12 Things You Didn't Know About New York Fashion Week

Brian Ach, Getty Images
Brian Ach, Getty Images

The holiday season is still about three months away, but for fashionistas everywhere, right now is the most wonderful time of the year: New York Fashion Week has begun. The city's biannual celebration of all things sartorial will see top fashion designers from Tory Burch to Marc Jacobs unveil their Spring 2019 collections to the public. (Not to mention Rihanna is set to present the latest from her lingerie line.)

Since its inception, Fashion Week has become synonymous with such iconic New York happenings as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the New York City Marathon. It has endured a multitude of venue and name changes over the years, which makes its historical timeline a little murky. But, there is no doubt that 2018 marks an auspicious year for the fashion industry, because it is the 75th anniversary of the event that would eventually morph into NYFW.

Whether you're a casual fan of couture or follow Anna Wintour's schedule to the minute, the best way to appreciate fashion's future is to tip a hat to its past. Before viewing the latest collections, read on for our roundup of 12 things you might not have known about New York Fashion Week.

1. WORLD WAR II WAS THE IMPETUS FOR THE FIRST STATESIDE PRESS WEEK.

A group of models wearing new fashions for American women preview the collection in August 1940.
A group of models wearing new fashions for American women preview the collection in August 1940.
A. Hudson, Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

In 1943, overseas travel to Paris, home to most fashion shows and the crown jewel of the industry, was nearly impossible for American journalists due to Germany's occupation of France. But, in a stroke of patriotic genius, an enterprising fashion publicist named Eleanor Lambert decided to create a series of fashion shows in New York featuring American designers instead.

In July of that year, Lambert—who also later founded the International Best-Dressed List—staged something called "Press Week" in New York City. Journalists were invited to view the latest fashions from—gasp!—American designers, rather than from those based in Paris (up until then, Parisian designers held the monopoly on what was considered couture). This groundbreaking move resulted in American designers getting plenty of ink in the pages of reputable fashion magazines, and it helped turn New York into a fashion hub.

2. FOR THE FIRST TIME, AMERICAN DESIGNERS HAD THEIR TIME IN THE SARTORIAL SPOTLIGHT.

A woman models a swimsuit in a 1956 issue of Vogue.
A fashion shoot in Vogue, May 1956.
Kristine, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

No longer beholden to Parisian influences, American designers could present home-grown American fashion to the public. Not only were the looks created by Americans, but the clothes were made in the U.S.A. as well. Most importantly, Lambert's Press Week resulted in magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar highlighting American designers by name, finally giving them a platform that had until that time mostly eluded them.

3. THE FIRST PRESS WEEK WAS HELD AT A SINGLE LOCATION: THE PLAZA HOTEL.

New York's Plaza Hotel.
New York City's Plaza Hotel.
Christian, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Norman Norell, Claire McCardell, and Valentina were among the 53 designers who showcased their fashions at New York's famed Plaza Hotel. It was a far more relaxed experience for the journalists in attendance, because all of the fashion shows were held in the same location. Over the next several decades, Fashion Week would evolve into a logistical nightmare; with no home base, it became not uncommon for reporters to run around the city from show to show.

4. UNLIKE TODAY, WHERE NYFW ATTRACTS EVERYONE FROM JOURNALISTS TO BUYERS TO CELEBRITIES, LAMBERT'S PRESS WEEK WAS JUST THAT—FOR THE PRESS ONLY.

Models walk in the Douglas Hannant show during Fashion Week in September 2002.
Models walk in the Douglas Hannant show during Fashion Week in September 2002.
Mark Mainz, Getty Images

In the beginning, Press Week was closed to buyers, who were forced to view upcoming lines via scheduled showroom visits instead. Lambert was also integral in opening up the fashion world to non-New York City America: She offered to pay the expenses of any out-of-town reporters who wanted to cover the event. It was a serious win for budding fashion journalists, because prior to Press Week, the only way regional reporters could view New York collections was if they tagged along with local store buyers on their showroom visits.

5. RALPH LAUREN'S FIRST FASHION WEEK SHOW WASN'T MUCH TO SNIFF AT, BUT HE LIKED IT THAT WAY.

Designer Ralph Lauren
Designer Ralph Lauren at his Fall 1997 show.
JON LEVY, AFP/Getty Images

It wouldn't be NYFW without mainstay Ralph Lauren, but as he recounts in the 2018 book American Runway: 75 Years of Fashion and the Front Row, by Booth Moore, the now-icon wasn't exactly a draw in his early years. "We set up chairs in my office at 40 West 55th Street," Lauren said of his first women’s collection for the Fall 1972 season. "There were only 10 or 15 editors and about 10 models. They strolled in one at a time, and I talked about the clothes. Looking back, I loved that intimacy."

6. FASHION WEEK'S BREAKING POINT CAN BE PEGGED TO A NOTORIOUS MICHAEL KORS SHOW IN THE EARLY 1990S.

Designer Michael Kors.
Designer Michael Kors at his Spring 2005 show.
Mark Mainz, Getty Images

The decades following the first Press Week saw fashion shows moving from the stodgy Plaza and Pierre Hotels to lofts, galleries, nightclubs and restaurants. (These incredible Betsey Johnson shows from the 1980s are a great example of Fashion Week's "anything goes" attitude at this point.) But it was an accident at a Michael Kors show that necessitated a revamp of the entire Fashion Week experience. When the bass kicked in during the song "Use It Up and Wear It Out" by Odyssey, plaster from the ceiling came loose and started falling on both editors in the audience and models as they walked the runway. "I vividly remember the dust clearing and seeing Anna Wintour picking lumps of plaster out of Suzy Menkes's hair," recalled Barney's Simon Doonan in his 2013 book, The Asylum.

7. EVEN BEYOND THE MICHAEL KORS SHOW INCIDENT, FASHION WEEK'S FLIMSY PRODUCTION STANDARDS HAD BEEN AN ISSUE FOR A WHILE.

Anna Wintour at fashion week.
Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour at a 2004 New York Fashion Week show.
Peter Kramer, Getty Images for Olympus Fashion Week

Fern Mallis, then the executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, decided something needed to be done after that Kors show. "There were seasons where editors were getting pulled out of freight elevators or had to wait for hours for power to go back on in Soho lofts," Mallis told Racked. "People were putting their lives on the line to see fashion shows—it was frightening." Plus it was a fatiguing ordeal just to see the shows, with no main hub for any of them: "If there were 50 designers showing during a season, there were 50 venues," Moore wrote in American Runway.

8. IN 1994, NEW YORK'S PREVIOUSLY HAPHAZARD FASHION WEEK SHOWS MOVED TO A NEW VENUE: BRYANT PARK.

Fern Mallis attends a New York Fashion Week event in 2017.
Fern Mallis attends a New York Fashion Week event in 2017.
Ben Gabbe, Getty Images

Mallis is credited with reorganizing New York Fashion Week into the twice-yearly event it's known as today. Between 1994 and 2010, Bryant Park's signature white tents were the home of NYFW's runway shows, providing a safe, creative space for models, journalists, and scenesters alike. And from a utilitarian perspective, the Bryant Park years proved cost-effective for designers. Previously, the location, lighting, sound and security for a Fashion Week show was the responsibility of the designer. With the advent of the Bryant Park tents, NYFW became one-stop shopping.

9. RONALD MCDONALD ONCE SHOWED UP AT AN ANNA SUI SHOW IN 1996.

Linda Ramone browses vintage clothes in 2010.
Linda Ramone browses vintage clothes in 2010.
Angela Weiss, Getty Images

As she recounted for Vogue, designer Anna Sui had an unconventional guest at her Fall 1996 show—fast-food celebrity Ronald McDonald, outfitted in a snappy dark suit. But that wasn't the most surprising part of the story: The McDonald's spokesperson had some serious competition in the bright orange wig category—Sui's friend Linda Ramone, then-wife of punk-rocker Johnny Ramone, was also in the audience, similarly bewigged.

10. THE ONLY TIME FASHION WEEK HAS BEEN CANCELED WAS IN SEPTEMBER 2001.

Pregnant models prepare backstage for the Liz Lange Couture Show during NYFW in September 2004.
Pregnant models prepare backstage for the Liz Lange Couture Show during NYFW in September 2004.
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

The 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred on what should have been the fourth day of NYFW. Following maternity designer Liz Lange's 9 a.m. runway show—which marked the first time a maternity line had been featured at Fashion Week—all remaining events were canceled.

11. THE FIRST SEX AND THE CITY FILM DID NOT ACTUALLY SHOOT THAT FASHION WEEK SCENE AT NYFW.

Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, and Sarah Jessica Parker arrive at the world premiere of the
Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, and Sarah Jessica Parker arrive at the world premiere of the "Sex and the City" movie in May 2008.
SHAUN CURRY, AFP/Getty Images

What do you get when you combine corporate sponsorship with movie magic? A very realistic-looking New York Fashion Week show prominently featured in 2008's Sex and the City film. That's right—the scene where Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha meet up to debate the merits of front-row seats at NYFW versus front-row seats at the Brooklyn aquarium, with some side-marveling at the latest collections, was all fake. Kind of. Since Fashion Week didn't coincide with the movie's shooting schedule, Mercedes-Benz, then the sponsor of NYFW, agreed to assemble its immediately recognizable white tents for the scene—in exchange for promotional placement. Not that Samantha wouldn't have chosen a Benz for her new Hollywood lifestyle, but this arrangement sure made the choice easier.

12. NYFW WAS FORCED TO RELOCATE FROM LINCOLN CENTER AFTER PARK ADVOCATES SUED THE CITY'S PARKS DEPARTMENT.

Models walk in New York Fashion Week.
Models walk during New York Fashion Week at Lincoln Center in February 2015.
Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

The downside to New York Fashion Week's ever-growing success was that by 2010, the Bryant Park location could no longer fit the expanding throngs of attendees and presenting designers. The proceedings moved to Lincoln Center, the city's famed multi-venue arts complex, for the next four years, but in 2013 a group called the New York City Park Advocates sued the city's Parks Department over NYFW's purported encroachment on the Lincoln Center-adjacent Damrosch Park. The following year, the state's Supreme Court determined Lincoln Center couldn't renew its contract with IMG (the company that owns and operates NYFW). In the settlement, it was decided that the biannual event must take its tents and catwalks elsewhere. Currently, NYFW's shows are staged in Tribeca, but a new development along the Hudson River called The Shed could become the event's new home as early as next year. As they say in the industry: One day you're in, and the next day you're out.

7 Ways Victorian Fashion Could Kill You

An 1862 engraving showing a skeleton gentleman at a ball asking a skeleton lady to dance, meant to represent the effect of arsenic dyes and pigments in clothing and accessories.
An 1862 engraving showing a skeleton gentleman at a ball asking a skeleton lady to dance, meant to represent the effect of arsenic dyes and pigments in clothing and accessories.

While getting dressed in the morning can seem like a hassle (pajamas are so much more comfortable), few of us worry about our clothes leading to our death. That wasn’t the case during the Victorian era, when fashionable fabrics and accessories sometimes came at great price for both makers and wearers. In Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present, Alison Matthews David, a professor in the School of Fashion at Ryerson University in Toronto, outlines the many toxic, flammable, and otherwise highly hazardous components of high style during the 19th century. Here are a few of the worst offenders.

1. Poisonous Dyes

A drawing of Victorian fashions likely made with arsenic dyes
A drawing of Victorian fashions likely made with arsenic dyes
Bloomsbury Visual Arts

Before the 1780s, green was a tricky color to create on clothes, and dressmakers depended on a combination of yellow and blue dyes to produce the hue. But in the late 1770s a Swedish/German chemist named Carl Wilhelm Scheele invented a new green pigment by mixing potassium and white arsenic on a solution of copper vitriol. The pigment was dubbed Scheele’s Green, and later Paris Green, among other names, and it became a huge sensation, used to color walls, paintings, and fabrics as well as candles, candies, food wrappers, and even children’s toys. Not surprisingly, it also caused sores, scabs, and damaged tissue, as well as nausea, colic, diarrhea, and constant headaches.

Although fashionable women wore arsenic-dyed fabrics—even Queen Victoria was depicted in one—its health effects were worst among the textile and other workers who created the clothes and often labored in warm, arsenic-impregnated rooms day after day. (Some scholars have even theorized that Napoleon might have been poisoned by the arsenic-laced wallpaper hung in his St. Helena home.)

Arsenical dyes were also a popular addition to artificial flowers and leaves, which meant they were frequently pinned to clothes or fastened on heads. In the 1860s, a report commissioned by the Ladies’ Sanitary Association found that the average headdress contained enough arsenic to poison 20 people. The British Medical Journal wrote of the green-clad Victorian woman: “She actually carries in her skirts poison enough to slay the whole of the admirers she may meet with in half a dozen ball-rooms.” Despite repeated warnings in the press, and from doctors and scientists, the Victorians seemed in love with emerald green arsenic dyes; ironically, they acted like a reminder of the nature then swiftly being lost to industrialization, David says.

2. Pestilential Fabrics

Soldiers of the Victorian era (and earlier) were plagued by lice and other body parasites that carried deadly diseases such as typhus and trench fever. But soldiers weren’t the only victims of disease carried via fabric—even the wealthy sometimes wore clothing that was made or cleaned by the sick in sweatshops or tenements, and which spread disease as a result. According to David, the daughter of Victorian Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel died after her riding habit, given to her by her father as a gift, was finished in the house of a poor seamstress who had used it to cover her sick husband as he lay shivering with typhus-induced chills. Peel’s daughter contracted typhus after wearing the garment, and died on the eve of her wedding.

Women also worried about their skirts sweeping through the muck and excrement of city streets, where bacteria was rife, and some wore special skirt-fasteners to keep them up from the gunk. The poor, who often wore secondhand clothes, suffered from smallpox and other diseases spread by fabric that was recycled without being properly washed.

3. Flowing Skirts

Giant, ruffled, crinoline-supported skirts may have been fine for ladies of leisure, but they weren’t a great combination with industrial machinery. According to David, one mill in Lancashire posted a sign in 1860 forbidding the “present ugly fashion of HOOPS, or CRINOLINE, as it is called” as being “quite unfitted for the work of our Factories.” The warning was a wise one: In at least one printing office, a girl was caught by her crinoline and dragged under the mechanical printing press. The girl was reportedly “very slim” and escaped unharmed, but the foreman banned the skirts anyway. Long, large, or draped skirts were also an unfortunate combination with carriages and animals.

4. Flammable Fabrics

A woman with her crinoline on fire
Bloomsbury Visual Arts

The flowing white cotton so popular in the late 18th and 19th centuries had dangers to both maker and wearer: It was produced with often-brutal slave labor on plantations, and it was also more flammable than the heavy silks and wool favored by the wealthy in the previous centuries. One type of cotton lace was particularly problematic: In 1809 John Heathcoat patented a machine that made the first machine-woven silk and cotton pillow “lace” or bobbinet, now better known as tulle, which could catch fire in an instant. The tulle was frequently layered, to add volume and compensate for its sheerness, and stiffened with highly combustible starch. Ballerinas were particularly at risk: British ballerina Clara Webster died in 1844 when her dress caught fire at London’s Drury Lane theatre after her skirt came too close to sunken lights onstage.

But performers weren’t the only ones in peril: Even the average woman wearing the then-popular voluminous crinolines was at risk of setting herself ablaze. And the “flannelette” (plain cotton brushed to create a nap and resemble wool flannel) so popular for nightshirts and undergarments was particularly combustible if hit with a stray spark or the flame of a household candle. So many children burned in household accidents that one company came out with a specially treated flannelette called Non-Flam, advertised as being “strong’y recommended by Coroners.”

5. Arsenic-Ridden Taxidermy

Dead birds were a popular addition to ladies’ hats in the 19th century. According to David, “fashions in millinery killed millions of small songbirds and introduced dangers that may still make some historic women’s hats harmful to humans today.”

But it wasn’t the birds that were the problem—it was the arsenic used on them. Taxidermists of the day used arsenic-laced soaps and other products to preserve birds and other creatures. In some cases, entire birds—one or several—were mounted on hats. Some Victorian fashion commentators decried the practice, though not because of the arsenic involved. One Mrs. Haweis, a writer on dress and beauty, began an 1887 diatribe against “smashed birds” with the sentence: “A corpse is never a really pleasant ornament.”

6. Mercury

No upper-class man of the Victorian era was complete without his hat, but many of those hats were made with mercury. As David explains, “Although its noxious effects were known, it was the cheapest and most efficient way to turn stiff, low-grade fur from rabbits and hares into malleable felt.” Mercury gave animal fur its smooth, glossy, matted texture, but that velvety look came at a high cost—mercury is an extremely dangerous substance.

Mercury can rapidly enter the body through the skin or the air, and causes a range of horrible health effects. Hatters were known to suffer from convulsions, abdominal cramps, trembling, paralysis, reproductive problems, and more. (A chemistry professor studying toxic exposure at Dartmouth College, Karen Wetterhahn, died in 1996 after spilling just a few drops of a supertoxic type of mercury on her glove.) To make matters worse, hatters who drank while they worked (not an uncommon practice) only hastened mercury’s effects by hampering the liver’s ability to eliminate it. While scholars still debate whether Lewis Carroll’s “mad hatter” was meant to show the effects of mercury poisoning, his trembling limbs and wacky speech seem to fit the bill.

7. Lead

A Victorian facial cream containing lead
A Victorian facial cream containing lead
Bloomsbury Visual Arts

Pallor was definitely in during the Victorian era, and a face spackled with lead white paint was long favored by fashionable women. Lead had been a popular ingredient in cosmetics for centuries, David writes, because it “made colors even and opaque and created a desirable ‘whiteness’ that bespoke both freedom from hard outdoor labor and racial purity.” One of the most popular lead-laced cosmetic products was called Laird’s Bloom of Youth; in 1869, one of the founders of the American Medical Association treated three young women who had been using the product and temporarily lost full use of their hands and wrists as a result. (The doctor described the condition as “lead palsy,” although today we call it wrist drop or radial nerve palsy, which can be caused by lead poisoning.) One of the women’s hands was said to be “wasted to a skeleton.”

This article was republished in 2019.

The 25 Highest-Paying Entry-Level Jobs for New Graduates

iStock/kali9
iStock/kali9

When they finish their final exams, college seniors can look forward to job hunting. Roughly 1.9 million students in the U.S. will receive their bachelor's degrees this school year, and while some new graduates may be happy to take the first job they're offered, others will be looking for something that pays well—even at the entry level. According to Glassdoor, recent grads qualified for the 25 jobs below will have the best luck.

To compile this list of the highest-paying entry-level jobs in the U.S., the job search website identified employment opportunities with the highest median bases salaries reported by users 25 or younger. Positions in the tech industry dominate the list. Aspiring data scientists can expect to make $95,000 a year at their first job out of college, while software engineers have a median annual base salary of $90,000. Other entry-level tech jobs like UX designer, Java developer, and systems engineer all start at salaries of $70,000 or more.

Banking and business positions, including investment banking analysta ($85,000), actuarial analysts ($66,250), and business analysts ($63,000), appear on the list as well. The only listed position that doesn't fall under the tech, finance, or business categories is for physical therapists, who report a median starting salary of $63,918.

You can check out the full list of the 25 highest-paying entry-level jobs below.

  1. Data Scientist // $95,000
  2. Software Engineer // $90,000
  3. Product Manager // $89,000
  4. Investment Banking Analyst // $85,000
  5. Product Designer // $85,000
  6. UX Designer // $73,000
  7. Implementation Consultant // $72,000
  8. Java Developer // $72,000
  9. Systems Engineer // $70,000
  10. Software Developer // $68,600
  11. Process Engineer // $68,258
  12. Front End Developer // $67,500
  13. Product Engineer // $66,750
  14. Actuarial Analyst // $66,250
  15. Electrical Engineer // $66,000
  16. Mechanical Engineer // $65,000
  17. Design Engineer // $65,000
  18. Applications Developer // $65,000
  19. Test Engineer // $65,000
  20. Programmer Analyst // $65,000
  21. Quality Engineer // $64,750
  22. Physical Therapist // $63,918
  23. Field Engineer // $63,750
  24. Project Engineer // $63,000
  25. Business Analyst // $63,000

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