Why Is Paris the Capital of Fashion?

The Champs-Elysees in Paris, France
The Champs-Elysees forms one of the sides of Paris' golden triangle - fashion's mecca.

Why is Paris the capital of fashion? There are a number of reasons, mostly dating back to the 18th century, although it can be argued that Paris' fashion hegemony started well before that. While it lost ground during World War II, it came back with a vengeance and has remained the mainstay of fashionistas since.

Exactly Why Is Paris the Fashion Capital?

Haute Couture began in the 18th century, but the French had been looked to with admiration or disdain in their dress sense well before that. In the 16th century, Anne Boleyn was famous for wearing a French-style hood, which showed her hair and had a generally provocative style. Even then, the French were famous for their liberal attitude towards sexuality.

In the 18th century, couturier Rose Bertin was named the Minister for Fashion and the position was still retained in the Napoleonic era. Initially, it was the rich and powerful telling the designers what they wanted to wear in clothes, but in the 19th century, this changed. It was, surprisingly, an Englishman working in Paris who became the father of modern Haute Couture when Charles Worth put his name on his clothing labels. He went a step further, creating designs based on his own ideas and displaying them on live models so that clients could approve or disapprove. The novelty was a success and designers then began to dictate what was fashionable.

From then on, it was understood that any designer who wanted to be a success had to be in Paris and become part of a couture house or form their own. Paris was the home of fashion shows and all the fashion magazines were either based in or looked to Paris for their information. For women throughout the Western world, Paris was the be all and end all of clothes.

The Power of Paris

London, New York and Milan can all lay claim to some fashion influence. Especially during World War II, New York and London made inroads while Paris was occupied by Germany. But when the war was over, designers returned to Paris and couture reigned again. Chanel was still popular, but Dior became one of the most influential designers of the mid-century. Joined by Yves Saint Laurent and other prominent designers, Paris cemented its hold on style.

But why is Paris the capital of fashion today? Simply because little has changed, despite the drop in the number of couture houses. The most important fashion shows still take place in Paris and more aspiring designers go to the city to learn and showcase their work than they do London, New York or Milan.

The Golden Triangle

To better understand why Paris is the capital of fashion, you need to consider the golden triangle - a shopping district in Paris dedicated exclusively to high fashion clothes and accessories. The triangle lives between the Avenue Marceau, the Champs-Elysees and the Avenue Montaigne. In it, you will find the homes of Vuitton, Givenchy, Rochas, Dior, Celine, Chanel, Donna Karan and Hermes, just to start you off.

Paris' Ongoing Allure

Although there are certainly those who try to claim otherwise, Paris is still the fashion capital of the world. While it is true that the fashion magazines and designers don't have the absolute power they once did, the ability to be flexible and understand changing tastes and trends is what keeps Paris a magnet for the fashion world. The idea of a "Paris Original" may not thrill women the way it once did, but people certainly still respond to interesting, inventive and wearable clothes - and item for item, the bulk of those still come from Paris.


Why Is Paris the Capital of Fashion?