Republished for the oncoming 2016 New York Fashion Week.
How does one attend Paris Fashion Week when the Nazis descend on France? Answer: they don't. Here's the story of how NYFW came to be and the amazing woman who founded it; Eleanor Lambert.
A student of fashion from the Chicago Art Institute, she made her way to Manhattan to work at an advertising agency. Decades before Mad Men was set, she worked heavily in public relations, and helped with the founding of the Museum of Modern Art. She represented artists such as Jackson Pollack, George Bellows, and Isamu Noguchi. Her belief that clothing was as valid an art form as sculpting or painting, and that America deserved a chance to showcase their talent, led to the creation of Fashion Press Week in 1943. Due to World War II, many fashion journalists were unable to make it to France, then the center of the fashion universe.
Held at the Plaza Hotel, the first “Press Week” was the starting point for American designers to be seen by fashion magazines. Prior to Eleanor Lambert's involvement, Paris and other couture houses such as Dior, Givenchy, Cardin, and St. Laurent dominated the fashion scene. The art of the runway show grew under her watchful eye, and she helped establish fashion shows as a form of charity and entertainment. One of her events, the 1973 Fashion Show held at the Palace of Versailles was just short of a battle royale between France and America and asked the question: Who Owned Fashion? (America won)
In addition to securing America's position as a world fashion market, Eleanor Lambert also served on the National Council for the Arts and organized the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and helped originate the COTY Awards.
Eleanor Lambert, for your century of hard work and service in the world of fashion, we salute you!