Is Paris still the fashion capital?

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By the end of the Paris fashion week, a brief overview of the romance between France and the textile industry

Is Paris still the fashion capital?

A fashion capital is a city that contributes to industry, which has an influence on international trends and, through events, those cities let see what fashion has to offer. Currently and traditionally the four cities considered fashion capitals are London, New York, Milan and Paris.

Leer en español: ¿Sigue siendo París la capital de la moda?

The latter is perhaps the one with the most tradition since it influenced international trends even from times before the modern world. Today it is still the home of many of the most important fashion firms and its fashion week is still covered by most specialized media.

However, other European capitals such as Madrid and Copenhagen have also taken the initiative and have gained importance that historically did not. Then, is it Paris still the fashion capital par excellence?


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How did Paris start to be the fashion capital?

Although today we all think about what we wear and choose it with relative freedom, fashion was once a luxury. Choosing what to wear among a set of garments that could be combined was something for which they only had time and money, the nobles and monarchs. Louis XIV, who ruled France since 1963, was a fan of luxury and fashion.

According to Hannah Bergin for Culture Trip, King Louis XIV, guided by his interest in luxury, moved several artistic industries to his country for the sake of the economy. One of these industries would be textiles, which came under the control of the French court, which made it an epicenter of style and commerce. This is how Louis XIV became the first influencer, and the French capital a center of fashion: it was the city where the best fabrics and garments were found.

Then, says Bergin, when the haute couture industry (the business that consisted of designing and manufacturing a garment according to the needs of a specific client) began at the end of the 19th century, European tailors had to open their stores in France, since it was easier to work close to the raw material. Coco Chanel was one of these fashion houses, perhaps the most famous. The French designer completely changed the feminine fashion and although her shop closed during the Second World War, Paris would always be the house in which Chanel played at home.

Christian Dior would be the designer in charge of reviving the French fashion industry with his post-war optimism and his idea of the "new look". After him, came the Givenchy and Pierre Balmain's success, although already with North American and Italian competition, because both countries also had an emerging textile industry after the war.

Despite this competition, Paris remained the fashion capital because it was, not only a city with advanced textile industry but also the space for revolutionary designs. It was thus that during the sixties, Yves Saint Laurent, also French, turned Paris into the city home of the first ready-to-wear collection, which made haute couture more accessible for working women, and the feminine revolution with its men's garments made this time for the feminine wardrobe.

Being so, Paris has a long tradition of the textile industry that strengthened and created the codes that we see on the catwalk today, but it was also breaking those same codes and breaking the rules of fashion that remained one of the capitals of the fashion world until now.

Read also: Milan Fashion Week's weirdest outfits

Paris today

It is enough to walk through the streets of the French capital to notice that it has remained a bit in the past in terms of fashion. Unlike other European capitals such as Madrid, in whose streets you can see risky looks among the common people and in some areas there are independent brand stores as well as a wide range of second-rate clothes, in Paris you still feel the elitism and the exclusivity of fashion conceived by Louis XIV, and with what Yves Saint Laurent wanted to finish.

It is still the house in which great designers were created, but these great designers, including Saint Laurent, are nothing new. A capital of fashion is not only where the most luxurious designs have been conceived, but it must also be a city with a culture around fashion and its manufacture. The stores in Paris, similar to the stores with insurance on the Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona, do not open their doors to the general public. They do not invite anyone to become part of the consolidated French industry.

The importance of Paris, then, is due to tradition, which cannot be erased from history. But this city will have to have some revolutionary gesture within design or manufacturing to consolidate itself as a fashion capital. Madrid is already doing it: although historically it is not the home of any famous design firm, it is the house of emergent independent design and the exchange of clothes. It is becoming the capital of "do it yourself", of garment recycling, of young design.

Also read: Fashion weeks: notes on the street style

Paris tomorrow

What would be the revolutionary gesture that would be getting cooked at the French capital? According to Amy de Klerk for Harper's Bazaar, Paris is now betting on being the capital of sustainable fashion and has announced a five-year plan for it. Thus, in 2024 it plans to be an epicenter of sustainability within the industry. The proposal would revolve around three areas: the improvement of supply and trade, the work in making the processes more sustainable, and the creation of a circular economy.

Other fashionable weeks, like the one in Copenhagen, already revolve around sustainability. You will see in other versions of the fashion week in Paris, which has just ended, how revolutionary will be this change in the fashion business in France.


LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Rodríguez Pabón

Translated from "¿Sigue siendo París la capital de la moda?"

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