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How Fashion Seasons Work

We break down the seasons.

Fashion Week takes place twice yearly, with emerging and established designers showcasing their new season collections to industry insiders – but if you’ve ever been confused about which fashion seasons they’re actually showing, you wouldn’t be the first.

If you don’t work in fashion (and even if you do), it can be really confusing. Which collections are shown in February and September? And what are they called?

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Once you understand it, it actually makes a lot of sense. Fashion works ahead, so Fashion Week is never about the current season.

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Morgane Maurice

Here, we break it down for you.

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What are the fashion seasons called?

Fashion is actually split into four seasons.

These are spring, summer, autumn, winter (or fall, if you’re based in the US), Resort and Pre-Fall.

The two main seasons are spring-summer (SS) and autumn-winter (AW), and these are the collections shown at Fashion Weeks in Paris, Milan, New York and London around February and September every year.

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When do the fashion seasons run?

This is where it gets a little confusing. Spring summer starts in January and lasts until June, while autumn winter runs from July to December.

Resort collections overlap this and are offered from October to December, while Pre-Fall is in stores before the AW collections arrive.

The confusion comes, of course, as summer and Resort collections are sold in January when it’s cold! It’s the same when it comes to winter; winter clothing is sold in July when it’s still warm out.

This is because fashion brands and retailers like to offer fashion lines early. The old season will then go into sale.

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However, in 2016, Burberry started a ‘see now, buy now’ approach. This means the pieces shown on their runway are put up for sale right away. Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Tom Ford followed suit.

Designers have also started to become more veering away from the traditional seasons when it comes to their pieces.

Giambattista Valli, for instance, focused on pastels — which are usually reserved for spring — for the house’s autumn-winter 2020 collection.

Some designers have also included turtlenecks and boots in their spring-summer collections, while others have featured sleeveless knitwear and coats in their autumn-winter collections.

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Fashion Week

It gets even more confusing when it comes to Fashion Week.

Spring-summer collections are shown to the press at Fashion Week in September for the following summer, while AW collections are shown in February for the following winter.

Fashion Week informs the trends for the season, so collections must be shown early.

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Retail buyers need time to view the collections and decide which pieces to go with, then designers need time to manufacture the orders. Fashion editors also need time to select samples and shoot editorials for the season, informing their readers of the trends before they hit stores.

Resort and Pre-Fall collections don’t have their own Fashion Weeks, so brands often shoot them independently and send them out to press. Others choose to hold their own presentations or shows.

We hope that’s helped you understand the seasons a little better. For more, read our comprehensive guide to LFW.

What about fast fashion?

Fast fashion is another matter entirely, with new products coming out all the time. It moves incredibly quickly from trends seen on the catwalk or worn by celebrities to stores.

Zara reportedly drops a new collection every two weeks, which equates to an unbelievable 24 per year.

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What’s a cruise collection?

A cruise collection is the same as a resort collection.

This refers to holiday collections and originated from the idea of wealthy customers going on cruises during the winter.

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black woman wearing a wool oversized sweater with colourful eclectic patterns
Morgane Maurice

What do SS and AW mean?

SS and AW are abbreviations of spring-summer and autumn-winter. These refer to the two main seasons across fashion.

What are the 4 main fashion weeks?

The big four fashion weeks are Paris, London, New York and Milan. However, these four aren’t the only places for fashion week. All around the globe, there are more hundreds of fashion weeks and fashion events that proudly present diverse collections.

In Milan, there’s even an Afro Fashion Week dedicated to African and Afro-inspired designers. Japan Fashion Week 2022 has even gained traction for its eclectic and eye-popping street styles on the runway.

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Fashion Seasons and seasonless trends

A seasonless trend has emerged during fashion week for the past few years. More fashion brands have been blending seasons together in their collections.

We’ve seen some unexpected seasonal products and trends on the catwalk—boots in spring and lightweight sleeveless pieces in winter.

While a few fashion traditionalists believe seasonless fashion is sinful, the approach makes sense. Especially with climate change, the conventional seasonal model is behind the times.

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Brands such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Prada, and Tom Ford are gradually shifting away from trends to showcase timeless pieces on the catwalk during the most recent shows.

Brands are also becoming more aware of the conscious consumption of their customers and global accessibility. A seasonless approach allows customers to buy clothes all year round, no matter where they are in the world.