While Fashion Week in New York may last a little more than a week, for fashionistas, it can sometimes feel like that week is a year-long international event with stops in London, Milan and Paris, among other cities. And if you add in menswear and couture collections, along with the pre-fall collections (which were recently shown, from early December until mid-January), it can seem like there's not a single week without a dose of fashion.

But do pre-fall collections even matter? Do they exist on their own merits, or solely to influence what will be sent down the runways for the fall season? Are they little more than an excuse to give celebrities something to wear on the red carpet? Or is it all a clever tactic for designers to bring in some extra dough?

A Preview?

Blogs like Fashionista call pre-fall “the season between seasons,” and Forbes agrees, claiming that pre-fall collections “bridge the hop between summer and fall.” Typically, pre-fall collections appear in stores in May (while fall items generally hit stores in September), and they have gained attention in the media as collections are unveiled in January, often in look books rather than at runway shows. Similar to resort or cruise collections, which serve wealthy fashion mavens seeking new vacation wardrobes, coverage for pre-fall collections has become almost de rigueur on fashion blogs and websites.

Pre-fall collections, in addition to the twice-yearly collections, are an appetizer for fashionistas who wait patiently for the fall's main course. According to a December 2010 article from the Telegraph, pre-fall collections’ purpose directly relates to the “increasingly impatient" attitude in the fasion world, where "waiting six months between fashion shows … is just not an option."

All of this excitement, then, could indicate that pre-fall is a jumping-off point for designers’ fall collections, as its name suggests. Pre-fall, though, is not meant to introduce trends, as Forbes recently noted. Instead, many argue that pre-fall foreshadows the collections that will be shown for the fall, as designers test and experiment with new trends for the upcoming season.

For Financial Gain?

The search for more, which consumerism invariably fuels, could be another reason for the increased interest in the pre-fall fashions. After all, fashion is a business.

Ahead of this pre-fall season, Cathy Horyn of the New York Times wrote of the cyclical nature of fashion:

“The fall 2013 fashion season begins on the worn-down heels of fall ’12. Stores are marking down the stuff they couldn’t sell as designers present their new duds. There is no time to mourn in fashion, and apparently no room for a guilty conscience about the glut of clothes, since it keeps right on growing like a berserk house plant.”

According to Forbes, pre-fall collections, though “smaller-scale” than the main two collections, are “more commercial creatures” that hit the shelves “in time for stores to sell them at full price while summer inventory is on sale.” For this reason, designers may see pre-fall as an opportunity to bring in additional revenues between seasons, an approach admittedly used by designer Michael Kors.

"It has become the season [when] you sell the most clothes," Kors told Vogue about pre-fall in 2010. "And they're clothes that can be whatever season you want them to be. Often it just depends on what's on your feet."

The Telegraph, though, reported that pre-fall serves markets like the United Kingdom best, where the climate feels fall-like all year, as well as fashionistas, who may crave a mid-winter change.

“For anyone who's experienced the misery of trying to buy a warm coat in February when the snow is falling only to find the shops full of summer dresses, [pre-fall] can only be a good thing,” the Telegraph said.

However, Horyn noted that retailers this pre-fall season are not as interested in selling quantity as they are in looking for groundbreaking new trends.

“Store buyers have said they want to see more fashion in pre-season collections, not just a bunch of commercial clothes,” Horyn wrote.

Red Carpet Bait?

If trends must make their way from designers to the masses, how else could the masses find them without designers' use of celebrities? Pre-fall -- which lands serendipitously just before the Golden Globes Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Academy Awards -- provides additional wardrobe choices for starlets for awards season. Best of all, these gowns and dresses most likely have not yet appeared in the glossies, and in general they haven't been worn by others. For hardcore fashion critics, it's almost a sport to predict which dresses will be worn by stars once they are unveiled for the pre-fall season.

And the results back it up. So far this season, just under 20 celebrities (from my own personal tallying) have worn pre-fall 2013 designs hot off the runway, including Helen Mirren in Badgley Mischka, Allison Williams in J. Mendel, Jessica Alba in Oscar de la Renta, Lucy Liu in Carolina Herrera and Julianne Hough in Monique Lhuiller. And that’s just the Golden Globes' red carpet. There was also Claire Danes in Givenchy, Marion Cotillard in Christian Dior, January Jones in Prabal Gurung and Amanda Seyfried in Zac Posen, all in pre-fall collections at the SAG Awards.

Does It Matter?

All in all, while Forbes cited pre-fall as “often overlooked in the run-up to fall/winter presentations,” pre-fall indeed does matter, whether it forecasts fall fashion trends, drives sales or provides a myriad of choices for celebs.

So, if this pre-fall season indicates what fall has to offer, then designers this fall will very likely explore minimalism, using prominent details like folds and drapes, lady-like suits, leather and lace as an extension of the Spring 2013 trend, Scottish tartan, wild prints and patterns, and peek-a-boo sheers.