter or ready-to-wear dress category. The presence of Italian and international brands makes it a paradise for shoppers around the world.
England was the first industrialized country in the world and it was the number one country in all areas for a long long time, mainly due to its imperialistic politics.
London can be said to be the first fashion capital of the world even as far as the Elizabethan era. It has maintained this position to this day. It is known for the cutting edge style and innovativeness of its many world renowned designers.
Today, London is a favourite fashion destination for fashion lovers around the world. Many of the London fashion designers like Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Sir Paul Smith, Kim Jones are fashion icons. Students from around the world study in London’s fashion colleges. The city caters to a diverse and multi-cultural clientele from all walks of life. UK fashion designers’ creativity, innovation, and collaboration with technology and entrepreneurship have established London as a global fashion leader.
The City of Angels and home to Hollywood has an effortless lifestyle that is laid back and bohemian. But now Hollywood’s actors and actresses want to display their impeccable taste in fashion. No wonder, the iconic fashion houses like Saint Laurent, YSL, Louis Vuitton, Dior, and designers like Tom Ford had shown a keen interest in Los Angeles.
Tom Ford had his FW15 women’s wear collection displayed during the weekend of the Academy Awards attracting the glitterati that included Jennifer Lopez and Kate Hudson.
The fifth name often associated with the Big Four fashion capitals is Tokyo. Japan, the second-largest luxury market, second only to the US is also known as the fashion capital of Asia. From heritage culture to street fashion Tokyo’s fashion world is diverse and vibrant. It is also known for its creativity.
In Japanese fashion, you can find creativity and quirkiness go hand in hand. Many of the famous fashion subcultures started in the streets of Japan. You can find many aesthetic styles like punk, cosplay, Mori Kai, Gyaru, etc. in the streets of Tokyo.
Famous Designers like Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake, Kenzō Takada, Yohji Yamamoto have played a major role in bringing the Japanese fashion styles to international attention.
Indigenous and international brands are showcased during Tokyo bi-annual fashion week. Even if you miss it, the enormous number of Japanese fashion magazines keep you informed and up to date.
Tokyo is also known for its unannounced regular fashion parades with the streets acting as fashion runways.
One of the most dynamic and active fashion capitals in the international fashion scenario, Madrid is known for its diversity, tradition, and elegance. Fashion designers like Cristóbal Balenciaga, Loewe, Manuel Piña, Jesús del Pozo, Roberto Verino, Adolfo Dominguez, Antonio Miro,and Sybilla Sorondo laid foundation for the prestigious Spanish fashion industry as it is today. Their designs were known for elegance, modernity, freedom, and creativity.
Madrid Fashion Week that dates back to 1985 showcases the famous Spanish fashion designers and attracts fashion enthusiasts, supermodels, fashion designers, and influencers from around the world.
The first European city to be awarded the ‘City of Design’, by UNESCO, Berlin is filled with Fashion design houses. From high-end fashion to streetwear fashion, their designs are known for their sustainability and timelessness. Berlin also offers a niche for the tech fashion community.
Two major events of Berlin fashion week are the Ethical Fashion show and Green Showroom. The Ethical Fashion Show concentrates on brands that promote ethical and sustainable fashion. The Green Showroom explores renewable fashion that is aesthetically pleasing.
German fashion is known for its sports and outdoor clothing, the popular brands being Adidas and Puma. Berlin is also home to famous designers like Hugo Boss, Karl Lagerfeld, Michael Michalsky to name a few.
Followed by K-pop and K- beauty, K- fashion is now under the global limelight. Korean fashion is marked by its unique and contemporary style in streetwear and urban wear.
Seoul fashion week has gained the city a reputation as East Asia’s leading fashion capital. Started in 1987, Seoul fashion week showcasing a mix of glittery streetwear and high fashion has attracted buyers, editors, photographers, and influencers worldwide.
The fashion week consists of three parts: The Seoul Collection, a high-end fashion event, the Generation Next celebrating upcoming designers, and The Seoul Fashion Fair showcasing Korean fashion companies.
Shanghai is known as China’s fashion capital and has established its place among the famous fashion capitals of Asia. Most of China’s luxury brands have their headquarters in Shanghai.
The people in Shanghai are sophisticated, fashion-conscious, and in search of the latest trends. Shanghai fashion is highly influenced by the haipai culture which is the East meets West style that includes innovation, inclusiveness, and commercialism.
Most Chinese fashion designers cater to their own large market, but some have started going global, like Uma Wang and Helen Lee.
Amsterdam is not only famous for its picturesque canals but also its couture. It has the highest number of Denim brands per square kilometer in the world. Levi’s and Diesel have their design studios in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam Fashion Week exhibits established as well as upcoming designers’ creations in front of local as well as global audiences. Amsterdam is also famous for its sustainable and eco-friendly fashion.
The Fashion For Good Museum is the world’s first sustainable museum. It instructs the visitors about topics like textile recycling. There’s a shop in the museum premises from where you can buy eco-friendly dresses.
The recent global interest has made São Paulo the heart of fashion in South America. Malls and specialized stores cater to the consumers for local as well as international brands.
Showcasing the works of Brazilian fashion innovations and creativity that indulge richness and diversity, the São Paulo Fashion week attracts nearly a million visitors and is the fifth-biggest fashion week in the world after Paris, London, Milan, and New York.
One of the burgeoning fashion capitals is Toronto. It is bustling with popular and established international brands and retailers. Its fashion industry is world-class, vibrant, and multicultural.
Retailers like Nordstrom and Saks give excellent customer service and clienteling. Toronto is home to some of the most successful photographers and models. Toronto fashion week is Canada’s premier fashion event. Toronto Fashion Incubator, TFI, provides business and professional support to its upcoming and established fashion designers and entrepreneurs.
St Petersburg is the biggest fashion market in Russia with its huge number of retailers, malls, studios making it the fashion capital of the country. It is the home city for many fashion designers in Russia and conducts many influential high-profile fashion events.
Russia has a dynamic fashion-tech sector understanding the need for innovation in terms of materials, designs, aesthetics, and business models.
India is a large market with its vast population and has its own distinctive style and identity in fashion. As a hub of textile manufacturing companies, the Indian fashion industry has a large influence in the global fashion scene. Indian fashion is famous for its elaborately embroidered clothes made of luxurious fabrics in a splash of multi colors.
Mumbai the commercial capital of the country also serves as the fashion capital. The global nature of the city handles the diverse nature of the different cultures of India very well.
Lakmé India Fashion Week and Amazon India Fashion week are held in Mumbai. Mumbai is also a shoppers paradise brimming with world-class and native brands and their flagship stores.
Other than the kitschy style clothes that cater to wedding clients, modern fashion scene in India is constantly evolving to cater to the fashion-conscious clientele of the country.
Interesting reading with some questions you can ponder on the 4 fashion capitals on Fashion Institute of Technology website.
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