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The Fashion Edit: Fashion capitals, trend centres, and Instagram

Fashion, being an integral part of what society and humans need, led the way in creating the concentration of fashion-based ideas and merchandise in cities and regions since the 17th Century. This started in Italy, during the renaissance period when Milan, Rome, Naples, and Florence became key destinations before UK, primarily London, took over.

Then it was Paris that made a strong case, till the bright Berlin star shone for a while, after which a move to New York, followed by Tokyo and then settling back in Europe.

Fashion created a route for itself establishing cities and societies where it increased its influence. Yes, in the five sentences above, I have covered five centuries of movement in fashion from societies that became theatres for fashion protagonists and their emergence.

It did make me wonder – what is the basis of fashion capitals, what is the true meaning of this term, is it purely the size of business that is carried out in that city, or is it the city of influence, or is it the collaboration of various creative industries that influence the rise of fashion?

Yes, in the period of renaissance, there was a strong influence on fashion. But in modern times, does this influence decide fashion capitals? Or are they still carrying their past influence on fashion?

In reality, it is difficult for fashion to exist without music, art and films, or for that matter, any creative industry to exist in isolation.

The inter-influence is important, and in most of the modern cities, this influence and collaborative spirit exists. Is it this influence that gives rise to fashion capitals?

In the early 20th Century, these fashion centres, or capitals, gave rise to fashion being showcased for a week every season, which became the birthplace of Fashion Week. From the 1950s onwards, till the ‘80s and ‘90s, the ‘Big Four’ in fashion, that is Milan, Paris, London, and New York, got established.

They became the epicentre of fashion creations, season after season, and commercial activities started revolving around them. And as fashion became a strong global business, these Big Four started dominating and influencing fashion around the world. But the very nature of the omnipresent collaborative spirit within the global fashion industry gave rise to something new that came to be known as trend centres.

Trend centres became areas where inspiration for the future started emerging. The very nature of these societies, with a deeply innovative mindset which was experimental in nature, gave birth to trend centres where designers or the fashion forecasters would spend time understanding the direction fashion would take.

Tokyo, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Prague, and Berlin became some of the recognised trend centres. This was driven by the current generation. This also introduced street-style photographers who would capture experimental fashionistas curating their looks.

This, in turn, gave rise to blog sites capturing the above. These trend centres are an important resource for fashion direction.

Trend centres are now including African and Asian cities as well, primarily because the current generation is expressing fashion looks based on their sensibilities.

Moscow, Stockholm, Rio, Copenhagen, Sydney, Lagos, and Cape Town are influencing global fashion, and making a mark for themselves.
One of the key factors involved in including more global cities and harmoniously growing their influence is the digital media screen, with the likes of Instagram, which is now seen as an important fashion communication and resource channel.

To me, Instagram and Pinterest, among others, are challenging the other global trend centres.

In this age, can Instagram be the first digital trend centre? Yes, it seems sacrilegious to even think that, but then think harder and you will see it fulfil what other trend centres do.

The habitual, or default, reaction of the current generation is to look for these digital handles, which I have become comfortable calling digital trend centres. But may be without a soul! However, there is an integration that has started among the three, be it vertically or horizontally.


By Ajai Vir Singh

Founder and President, Colombo Fashion Week and winner of the Global Effie, Ajai Vir Singh is a visionary who has fathered the fashion movement in Sri Lanka.