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.

10 Terrifyingly Huge Birds You Should Know

AndreaWillmore/iStock via Getty Images
AndreaWillmore/iStock via Getty Images

They’re gigantic, they’re often defensive, and you wouldn’t want to run into them in a zoo after hours. Meet a few of the world’s biggest birds with attitude, from flightless giants to modern-day pterodactyls.

1. Ostrich

Everyone knows that the ostrich is the world’s biggest bird, weighing an average of 230 pounds and standing 7 feet tall (and some individuals can grow up to 9 feet). They can also chase you down: Ostriches are the fastest species on two legs, with a top speed of about 43 mph. They can maintain a swift 30 mph pace for 10 miles, making them the marathon champs of the avian world.

2. Southern Cassowary

Often called the most dangerous bird on Earth, in addition to being one of the planet’s biggest birds, the southern cassowary is roughly 150 pounds of mean. On each foot is a 5-inch claw that cassowaries use to defend themselves. At least two people have been kicked to death by cassowaries, the most recent being a Florida man who unwisely kept one of the birds as a pet.

3. Emu

Emu with eggs
JohnCarnemolla/iStock via Getty Images

Like a smaller, shaggier ostrich, the 5- to 6-foot emu is the second-largest bird on Earth (as well as a goofy spokesbird for insurance). During the breeding season, female emus fight enthusiastically over unattached males. But the results of this mating ritual are impressive: clutches of forest-green, oval eggs that resemble giant avocados.

4. Greater Rhea

This flightless bird is named for the Titan goddess Rhea, who gave birth to all of the Olympian gods and goddesses in Greek mythology. At up to 5 feet tall and 66 pounds, the greater rhea may not seem like as much of a terror as the ostrich. But it gathers in massive flocks of up to 100 birds during the non-breeding season, so watch out if you happen to be in its South American habitat.

5. Dalmatian Pelican

Dalmatian pelicans
musicinside/iStock via Getty Images

How scary can a pelican be, you ask? When it stands almost 6 feet tall, weighs 33 pounds, and has a wingspan of 9 feet—all traits of the Dalmatian pelican—it's pretty petrifying. These scruffy-feathered monsters, native to Europe and Asia, breed in colonies of up to 250 pairs and can gulp impressive mouthfuls of fish in one go.

6. Mute Swan

One of the heaviest flying birds, mute swans look harmless as they glide over ponds, lakes, and rivers. But mute swans are far from silent when defending their families and territory. Male swans warn interlopers that they’re getting too close with a hiss, then can launch a straight-up assault, bashing the intruder with their wings. They’ll even attack kayakers, canoeists, and people just minding their own business.

7. Andean Condor

Andean condor
Donyanedomam/iStock via Getty Images

This freakishly big vulture isn’t satisfied with just any carrion—it prefers large carcasses like cattle and deer for dinner. Maintaining its average weight of 25 pounds requires a lot of calories, after all. Its wingspan is slightly less than its northern cousin, the California condor, but it still reaches a dramatic 9 to 10 feet.

8. Cinereous Vulture

Another big bird with a 10-foot wingspan, this Old World vulture has excellent vision to spot carrion while it flies, and a featherless head that resists the accumulation of gore when it feeds. Though it’s intimidating to look at, the cinereous vulture plays an important role in its ecosystem by cleaning up roadkill and other dead animals.

9. Marabou Stork

Marabou stork
Sander Meertins/iStock via Getty Images

As if its red-tinged wattle, black back, and dagger-esque bill weren’t alarming enough, the marabou stork is sometimes called the “undertaker bird” thanks to its Dracula-like appearance. It also eats other birds. The largest verified wingspan on a marabou stork measured 10.5 feet, though unverified reports cited a specimen with 13.3-foot span.

10. Shoebill

Shoebill storks may not be the tallest, heaviest, or widest-winged birds, but just look at that death stare. On top of having a nutcracker for a face, the 5-foot-tall shoebill leads a fearsome lifestyle. It stands absolutely still for hours to hunt prey, watching for lungfish or baby crocodiles, then spreads its wings and collapses over it while trapping the target in its bill.

10 Dramatic Downton Abbey Fan Theories

Jim Carter as Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey (2019).
Jim Carter as Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey (2019).
Focus Features

Despite its exhaustively polished veneer, Downton Abbey was always a soap opera. Julian Fellowes's historical drama about a family of aristocrats and their many servants could never resist a good shocker, and it deployed plenty of them over the course of six seasons. The valet was suspected of murder (twice). One of the Crawley sisters got knocked up by her older married boyfriend, who promptly went missing. And another sister’s first sexual encounter ended in death. Considering all this, it should come as no surprise that fans have developed similarly wacky theories about the show. These fan theories include secret parentage, undercover spies, and, of course, poison.

Brush up on the best of them before the Downton Abbey movie hits theaters—just in case the whole miscarriage curse comes up.

1. Mr. Carson is Lady Mary’s father.

This theory all comes down to eyes. As you may recall from science class, certain genes are dominant and others are recessive. This is perhaps most easily understood through eye color, where brown eye color, a dominant gene, is expressed as BB and blue eye color, a recessive gene, is expressed as bb. A parent with brown eyes might carry the recessive blue eye gene (i.e. Bb), but if you plot out genetic probabilities on a basic Punnett square, two blue-eyed parents with double bbs have seemingly no shot at producing a Bb baby. Now, what does any of this have to do with Downton Abbey? Both Lord and Lady Grantham have blue eyes, but their eldest daughter, Mary, has brown eyes. This has led some fans to speculate that Lady Mary is actually the daughter of Carson, the family’s beloved butler who has always acted as as sort of second father to Mary. As debunkers have noted, two blue-eyed people can have a brown-eyed child, because recessive genes aren’t that simple. But isn’t it wild to think of Carson and Cora having an affair?

2. Thomas Barrow poisoned Kemal Pamuk.

One of the soapiest subplots of Downton Abbey's first season involved “poor Mr. Pamuk,” the dashing Turkish diplomat who makes a fateful visit to the Abbey. After enjoying a day of fox hunting and an evening of sparkling conversation, Kemal Pamuk drops dead ... right in Lady Mary’s bed. The cause, it is later revealed, was a heart attack, but many viewers suspected something more sinister. Earlier in the episode, the Crawleys’ closeted footman, Thomas Barrow, made a pass at Pamuk, which the diplomat rejected quite forcefully—so much so that he threatened to get Thomas fired. That placed the footman in a tricky situation, but it was nothing a little poison couldn't fix, and that’s exactly why some fans believe Thomas slipped something into Mr. Pamuk’s dinner.

3. Lady Grantham’s miscarriage started a curse.

In the Season 1 finale, tragedy strikes. The newly pregnant Lady Grantham slips on a bar of soap, falling onto the bathroom tiles and inducing a miscarriage. It’s a sad moment, but it’s also, Reddit claims, the source of the house’s future misfortune. According to this theory, the miscarriage kicks off a curse of deadly pregnancies: Lady Sybil dies in childbirth; Matthew Crawley dies in a car accident soon after the birth of his son; and when the maid Ethel Parks becomes pregnant with Major Bryant’s child, he dies, too.

4. Mr. Bates is actually a bad guy.

Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggatt in Downton Abbey (2019).
Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggatt in Downton Abbey (2019).
Focus Features

Downton Abbey invests a lot of time and effort in convincing us that John Bates, Lord Grantham's trusty, is a great guy—despite his checkered past and multiple murder allegations. But what if everyone’s assumptions about Bates are exactly right? Some Redditors believe Bates is just a remorseless serial killer, pointing to his intense hatred of his first wife and “creepy vibes” as evidence. Anna had better watch out.

5. Michael Gregson is a spy.

Lady Edith’s boss and lover Michael Gregson is the publisher of a London magazine, The Sketch. Thanks to his job, he knows tons of important people, travels all over the world, and speaks multiple languages. He eventually disappears inside Germany in season 4, and later dispatches to the Crawley family imply that he was a victim of Adolf Hitler’s “thugs.” (The show timeline places Gregson in Munich right around the time of the Beer Hall Putsch.) Or at least, that’s the official story. Another one suggests that Gregson was a British spy gathering intel on the insurgent Nazis—and he might not have died at all. His superiors simply needed to feed Edith a lie that would discourage her from poking around, so they made up a cover story that someone who follows the news would believe.

6. Lady Rosamund Painswick is Lady Edith’s mother.

When Lady Edith becomes pregnant with Michael Gregson’s child, she finds a strong support system in her aunt, Lady Rosamund Painswick. Upon learning Edith’s secret, Rosamund travels to Downton Abbey to help her niece through her pregnancy, and suggests adoption options as the due date draws near. Some fans have interpreted this empathy as a clue that Rosamund, not Lady Grantham, is Edith’s true mother. It could also explain why Edith looks (and behaves) so different from her sisters. Or it could just be a sign that Rosamund cares about her niece.

7. Lady Mary’s “operation” was IVF.

In season 3, Lady Mary claims to have undergone a “small operation” that will help her start a family with Matthew. It’s maddeningly unclear what this operation entails, but one wild guess is that she had an early version of IVF. The complete crackpot theory is that this was a cover for Matthew’s infertility, which the doctors wouldn’t disclose to him, presumably to preserve his 1920s masculinity.

8. Lady Mary’s son George becomes a Royal Air Force pilot in World War II.

Lady Mary’s son George is only five years old in the series finale of Downton Abbey. But that means he would theoretically be 18 in the fall of 1939, which is exactly when World War II broke out in Europe. He would almost certainly enlist, as show creator Julian Fellowes himself has suggested. But Decider has more specifically theorized that George would join the Royal Air Force (RAF), “with a desire to rebel against his emotionally distant mother and find purpose in a greater cause.” Sounds like George would be taking part in some dangerous missions, putting the entire family’s future at risk.

9. Public tours keep the estate alive.

The Crawleys spend much of Downton Abbey fretting about the future management of their estate—partially because Lord Grantham is kind of bad at it. But Lady Mary has taken over when the series ends, and Fellowes believes she’d find savvy ways to keep her family’s home in their hands. “She would probably have opened the house to the public in the 1960s, as so many of them did,” Fellowes told Deadline. “And she’d have retreated to a wing, and maybe only occupied the whole house during the winters. My own belief is that the Crawleys would still be there.”

10. The Dowager Countess keeps Denker and Spratt around for the drama.

Gladys Denker is a maid to the Dowager Countess. Septimus Spratt is her butler. These two do not like each other, and they’re quite public about it. Denker and Spratt’s unprofessional squabbles would’ve gotten plenty of other servants fired, but fans believe the Dowager Countess keeps them employed for her own amusement.

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