It was the Shopping Pride Parade. The Shopping Carnival. The Shopping Spree to End All Shopping Sprees.
Fashion’s Night Out closed down the streets of half of New York City last night as designers, starlets, singers, celebrities and ecstatic throngs of shoppers and gawkers took a break from this long cold recession for one giant party.
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Anna Wintour kicked off the evening in Queens, where she cut the ribbon at Macy’s, with Michael Kors at her side, and then sauntered over to a gleaming white table to warmly greet her fans. Back in Manhattan, fashionistas everywhere were breaking into song: A spontaneous chorus arose of “As Time Goes By” at Oscar de la Renta’s store, with the designer joining Sara Jessica Parker, Barbara Walters and Bette Midler. At Juicy Couture, Hamish Bowles entertained the crowd with Noel Coward songs. At Intermix, Sienna Miller belted John Lenon’s “Oh Yoko.”
At Barneys, crowds stormed the bar on one floor, waiting for super-late fashion twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, while on another floor, Jonathan Adler entertained chipper fans by throwing clay pots on a wheel. Grammy-winner Janelle Monae, in full tuxedo, signed cds at a jam-packed MAC store in SoHo, where girls and boys both played with make-up, drank frosty old-fashioned Coca Colas and snacked on pulled-pork and pickled onion sliders. Just outside, a Good Humor truck covered in bumper stickers for designer Rachel Roy served up Snow Cones and Creamsicles to the hungry hordes. Uptown, Rosie O’Donnell staged a reading of a Nora Ephron play over cocktails and snacks at the Armani store. Downtown, the line to get into the Opening Ceremony boutique wrapped around a city block. Two dancers vogued in the storefront windows, while hundreds of cheerful hipsters passed through a high-fashion street fair: Rodarte totes were for sale from the back seat of a red Plymouth convertible, Band of Outsiders designer Scott Sternberg sold ties and handed out Momofuku thai cookies from one truck. There was Mexicon food on offer at the Tory Burch boutique, where Russell Simmons made a pit-stop mid-way through the night, and vegetarian pizza at Stella McCartney.
Traffic came to a standstill around town. Taxis refused to enter SoHo or go anywhere near Madison Avenue. Never has so much junk food been consumed in the name of fashion.
• Tina Brown: How Anna Turned It 'Round Around the globe, the editors of Vogue’s sister publications were busy hosting parties in their own cities. In Paris, in true Wintour fashion, French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld rushed around to the top events -- such as a shindig at the Dior boutique on avenue Montaigne, and the sewing party at Fendi. Karl Lagerfeld, meanwhile, held down the fort at Chanel down the street. In London, models Claudia Schiffer and Natalia Vodianova partied with photographer Martio Testino at Burberry’s flagship store on Bond Street, and Daisy Lowe modeled looks at Chanel. In Milan, Donatella Versace arrived in a whirlwind at her store on Via Montenapoleone, and Eva Cavalli served as a personal stylist to shoppers at Roberto Cavalli. The place to be in Rome, meanwhile, was Tod’s, as guests crammed the long street, Via della Spiga, outside the store.
Without question, Fashion’s Night Out was the biggest, loudest, wildest and giddiest global shopping event in history. Stores from New York to Paris to London were stuffed with shoppers and celebs. From the looks of it, after a year of economic meltdown, the fashion industry may be back for good.
Staged by Anna Wintour, sponsored by Vogue, NYC & Company and CFDA, last night’s event was the fashion industry’s coming-out party after icy economic climes. In the words of Vogue, shopping this year has become “an activity that these days feels as socially questionable as allowing the kids to play on the beach even though the sunscreen was used up hours ago.”
Last night’s event was a massive effort to turn it all around. It was a call to arms to pull out that plastic, swipe it with dignity—and carry those shopping bags out of the store with a sense of pride. “The goal is to get people into the stores,” said Ed Hogikyan, the head of marketing for NYC & Company, the city’s PR firm. “We’re almost giving people permission to do that again.”
It wasn’t hard for Wintour to get New York City on board. The fashion industry in New York consists of 800 companies (double that of Paris), employs 175,000 people and generates $10 billion in total wages, according to the mayor’s office. “Fashion is vital to New York’s economy,” said Mayor Bloomberg at a press conference in May. It “does a fantastic job projecting an exciting and attractive image of New York City to the world.” As a result, the city paid for the distribution of 200,000 fliers at major transportation hubs to promote Fashion’s Night Out. It paid for advertising in phone booths and on public service announcements. Not to mention the four double-decker Greyhound buses—fully wrapped in Fashion’s Night Out signs—which cruised the city streets for two weeks before the event. According to Hogikyan, the city spent about $750,000 in advertising alone for Fashion’s Night Out.
In the words of Vogue, shopping this year has become “an activity that these days feels as socially questionable as allowing the kids to play on the beach even though the sunscreen was used up hours ago.”
The city’s efforts underscore a major goal of the night—and one not usually associated with fashion: democracy. Anna Wintour cut the ribbon for the event at Macy’s in Elmhurst, Queens; Hamish Bowles hobnobbed at Juicy Couture; and (unlike the events in the tents) everyone was invited to everything. For one night, you could rub elbows with any celebrity in the business, but Wintour’s message was obvious: You better buy something, dammit!
While it’s too early to tell how much designers actually earned on Fashion’s Night Out, the evening served more as a means of getting people in the shopping mindset again. It was a pep rally for fashion. “Consumers have been trained that everything is going on sale,” said Hogikyan. “How do you re-train the consumer to pay retail?”
After a terrible year, it’s certainly going to be a challenge. But in an industry that may seem like the last to recover, consumer confidence is the most important ingredient. And what was Fashion’s Night Out if not a good dose of confidence, sprinkled all over New York? “One night isn’t going to change the world,” said Hogikyan. “But it can be a catalyst for long-term change in people’s attitudes.”
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Isabel Wilkinson is an assistant editor at The Daily Beast.