For more than 70 years designers, models, celebs, media, and scores of fashion-forward fans have been drawn into what is known as Fashion Week. During those years, the clothes aren’t the only things that have changed. Women have evolved, in needs, tastes, and attitudes about what it means to be fashionable.
World War II saw women enter the workforce in unprecedented numbers as they took the traditional male roles when soldiers left the home-front. Rations affected just about everything you could buy – except clothes – and the U.S. government really wanted women to spend those few dollars on American-made garments. The problem? Women simply weren’t as drawn to American designers. They wanted the flavor and fashion of European designs. The government actually helped to spur the first Fashion Week – then called Press Week – when it hired Eleanor Lambert, a NY publicist who had the mission of getting American designers to create entire collections. And thus Fashion Week, and more accessible choices for women, was born.
Brewer of American Horror Story Represents a New Kind of Beautiful Story
Fast-forwarding to 2015, we see both similarities and inspiring changes. One of the most notable in 2015 is the first woman with Down syndrome to strut the catwalk. Jamie Brewer, probably most known for her dramatic role on American Horror Story, is an actor as well as an advocate for those with intellectual disabilities.
Designer Carrie Hammer has a history of wanting her Fashion Week collection to represent the real women who wear them. Last year she included her friend, who uses a wheelchair, to be a model. While Hammer wasn’t trying to make a dramatic statement, she soon found that the audience had been waiting for something just like it. Her latest campaign – Role Models Not Runway Models – is what brought Hammer and Brewer together for this inspiring runway walk.
Brewer is aware of the impact she has been making. “Young girls and even young women… [see me] and say ‘Hey, if she can do it so can I’.” She is proud to help other young women find the strength to be who they really are.
More Fashion Week Changes for Women
Hammer isn’t the only designer using Fashion Week for a higher purpose. Designer Beverly Olivacce hosted an event called A Woman Speaks, which included a panel of 5 women who are developing their own leadership roles. The panel included a radio host, lifestyle and fashion consultant, CEO of the Sherry Blair Institute and a boutique business owner.
An overall focus of the event became empowerment for women, and Olivacce said that she, “Wanted to make sure that women were informed by other professional women, what it takes to stay in the game.”
Where Will Fashion Week Go Next?
While questions swirl about where the physical location of Fashion Week might be for 2016 and beyond, there are other indications that Fashion Week continues to be fashion-forward. From those early years of the first fashion celebration in the U.S. to a time when runways are live-streamed for people across the country to enjoy, designers continue to reach a wider audience every year. In fact, platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr have brought in bloggers and social media savvy reporters who connect designers, models, and consumers like never before.
As designer Olivacce says, “What you’re wearing speaks before you do.” Now it seems that renowned Fashion Week may be speaking for a more diverse population with models who represent more than the size 0 rack. In response, more consumers seem to be looking forward to filling their closets will the designs of this momentous week.