A beginner's guide to the fashion show

Perhaps we need to start with the basics; get down to the point of things and how the whole fairground ride of the fashion show works.

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Some of us love fashion, some of us are indifferent and, for some, watching a fashion show is about as fascinating as cardboard; most of us don't care to make it past the half-starved teens in some fairly questionable creations of wild proportions. It's often easier to ridicule something than to understand it, especially in a world where inspirations are often somewhat incomprehensible. So that's what we do; we write it off, brush it aside, think of it as silly. The bottom line is that most of us just don't get fashion - or the whole point of distinguishing oneself from the herd - but, like anything, it is often derived from a lack of understanding than direct opposition. So perhaps we need to start with the basics; get down to the point of things and how the whole fairground ride works.

Fashion loves (of course) elitism and being ahead of the game, so it works a season ahead. In fact, fashion weeks are held several months in advance of each season to allow the press and buyers a chance to preview designs. From January until April, designers show their autumn/winter collections, and from September through to November are the spring/summer collections. This is also to allow time for the buyers to purchase or incorporate the designers into their retail marketing.

The actual industry event is simply used as a platform for fashion designers to showcase their latest collections and for the buyers and the media to decide on the trends for the season. Just to confuse things further (if it wasn't enough) there are two other mini seasons if you like - the first is what we call pre-fall, or cruise (usually more commercial than the main collections) and the second is the collection of couture shows held in Paris.

New York City, London, Milan and Paris, known as the famous four, each hold a fashion week bi-annually. New York starts off the autumn/winter series in February, with Paris ending it in March. The next batch (spring/summer) starts in September and ends in October.

So who should we watch out for and how does it relate to us? Well, let's start with London because it doesn't take itself quite as seriously; in fact, it encourages experimentation both in mood and style. We are more likely to find younger, more experimental labels here that are well worth investing in. Design duo Meadham Kirchoff are on the rise with their continuing display of colourful theatrical pieces, as are Christopher Kane and Mary Katrantzou with their clever use of cutting and print techniques.

New York, the most commercial of the four, guarantees a slightly more wearable aesthetic with the more classic designers taking precedence - think chic without show. Carolina Herrera, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs - all the bigwigs - still rule the roost but designers such as Jason Wu, Alexander Wang and Prabal Gurung are injecting a slice of fresh glamour these days.

Milan attracts the buyers and the Hollywood stars with its often flamboyant shows, from the likes of Donatella Versace, Cavalli and Moschino, but Paris, which houses most of the world's couture houses, still holds the highest regard.

As I always try to emphasise, there is no right way to look at fashion - it remains solely up to the observer - but there is nothing worse than a culture snob, for that defies the whole point of understanding and enjoying culture in the first place. Read up on things, enjoy the craftsmanship for what it is and, for goodness sake, never ask who would actually wear the stuff. Remember fashion only takes itself rather seriously because an inordinate amount of time and work goes into it, so if you find yourself in the midst of it all just try to fake it like a ballerina fakes a smile en pointe; you never know, you may just enjoy something.