"What the heck *is* fashion week?" MyDaily answers your fashion week questions

'What the heck *is* fashion week?' MyDaily answers your fashion week questionsPhoto: Empics

Fashion week sees every fashion and style site in the world under siege from an apparently endless onslaught of models striding around in designer outfits. As such, this seems like the perfect time to explain what's going on and to answer such key questions as "What the hell is fashion week, anyway?"

Read on to find your answers..

Is fashion week a single week devoted to fashion?
Lord, no! Fashion week is actually a series of short bursts of fashion activity (lasting around a week each) in various cities across the world. Most versions of fashion week occur twice a year and cover the two major fashion seasons - Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter. Shows for S/S take place around September and A/W is February-ish.

So how do I know which fashion week you're talking about?
In general, if a magazine or website mentions "fashion week" they are referring to the programmes of shows and presentations which take place twice a year in New York, London, Milan and Paris.

You'll also find smaller scale and newer fashion weeks in many other cities or countries around the world which act as platforms for those places to showcase the work of talented designers local to that region. When talking about these other fashion weeks you include a mention of the location to avoid confusion - Melbourne Fashion Week, for example.

But I thought fashion shows were bonkers - a lot of the shows feature skirts and tops I could actually wear!
Ah - you're thinking of haute couture. The four main fashion weeks (New York, London, Milan, Paris) consist largely of ready-to-wear collections. That means that although some of the shows might be rather theatrical (especially in terms of hair and makeup) the clothes are actually things you could buy from a shop and theoretically wear in your day to day life. You might get some more out-there shows cropping up during these four fashion weeks though because to show at couture you have to jump through quite a few hoops.

So what's haute couture and what hoops does it have to jump through?
Generally when we say 'haute couture' (or just 'couture') we mean the sort of fashion which is more about exploring the possibilities and ideas of fashion and less about wearability. It's an ethos which sees collections which are closer to works of fine art than wardrobe staples.

Haute couture fashion week takes place twice a year but only in one location - Paris. There are actually some very strict criteria for defining couture:

1. The business must be a member of the Syndical Chamber for Haute Couture in Paris
2. The business must have a Parisian workshop which employs at least 15 people
3. The business must show collections twice a year
4. And each of those collections must consist of 35 separate looks and include daytime and eveningwear.

Demanding, eh?

Given it can be difficult (and expensive) to fulfil these requirements you'll find some couture-esque designers who will show during other weeks but their work isn't technically classified as being couture.

And what about the other end of the spectrum? Why aren't Dorothy Perkins and Primark and Whistles at Fashion Week?
High street stores tend to fall into the category of 'retailers' rather than design houses. What they do is keep a close eye on the fashion week shows and pick out trends and ideas for the upcoming season which they then use to inform which stock they buy. They can then take advantage of the rapid turnaround times in mass market fashion to have a huge range of stock in time for the new season which is in step with the designer trends.

As an aside, we're quite glad that high street brands don't have spots during fashion week - the vast collections would lead to hours spent on benches in Somerset House, not to mention the fact that so much acrylic mix in one place would reduce our editor to tears.

Earlier you said there were only two fashion seasons, so what are Pre-Fall and Cruise?
Well, pre-fall and cruise are more compact than the two main seasons - season-lettes, if you will - and more commercial.

Pre-fall offers clothing for the transitional period between summer and autumn. It does come in handy for what can be a slightly awkward point on the calendar to dress for, but mostly it exists for commercial reasons. Basically the Spring/Summer collections have lost their shiny appeal but the Autumn/Winter looks are not in stores yet. Pre-fall acts as a kind of retail stop gap. Note: It's always called pre-fall and never pre-autumn.

Cruise (also called resort) collections exist primarily to separate the super-rich from everyone else in the universe and provide clothing for people who use the word 'summer' as a verb. At the most basic level, they offer skimpy bikinis in the middle of winter for those times when you find yourself draped over your millionaire mate's luxury yacht while chillaxing in sunnier climes.

I think I get it now. Can I come?
London Fashion Week is an industry event so attendees are people working within the fashion industry - journalists, fellow designers, influential bloggers, that sort of thing. But if you're not part of the fashion crowd you can still watch live video streams of the shows online and browse picture galleries of the collections. There are also lots of fashion-themed events and exhibitions taking place in and around the city so keep an eye on the museums, galleries, cocktail bars and stores.

In London there's also London Fashion Weekend which is held at the end of London Fashion Week. It's essentially a designer shopping event where you can take in some fashion shows, shop from designers of London Fashion Week calibre at reduced prices and maybe enjoy a beauty treatment and some cocktails. There's no need to worry about whether you're part of the fashion industry or not either as it's a first-come-first-served ticket affair.

So there you go - that's fashion week in a nutshell! Now sit back and browse the shows, fully armed with your newfound knowledge.