Fashion capital

Escada Sport at Berlin Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2013

A fashion capital is a city which has a major influence on international fashion trends and in which the design, production and retailing of fashion products – plus events such as fashion weeks, awards and trade fairs – generate significant economic output.

The cities considered the global "Big Four" fashion capitals of the 20th century were Paris, Milan, London and New York; while the fashion scene turns more multipolar in the 21st century with other important centers like Rome, Berlin, Barcelona, Tokyo, São Paulo and Los Angeles.[1]

Definition of a fashion capital

In addition to their leadership role in clothing and design, fashion capitals usually have a broad mix of business, financial, entertainment, cultural and leisure activities and are internationally recognised for having a unique and strong identity.[2] It has also been noted that the status of a fashion capital has become increasingly linked to a city's domestic and international profile.[3] Fashion capitals are also likely be part of a wider design scene, with design schools, fashion magazines and a local market of affluent consumers.[3]

Often the term fashion capital is used to describe the cities that hold fashion weeks, most prominently Paris, Milan, London and New York,[4][5][6][7][8] to showcase their industry.[9][10] Also various other cities host notable fashion events and are influential in global fashion.[11]


Historically, several cities have been, in turn, fashion capitals. During the Renaissance era, different city-states in what would become modern-day Italy were Europe's main trendsetters,[12] due to the cultural power they exerted in that period of time; this includes cities such as Florence, Milan, Rome, Naples, Genoa, and Venice.

Progressing into the late-16th century, with influence of the English Royal Court, London became a major city in European fashion. Similarly, due to the power of Spain at the period, the Spanish court started to influence fashion, making it a major centre. In the 17th century, as the Renaissance started to fade away, with the power of the French court under Louis XIV, Paris established itself as Europe's main fashion centre.[13]

During the 19th century, with the powerful British Empire and a young Queen Victoria on the throne (from 1837), London once again became a major fashion leader.[14] However, it continued to look to Paris for stylistic inspiration, and the British 'father of haute couture' Charles Frederick Worth relocated to Paris in 1846 to perfect and then commercialise his craft, also holding the first fashion shows and launching the concept of fashion labels there.[15]

20th century and beyond

New York's Garment District, 1955

During the Golden Twenties, Berlin was considered the vanguard fashion capital.[16]

Throughout the 20th century – but particularly after World War II – New York City rose in stature as a fashion capital, challenging the dominance of Paris with a different approach, especially in its development and popularisation of sportswear as fashion during the 1940s and '50s.[17]

During the 1950s Italy rose in prominence again.[18] Florence re-emerged as a leading city in fashion,[19] although focus shifted to Milan from the 1970s on as leading design houses moved to the city.[20]

"Swinging London," Carnaby Street, c1966

In the 1980s, Tokyo claimed its place as a fashion capital with a new generation of avant-garde designers, including Issey Miyake or Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons gaining worldwide attention, even if the fashion show were all in Paris. The fashion was radically different in both its use of textiles and in the way designers cut and draped.[21][22]

More recently, new fashion hubs have emerged worldwide, and the old order has faced challenges from all corners of the globe, including Africa, Australasia and South America.[23] Since 2007, Berlin has again been highlighted as an increasingly important centre for global fashion trends.[24][25]

A 2011 issue of Fashion Theory: Journal of Dress, Body and Culture explored the move away from the traditional dominance of five key cities (London, Milan, New York, Paris, Tokyo), with co-editor Lise Skov suggesting what she described as a "poly-centric" fashion industry developing in the 21st century.[17]

A 2010 Milan Fashion Week event

Annual fashion capital rankings

An annual ranking of the leading fashion capitals is produced by Global Language Monitor, a US-based company that tracks trends through language use worldwide. The 2016 top-fifty six fashion capitals, according to its rankings, are listed below.[26]

Rank (2015) City Score
1 Paris Increase 1
2 New York City Decrease 1
3 London Steady
4 Los Angeles Steady
5 Rome Increase 1
6 Milan Increase 6
7 Barcelona Decrease 2
8 Berlin Decrease 1
9 Madrid Increase 5
10 Tokyo Increase 1
11 Florence Increase 2
12 Hong Kong Increase 8
13 Sydney Decrease 5
14 Singapore Increase 5
15 Shanghai Decrease 5
16 São Paulo Decrease 1
17 Dubai Increase 13
18 Rio de Janeiro Increase 10
19 Miami Increase 20
20 Dallas Increase 1
21 Monaco Increase 22
22 Moscow Decrease 4
23 Amsterdam Increase 11
24 Boston Increase 8
25 Antwerpen Decrease 16
26 Las Vegas Increase 7
27 Chicago Decrease 5
28 Toronto Increase 3
29 Buenos Aires Steady
30 Houston Increase 5
31 Caracas Decrease 14
32 Atlanta Increase 8
33 Prague Decrease 10
34 Vienna Increase 3
35 St Petersburg Decrease 20
36 Copenhagen Increase 6
37 San Francisco Increase 10
38 Mumbai Increase 6
39 New Delhi Decrease 15
40 Bali Decrease 2
41 Cape Town Decrease 14
42 Warsaw Decrease 16
43 Santiago Increase 2
44 Kraków Decrease 19
45 Austin Increase 7
46 Stockholm Increase 3
47 Montreal Decrease 1
48 Johannesburg Decrease 12
49 Melbourne Increase 6
50 Bangkok Increase 1
51 Frankfurt Increase 2
52 Vancouver Decrease 4
53 Mexico City Decrease 12
54 Washington, D.C. new entry
55 Abu Dhabi Decrease 5
56 Seoul Decrease 2

See also


  1. The big four fashion capitals of the world
  2. Gemperli, Natalia. "Fashion World Mapper: Your City on the Trend Radar". Master Thesis, University of the Arts Zürich. June 2010.
  3. 1 2 Florida, Richard (7 September 2012). "The World's Leading Cities for Fashion". The Atlantic Cities. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  4. Armstrong, Lisa (22 September 2013). "Is there a future for Fashion Week?". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  5. Bradford, Julie (2014). Fashion Journalism. Routledge. p. 129.
  6. Dillon, Susan (2011). The Fundamentals of Fashion Management. A&C Black. p. 115.
  7. Godart, Frédéric (2012). Unveiling Fashion: Business, Culture, and Identity in the Most Glamorous Industry. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 57.
  8. "The Big Four : Fashion Capitals of the World". Fashion Days. 5 February 2014.
  9. "The Big Four: Fashion capitals of the World". Fashion Days. 5 February 2014.
  10. Heyman, Stephen (1 October 2014). "The Figures Behind the Catwalk". New York Times.
  11. "Top fashion weeks around the world". The Independent. 2 January 2011. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  12. "Renaissance Fashion". 9 May 2007. Retrieved 2013-02-07.
  13. Godart, Frédéric (2014), "The power structure of the fashion industry: Fashion capitals, globalization and creativity", International Journal of Fashion Studies, 1 (1): 39–57
  14. Johnstone, Lucy. "Corsets & Crinoline in Victorian Fashion". V&A. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  15. staff. "Worth". Vogue. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  16. Schreiber, Mathias. "The Age of Excess: Berlin in the Golden Twenties". SPIEGEL. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  17. 1 2 "Fashioning the City: Exploring Fashion Cultures, Structures and Systems". Royal College of Art. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  18. Fearon, Francesca (31 March 2014). "Exhibition at London's V&A Museum to chronicle rise of Italian Fashion". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  19. "the birth of italian fashion". Retrieved 2013-02-07.
  20. Bruzzi, Stella; et al. (2013). Fashion Cultures Revisited 2013. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 23.
  21. "Japan Fashion Now". 2010–11. Fashion Institute of Technology. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  22. "Miyake, Kawakubo, and Yamamoto: Japanese Fashion in the Twentieth Century". Metrolopolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  23. staff (2 January 2011). "2011 top fashion weeks around the world: Paris, New York, Milan, Tokyo...". The Independent. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  24. Staff. "Germany's fashion capital: the improbable rise of Berlin". 17 January 2012. Fashion United. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  25. Scholz, Kay-Alexander (18 January 2012). "The Phoenix of Fashion Rises in Berlin". Die Welt. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  26. "Paris Stuns New York City as Top Global Fashion Capital of 2016". Retrieved 8 January 2016.
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