Three years after Vogue’s Anna Wintour spearheaded the inaugural Fashion’s Night Out party in New York to stimulate recession shopping, the FNO party continues as a glorified pub and swag crawl. Answering the call, the shop-lined streets of New York neighborhoods from SoHo to the Meatpacking District were chockablock with fashion lovers and fortune seekers yesterday evening. Perhaps because the night competed with Barack Obama’s scheduled DNC speech, or because the evening event wasn’t conducive to getting to work on a Friday morning, the crowd seemed to skew younger this year, serving retailers a bevy of twentysomething customers to woo with on-brand freebies that would inspire fashion fans to shop.
No matter what the swag, eager lines of potential customers waited patiently to get their gift before moving on to the next opportunity. And there were many other treats.
At Prada’s SoHo megastore, attendees were treated to a free performance by indie-pop band Chairlift while just across the street, Forever 21 comped waiting guests with “mocktails.” At Express, the giveaway was a scented fabric bracelet and photo-ops with the reigning Miss America and ANTM alum Lisa D’Amato. Karen Millen’s SoHo boutique gave customers complimentary manicures.
Around the corner, the Apple store hosted a talk with Jeff Ng aka jeffstaple, the designer behind Nike’s skateboarding shoe the Nike Dunk SB Low Pigeon. Basketballer Dwyane Wade posed for photos with fellow Olympian Ryan Lochte and signed copies of his new memoir at Calvin Klein’s Madison Avenue boutique.
Other stores kept it simple, providing an open bar set to a DJ soundtrack. French Connection and Michael Kors’ SoHo stores, and Meatpacking’s Hugo Boss and DVF shops were straight-up nightclubs. At Tracy Reese, lovers of the brand favored by Michelle Obama rocked out in the store window.
Not every FNO attendee was on the hunt for a goodie bag or unlimited alcohol. Friends Bhoranie Seide, LaQuelle Mills, and Jaunita Holmes made their way through the glutted streets seeking inspiration. Seide, 26, is a wardrobe stylist and Holmes, 26 is a design student. Visiting New York from Atlanta for the first times, Holmes says she specifically came up for Fashion Week, which kicks off with FNO. “[The] experience, exposure, inspiration… I’m just taking it all in,” she told theGrio. Pointing out another FNO reveler, Holmes added, “A bedazzled daishiki is walking down the street — I can’t get that in Georgia.”
Designer Lola Faturoti agreed FNO was a good inspiration source. “Normally I run away from FNO,” she admitted in Issey Miyake’s Hudson Street shop, noting she was only there to support a family member who works for the brand. “It’s just too many people.” But, she added, there was something inspirational about all the style on the streets. “You have all these kids dressing to their best.”
Crowds notwithstanding, not every retailer joined the party. Ralph Lauren and subsidiary Club Monaco chose not to repeat the mega fest they held two years ago. Though employees weren’t sure why the corporate office had made the decision to opt out this year, they were happy to focus on just managing customer traffic without the added drama of alcohol and a DJ.
“We’re keeping the store open a little longer,” one Club Monaco staffer explained, to accommodate the waves of incoming traffic, but that was it. And truthfully, they didn’t have to. Thanks to their prime location and the events surrounding them, they still benefited from the swirl of activity — even if the younger demographic and party vibe doesn’t fit the carefully cultivated lifestyle brand that targets 30-something professionals, many with demanding careers and/or children. Perhaps a spinoff called Fashion’s Day Out is in order.
That’s something to consider for the future. For now, this was a great way to kick off New York City Fashion Week, which promises even more style inspiration in the days to come.