Fashion Week, originally called Press Week, started here in New York City back in 1943.
Before that, there were what we now call fashion shows in department stores and fashion houses, for clients of the brands and retailers.
Fashion Week is a funny thing. It is highly publicized, but most events are by invite only. There is an exclusive club of fashion industry professionals that attend Fashion Week.
It is very difficult, and for some shows, near impossible to attend if you are not a somebody in the fashion industry.
But don't fret. There are a few options for us nobodies:
There is a growing number of open-to-the-public fashion shows. Prices can range from free to way over $1,000 for a VIP ticket.
I attended about 5 shows this season, and they were all free. Yes, they were of the “up-and-coming” caliber, but if you expect to eventually be invited to the end-all-be-all shows, you have to start somewhere, right?
Check the open-to-the-public schedule here one to two weeks before the next fashion week. Fashion Week Online has a decent schedule of shows. You can click through to contact the designer PR team directly to get a solid invite.
Fashion Show Tip: Be forewarned, some of the free public shows have a habit of corralling the attendees from one room to another before they are ready to seat you. I recommend wearing comfortable shoes, as you might be standing around. My worst experience this past fashion week was standing for two hours before the show even started. What can you expect from something free, right?
Register with New York Fashion Week:
If you are a photographer or videographer: Follow the link here and register as a photographer or videographer. They will credential you, so don’t register unless you’re actually a photographer or videographer.
If you’re not a photographer or videographer, email the address provided in the link here. They will add you to their press list which will be sent to all PR teams of designers. Then cross your fingers, sit back, and pray the cool kids invite you to sit with them at lunch. Honestly though, don’t hold your breath.
It is difficult to volunteer for high fashion brands, as they tend to have their own interns that they utilize for their shows. And if they need extra interns, they will usually turn to fashion schools like The Fashion Institute of Technology or Parsons School of Design to find eager students.
For the smaller fashion week productions, I have found many volunteer opportunities from PR companies that organize their own fashion week offshoots on Eventbrite. You can find these up to a few months before fashion week starts.
Here are just three to get you started.
But be aware, as a volunteer, you will not be sitting and enjoying the shows. You will most likely be running around backstage assisting with various tasks.
Also, most volunteers will be of the college age. If that’s not you and you don’t mind being in the age demographic minority, then have at it. If that’s not your scene, don’t be surprised if you find yourself saying under your breath, “I’m too old for this shit.”
Volunteer Tip: If you want to watch the shows, volunteer as a host, greeter, or any other position that involves being with the audience or press, and not backstage. This is your best chance of watching the shows while you volunteer.
A Note On Celebrities: Don’t expect to see anyone well-known at the “up-and-coming” shows. Its pretty unlikely.
I will say, I went to Tommy Hilfiger's first 'See-Now-Buy-Now' Fall 2016 collection and collaboration with Gigi Hadid. It was free and open to the public. I got to see Tommy Hilfiger, Gigi Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, and many other easily-recognizable top models. But this is definitely not normal. Since this was his new see-now-buy-now, direct-to-consumer concept, Hilfiger made this show more about the end customer than buyers and press. So it made sense to have real potential consumers there.
In the below video, I talk about my full experience at the Tommy X Gigi Show.
Here's my article review as well.
Fashion Week can at times be trying, tiring, and just plain obnoxious with the corralling, unorganized shows, delayed starts, lack of visibility, irate attendees, and inclement weather (during winter months). But if you have a true passion for fashion, these things probably won't bother you, as there is nothing quite like witnessing beautiful garments move and flow in person.
Comment below and let me know which designer's show you would love to attend!
Check out my video on how to attend New York Fashion Week when you're not invited on my YouTube Channel: The Fashion Run-Up. Don't forget to subscribe to my channel for notifications when my latest video is uploaded.