What Fashion Week Is All About, For Those Who Have Absolutely No Idea

Every year, the women of New York leave the past behind and look forward to the future. This is known as Fashion Week.

“Sex and the City’s” leading lady, Carrie Bradshaw, could not have been more accurate with that statement. Maybe you’ve read about it on Twitter; maybe you’ve seen clips about it on the news, but you have certainly heard about it.

No matter where your interests lie or even if you try to escape it, you are surrounded by Fashion Week.

Fashion is a key component in cultures all over the world. Certain fashions represent groups of people, thoughts that can’t be expressed in words and art that you can mask your body with.

Since fashion is so exciting and always changing, it must be celebrated with its own event.

While many women (and men) of the world fawn over the constant revolutionary fête that is Fashion Week, most of us observe the commotion from afar and tilt our heads in bewilderment, pondering questions such as, “What is the point of this? Who are these people and why are their names so long? What even is Fashion Week?”

No need to raise your hands, students; you won’t have to attend fancy dinners and soirées with friends, family or (men, this is for you) girlfriends and find yourself in awkward conversation where you don’t know what “RTW” stands for anymore.

We have all the basics of Fashion Week that you need to know here before the mayhem begins in New York on September 4.

What even is Fashion Week?

If you’ve ever been to a trade show, you may recall that certain brands or companies put their products out for display. These products are examined by retailers to put in stores and journalists to write about them. Fashion Week is very similar, just way more extreme.

Fashion Week is the largest and possibly longest media event for the fashion industry. Renowned fashion designers, brands and up-and-coming designers (if they’re lucky) get the chance to display their collections for the following season to potential buyers, journalists and celebrity influencers.

This is the most exclusive way for the media to gain access to the next big fashion trends. Journalists and retailers alike go bonkers for “exclusives,” so they all want to be the first to know -- and spill -- the secrets of the most exciting moments and pieces of Fashion Week.

When is Fashion Week again?

It starts in September and ends in October. Then it happens again in February.

Wait, I thought it was Fashion *Week.* Why is it so long?

Although the event is called Fashion Week, it is true that it turns into a month-long marathon. This is because there are four major fashion cities in the world: New York, London, Milan and Paris.

Each of these cities hosts its own Fashion Week events, and yes, each one is a week long.

…And why does it happen twice?

The fashion industry operates like its own planet with two seasons: Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer, usually dubbed as A/W and S/S.

That means each designer and each brand has to produce two different collections per year and present each one at each Fashion Week show.

Remember what was mentioned earlier: The main idea of Fashion Week is to get an early look on the next season’s trends. That means that A/W shows are for next fall, so the shows are in February, the preceding spring. Therefore, the S/S collections are displayed in September, before that upcoming spring.

So what do those other crazy letters and words like “RTW” and “haute couture” mean?

RTW stands for "ready to wear," famously referred to in French as "prêt-a-porter." Clothes that are RTW are created for the masses so that anyone can buy and wear them once they’re in stores.

Haute couture, however, is not made for the masses. In fact, a haute couture piece may only be one garment. A couture garment is designed and sewn from scratch, while also rare, expensive and extremely elegant.

Okay, this is crazy. Who even made this a thing?

Not to make this a history lesson, but it started out during World War II. A publicist named Eleanor Lambert organized the first “Press Week,” where journalists were invited to take a look at designers’ work.

A name you may hear be passed around is Fern Mallis. While she didn’t create the concept of Fashion Week, she is credited with putting New York on the radar of international fashion capitals and moving all of the city’s fashion shows to one location.

Then who the heck is Anna Wintour? Doesn’t she have something to do with this?

Anna Wintour is the editor-in-chief of Vogue, the most influential and popular fashion magazine. She’s not a designer, but because she is a renowned magazine editor and fashion maven, she is an influential figure in the industry and highly regarded.

Is there anyone else I should know?

Some designers with the biggest crowds for shows are names you may see a lot in department stores or on the front displays of their own brick-and-mortars in your mall: Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Nicole Miller, Nanette Lepore, Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger…

There are way too many to name. It is a week long, so that means there’s a week’s worth of names to know. This list may help you out.

This might actually be fun. Can I come, too?

Wouldn’t that be fun? The shows are invite-only, but you can host a movie night (or movie week), pop some popcorn, and beg your crew to watch live streams of the runway shows on your computer with you.

Photo Courtesy: Paramount Pictures/Zoolander