Fashion Insider: 7 Little-Known Facts About New York Fashion Week

by Aubrey Almanza

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) causes an international frenzy and, regardless of your interest level, cannot be ignored. During Fashion Week, anyone using social media knows what, when and where the action is happening.

It's an event drowned in media spotlight. But, here are seven NYFW facts you may not know:

1. New York City was not originally a location of choice.

Fashion Week (formerly known as "Press Week") began in 1943 in Paris. However, with World War II raging throughout Europe, Americans could not safely travel to France to attend the most noteworthy shows.

To compensate for their absence, the American fashion industry organized fashion shows on their own turf, showcasing collections at The Plaza Hotel. In hindsight, Europe's turbulent political landscape provided a great silver lining, and Fashion Week has included New York City ever since.

2. New York used to be last stop on the Fashion Week calendar.

New York City currently contends as the capital of the fashion world, but for five years, New York City presented last in Fashion Week's international shows.

While Paris, London and Milan had long-established couture houses, American designers were perceived as industry amateurs.

It wasn't until 1999 that designers like Calvin Klein and Helmut Lang proved America's fashion prowess and succeeded in making New York the opening city. This change also quashed rumors that Americans merely copied preceding European shows.

3. The same woman has organized NYFW since its start.

Ruth Finley organized the original NYFW calendar in 1944, and has continued doing so for the past 71 years. She is the mastermind responsible for arranging 300 shows in eight days and for resolving any scheduling or booking conflicts.

Her seamless guide, with its distinct red cover and pink pages, is relied upon by everyone involved in NYFW.

Finley is an extremely powerful director, for she decides who presents. This determines the fate of up-and-coming designers.

4. Despite a strict, finalized schedule, nothing happens on time.

Shows rarely (if ever) begin on time. It's not a matter of being fashionably late.

In most cases, models have to sprint to hair and makeup from their last show, which also likely ran late. Attendees expect to wait up to an hour for a show to officially begin, and some designers actually hold their shows if an important guest (like Anna Wintour) has not yet arrived.

5. Runways are designed to benefit guests, not models.

You may have noticed that U-shaped and polygonal runways have replaced the quintessential, straight track of the early shows. This change was not made to extend a model's time on display, but rather, to increase the number of available front-row seats.

With a show's success largely dependent on the number of editors, buyers and celebrities present, runways have been modified to accommodate more VIPs.

6. NYFW still has a long way to go in terms of embracing ethnic diversity.

Major strides have been made in presenting a greater range of ethnicities on the catwalk. Givenchy has continued its commitment to diversity, casting Lakshmi Menon, Liu Wen and Joan Smalls this season.

Kanye's surprise show featured (quite literally) an entire spectrum of backgrounds, and Lineisy Montery opened for both Derek Lam and Jason Wu.

However, Bethann Hardison, founder of Balance Diversity, notes there is still a long way to go. While speaking at a panel event this week, Hardison acknowledged there has been improvement in recent years, but fashion can still better reflect our societal composition.

“I'm concerned about the runways because that's where the ideas are introduced. From the silhouettes, the colors, the textiles and the girls and the guys, it all happens there first,” Harrison has said.

7. Modeling in NYFW is not as lucrative as you might imagine.

The pay for runway shows varies on an individual basis, but the majority of models do not earn much. An inexperienced model can expect to make nothing more than a gifted pair of shoes or a handbag. Their reward for walking is a portfolio addition and an association with a big name.

New faces do slightly better, earning about a thousand dollars per show. While models are grateful for the opportunities presented by NYFW, transportation and accommodation costs can quickly diminish their pay.

A-list models, editorial models and super models, on the other hand, exist in a different league and rake in the fortune you'd imagine. However, these cases are few and far between.