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Haute couture fashion models walk the runway during New York Fashion Week.
A 2010 Milan Fashion Week event
Berlin Fashion Week in 2013. Berlin has returned to being a fashion capital after the German reunification. [1]

A fashion capital is a city with major influence on the international fashion scene, from history, heritage, designers, trends, and styles, to manufacturing innovation and retailing of fashion products, including events such as fashion weeks, fashion council awards, and trade fairs that together, generate significant economic output. [2]

With exquisite fashion heritage, structured organization, and the most vaunted fashion designers of the 20th century, four cities are considered the main fashion capitals of the 21st century. Called the Big Four, the most prominent fashion capitals of the world—in chronological order of their eponymous fashion weeks, are New York City, London, Milan, and Paris, which receive the majority of press coverage. [3]

Fashion capitals offer exhibitions and are an opportunity for designers to show off their latest collections as well as for the fashion industry to interact and work together. Fashion has become a powerful platform for social change and advocacy which is why fashion capitals are so influential.

Definition of a fashion capital

A fashion capital assumes a leadership role in the design of fashion, the creation of styles, and the emergence of fashion trends. In addition, fashion capitals have a broad mix of business, artistic, entertainment, cultural, and leisure activities that are internationally recognized for each having a strongly unique identity. [4] The fashion capital status is also linked to the city's domestic and international profile. [5] Fashion capitals are part of a wider social construct scene, with design schools, fashion magazines, and powerful market of affluent consumers of fashion. [5]

In the 16th century, Milan came to be regarded as the world's fashion capital. Nowadays, while the term fashion capital is still used to describe cities that hold fashion weeks—most prominently, in chronological order, New York, London, Milan, and Paris [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]—, it is the economic development and stylistics created by a fashion capital city that matter to the showbiz and fashion industry. [11] [12] Tokyo, with its fashion week, is also widely viewed as the fifth key city of fashion, and Asia's most important fashion capital. [13] Also, nowadays, the term fashion capital includes other world cities known for hosting notable fashion events and have influential designers in the world of global fashion. [14]


Historically, several cities have been, in turn, fashion capitals. During the Renaissance era, different city-states in what would become modern-day Italy were Europe's main trendsetters, [15] due to the cultural power they exerted in that period. This included cities such as Florence, Milan, Rome, Naples, Genoa, and Venice. [16]

Progressing into the late 16th century, with the influence of the English royal court, London became a major city in European fashion. Similarly, due to the power of Spain during the period, the Spanish court started to influence fashion, making it a major centre. In the 17th century, as the Renaissance began to fade away, with the power of the French court under Louis XIV, Paris established itself as Europe's main fashion centre. [17]

During the 19th century, with the powerful British Empire and young Queen Victoria on the throne (from 1837), London once again became a major fashion leader. [18] However, it continued to look to Paris for stylistic inspiration, and the British 'father of haute couture' Charles Frederick Worth relocated to Paris in 1846. He did this to perfect and commercialize his craft, holding the first fashion shows and launching the concept of fashion labels there. [19]

20th century and beyond

New York's Garment District, 1955

During the Golden Twenties, Berlin was considered the vanguard fashion capital. [20]

Throughout the 20th century – but particularly after World War II – New York City rose in stature as a fashion capital, challenging the dominance of Paris with a different approach, especially in its development and popularization of sportswear as fashion during the 1940s and '50s. [21]

During the 1950s, Italy rose in prominence again. [22] Florence re-emerged as a leading city in fashion, [23] although focus shifted to Milan from the 1970s on as leading design houses moved to the city. [24]

"Swinging London," Carnaby Street, c. 1966

In the 1980s, Tokyo claimed its place as a fashion capital with a new generation of avant-garde designers, including Issey Miyake or Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons gaining worldwide attention, even if most of the city's newcomers gained prominence after showcasing their clothing in Paris. The fashion was radically different in its use of textiles and the way designers cut and draped. [25] [26]

Since then, new fashion hubs have emerged worldwide, and the old order has faced challenges from all corners of the globe, including Africa, South America, and Australasia. [27] Since 2007, Berlin has again been highlighted as an increasingly important centre for global fashion trends. [28] [29]

A 2011 issue of Fashion Theory: Journal of Dress, Body and Culture explored the move away from the traditional dominance of five key cities (New York, Paris, Milan, Tokyo, and London), with co-editor Lise Skov, suggesting what she described as a "poly-centric" fashion industry developing in the 21st century. [21]

In 2019, the Vienna-based fashion intelligence firm IFDAQ under the leadership of fashion sociologist Professor Frédéric Godart measured in a scientific approach the importance, influence, and impact of cities in the fashion industry with neural networks from a large data lake. The resulting IFDAQ Global Fashion and Luxury Cities Index [30] revealed New York as the leading fashion capital, followed by Paris, Milan, and London. A further elaboration of the data in cooperation with the Institution of Engineering and Technology visualized the impact of geopolitical events on the fashion capitals, including Brexit and the US-China trade war. [2]

See also


  1. ^ "Berlin as a fashion capital: the improbable rise". Fashion United UK. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b Heubl, Ben (14 February 2020). "Paris now leads Milan in EU fashion market". IET. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  3. ^ "The World's Most Fashionable Cities for 2021 | Fashion Week Online". 7 June 2021. Retrieved 22 May 2022.[ title missing]
  4. ^ Gemperli, Natalia. "Fashion World Mapper: Your City on the Trend Radar". Master Thesis, University of the Arts Zürich. June 2010.
  5. ^ a b Florida, Richard (7 September 2012). "The World's Leading Cities for Fashion". The Atlantic Cities. Archived from the original on 15 May 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  6. ^ Armstrong, Lisa (22 September 2013). "Is there a future for Fashion Week?". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2 May 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  7. ^ Bradford, Julie (2014). Fashion Journalism. Routledge. p. 129. ISBN  9781136475368.
  8. ^ Dillon, Susan (2011). The Fundamentals of Fashion Management. A&C Black. p. 115. ISBN  9782940411580.
  9. ^ Godart, Frédéric (2012). Unveiling Fashion: Business, Culture, and Identity in the Most Glamorous Industry. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 57. ISBN  9781137000743.
  10. ^ "The Big Four : Fashion Capitals of the World". Fashion Days. 5 February 2014. Archived from the original on 30 October 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  11. ^ "The Big Four: Fashion capitals of the World". Fashion Days. 5 February 2014. Archived from the original on 30 October 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  12. ^ Heyman, Stephen (1 October 2014). "The Figures Behind the Catwalk". New York Times.
  13. ^ Wetherille, Kelly (20 May 2013). "Retail Meccas: Tokyo". WWD. Retrieved 18 December 2023.
  14. ^ "Top fashion weeks around the world". The Independent. 2 January 2011. Archived from the original on 5 January 2011. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  15. ^ "Renaissance Fashion". 9 May 2007. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  16. ^ ""Beauty Adorns Virtue": Italian Renaissance Fashion | Fashion History Timeline". Retrieved 4 October 2022.
  17. ^ Godart, Frédéric (2014), "The power structure of the fashion industry: Fashion capitals, globalization and creativity", International Journal of Fashion Studies, 1 (1): 39–57, doi: 10.1386/infs.1.1.39_1, archived from the original on 21 March 2016, retrieved 8 October 2015
  18. ^ Johnstone, Lucy. "Corsets & Crinoline in Victorian Fashion". V&A. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  19. ^ staff. "Worth". Vogue. Archived from the original on 2 May 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  20. ^ Schreiber, Mathias (23 November 2012). "The Age of Excess: Berlin in the Golden Twenties". Der Spiegel. SPIEGEL. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  21. ^ a b "Fashioning the City: Exploring Fashion Cultures, Structures and Systems". Royal College of Art. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  22. ^ Fearon, Francesca (31 March 2014). "Exhibition at London's V&A Museum to chronicle rise of Italian Fashion". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  23. ^ "the birth of italian fashion". Archived from the original on 16 October 2011. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  24. ^ Bruzzi, Stella; et al. (2013). Fashion Cultures Revisited 2013. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 23. ISBN  9781136474736.
  25. ^ "Japan Fashion Now". 2010–11. Fashion Institute of Technology. Archived from the original on 2 May 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  26. ^ "Miyake, Kawakubo, and Yamamoto: Japanese Fashion in the Twentieth Century". Metrolopolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  27. ^ staff (2 January 2011). "2011 top fashion weeks around the world: Paris, New York, Milan, Tokyo..." The Independent. Archived from the original on 5 January 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  28. ^ Staff (17 January 2012). "Germany's fashion capital: the improbable rise of Berlin". 17 January 2012. Fashion United. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  29. ^ Scholz, Kay-Alexander (18 January 2012). "The Phoenix of Fashion Rises in Berlin". Die Welt. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  30. ^ IFDAQ Global Fashion and Luxury Cities - Top 30

External links