10 Takeaways from Budapest Central European Fashion Week

History meets youthful energy in the Hungarian capital.

On the four days that most Americans spend wedging their toes into the sand and flaunting around in white ensembles one final time, a renegade group of young fashion designers, editors, and stylists across Europe converged in Budapest. The historic city bears many markers of its Austrian lineage—grandiose architecture and awe striking views—but also hosts a youthful energy emblazoned by a new generation of Hungarians interested in statement-making fashion and the global fashion marketplace. (Those not fully convinced need only to look to Budapest’s burgeoning Andrássy Avenue, where luxury designers such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Armani sit down the street from the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace.) 

Such was the scene in the Hungarian capital this past weekend, just before the kickoff New York Fashion Week. The official name of the event is Budapest Central European Fashion Week, and as such 39 brands from Ukraine, Romania, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Serbia joined local designers to present their Spring/Summer 2024 collections. Here are our top 10 takeaways from the occasion.

  1. Neighborly Stroll

Of the 39 brands who stole the show this season at BCEFW—the event’s 12th—only 24 designers on the schedule were Hungarian. That means that the remaining near-half originated from the rest of Central Europe, like Natálie Nepovímová, who is from Prague, or Romanian designer Alesia Cîdă. “We are connecting the industry players from Hungary and other regional countries as a bridge which provides a possibility to expand their trade relations and widen their international visibility,” explained Zsófia Jakab, the CEO of Hungarian Fashion & Design Agency, the organization who produces the bi-annual event.

Gudu Spring/Summer 2024 at Budapest Central European Fashion Week

  1. Centralized in History

This fall BCEFW was consolidated to the Millenáris, a historical industrial complex in the 2nd district of Budapest, for the first time in its history. In the past, the event—like many other international fashion weeks—spanned the city, utilizing historical landmark sites like the city’s Museum of Ethnography, Museum of Fine Arts, and Hungarian National Museum, for runway locations and places of activation. To streamline, this year nearly all of the fashion occurred at the six-acre campus of greenery, which holds Budapest’s modernist National Dance Theatre and other converted 19th century buildings that once served as electrical factories.

  1. Catering to Gen Z

Speaking of making history, this season BCEFW also saw the opening of its Fashion Hub, which had a specific focus on Gen Z. The open-to-the-public space debuted with a group fashion presentation by Evelinfink, Pinetime Clothing, and Szymanska along with a charming café, where American iced coffee was served alongside Hungarian sweets. “We are devoted supporters of future generations, and in this event, we would like to cover as many aspects of this ambition as possible,” said HFDA’s Anita Forintos-Szűcs. Later in the day, the center extended into workshops, round table discussions, and even musical performances by local talent like DJ Tamas Szabo, and a few foreign names, including the street style photographer Pat Domingo, who stopped over from Vienna before going to New York this week.

Sustainability panel at the Fashion Hub moderated by Hungarian journalist Csalár Bence.

  1. Keeping Tradition

Featuring an array of creatives with varied aesthetics and from even more varied backgrounds, there were certainly a plethora of trends to be seen on the BCEFW runway. One throughline across the board was each designer’s celebration of their individual cultural heritages. How they interpreted it, though, was a mixed bag. Some went fully customary like Transylvanian designer Ferencz Borbala, who upcycled vintage tees, that were popular in her home country in the 2000s, and traditional table clothes into prismatic ensembles, while others went more modern in their approach, like Ukraine’s Igor Sidletskiy. His eponymous brand’s collection featured severe silhouettes dissected by architectural cuts, a reference to ancient Ukrainian crafts.

Borbala Spring/Summer 2024 at Budapest Central European Fashion Week

  1. Age is Just a Number

More than any other fashion week, BCEFW had a pretty consistent display of age diversity in its castings. While the average catwalker was young and pretty, of course, nearly every show—like Polish brand Vicher or Ukrainian label Gudu—had at least one non-traditionally aged model, often one that had a personal connection to the brand.

Zsigmond Spring/Summer 2024 at Budapest Central European Fashion Week

  1. Welcome W

Steps from Budapest’s opera, the brand-new W Budapest played a key partner for BCEFW, hosting media, influencers, and tourists alike during the week. The hotel opened doors just a month ago, and it shows: every floor in its high-concept design had a unique interior, including a retro, ground floor café that looked just like Prada’s edible café concept at Harrods. Not to mention its extravagant basement spa, which—in true Hungarian tradition—was phenomenal as Budapest has long been famous for its relaxing thermal baths.

  1. Stacked Schedule

Unlike Paris Fashion Week, which sprawls nearly a fortnight, or Milan, which takes place over a very long weekend, BCEFW is two short days filled with a lot of fashion shows. That means that showgoers see back-to-back collections by established designers and newcomers on the hour. “We hope that many of the new and emerging designers, stretching their wings and evolving in front of our eyes, will enter the international arena,” says Anita Forintos-Szűcs.

Budapest Central European Fashion Week

  1. Dramatic Eyes

On the runways, European designers favored a spectrum of dramatic makeup to complement their collections, even when the fashion wasn’t so avant-garde. For Alexander Sagio’s Spring/Summer 2024 collection inspired by houses of stone, the Azerbaijan-born designer paired his wearable collection with heavy cat eyes that outlined the socket entirely. At Nommé, László Panna highlighted her models’ eyelids with shocking neon, a loud juxtaposition to her tonal collection dedicated to nature.

Nommé Spring/Summer 2024 at Budapest Central European Fashion Week

  1. Plant-based Power

One of the most surprising findings from the week was the amount of plant-based food Budapest has to offer. Nearly every menu had at least one vegan counterpart to its many dishes of red meat and seafood. (Afterall, Hungary is known for its meat and potatoes.) Not to mention the proliferation of California-style vegan takeaway shops, with Mediterranean-style cuisine sans animal products.

  1. Foreign Exchange

As its name implies BCEFW is heavily Central European, but the international organization has an on-going partnership with Milan’s Camera Della Moda, the group behind the Italian fashion week. That allows BCEFW designers like Zsigmond—a long time local favorite—to enter the Milanese market, and vice versa through strategic exhibitions that give both bodies more eyes.

Zsigmond Spring/Summer 2024 at Budapest Central European Fashion Week

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