Fashion's Night Out: Carnival Edition? Why We're Really Here
The smell of popcorn wafted throughout the cobblestone streets of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District last night during the 3rd annual Fashion’s Night Out – an evening of champagne soaked, in-store parties helmed by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Spinning plates and pitchy music was the first visual fashion advocates saw as they made their way to the Meatpacking District. Popchip’s enticed all to visit their very own carnival with the help of celebrity Vanessa Hudgens handing out free bags of their salty chips, with your run of the mill carny counters and prizes inside. The theme trickled in to nearby designer stores, who their own soirees, handing out hand spun cotton candy and freshly popped popcorn (how do they get that smell out of the clothes?). Across town the Ace Hotel and Opening Ceremony played host to a campy, town carnival-esque street fair where water gun races and baseball tosses made young hipsters nostalgic for a time not so long ago as they gleefully won stuffed animals.
The masquerade of Fashion’s Night Out seemed to take over the world Thursday evening, stores globally partaking in the action while putting their own spin on the opportunity to lore in shoppers. Online chain stores such as Gap and American Apparel offered nighttime discount deals ending at midnight. But is that what Fashion’s Night Out is about? “The Big Sale”? It seems people have confused the original intention of the night, unless we never had it straight to begin with.
“It’s one big party,” Ashley Morrissey, an employee of New York University, explained, “you dress up with your girlfriends and sip free cocktails as you store hop and gawk at fashion and celebrities, all the while entering the raffles with the hope of scoring some designer wear.” In the Meatpacking District “party” certainly was the theme. The street was loaded with young professionals, glammed up and looking for the store that supplied the strongest cocktail and tastiest finger food. Stella McCartney on 14th held an “Invite Only” event that The Vogue City was lucky enough to attend. Guest DJ and fashionista Alexa Chung mingled with other big names such as Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes, Elettra Wiedemann and Bam Margera. The small, intimate crowd sipped mojitos and posed in the photo booth, enjoying the space before the crowds were let in later in the evening. An exclusive Stella Fashion’s Night Out bracelet was for sale but other than that no shopping was taking place whatsoever, no one even seemed to realize they were leaning up against racks of designer clothing. However, sales girls were sure to speak to every individual, urging them to fill out an information card to drop in the bowl for the prize drawing of a signed, limited edition Stella McCartney tee shirt.
“The goal is to have each of you return as consumers. Tonight is about landing new customers, not the sale,” a Moschino employee explained as she took my email donned raffle ticket for a leather Moschino bag. I sipped a blood orange cocktail as I gawked at Cyndi Lauper and observed absolutely no one shopping, taking notice to a thumping bass and screaming guitar riffs. The culprit? The store Vince, offering a live performance that drew in a packed house that spilled out onto their faux grass sidewalk. Just then the intention of FNO was quite clear. There is a silent competition between retailers – who can throw the best party and attract the largest crowd? The winner will in turn land the most emails since once they have you in their grasp you are assaulted with raffle tickets and thrown information cards with the promise of “free stuff.” Once filled out, voila! A potential new customer who is going receive weekly, perhaps daily, email blasts by their store. Even if you never plan on buying an article of clothing from them, you might consider it when you see an announcement of a 40% off sale in your inbox on Monday.
At the end of the day (or night in this case) Fashion’s Night Out is a win/win for retailers and consumers alike. “We,” the consumer, sip free drinks and enjoy a fun, original evening out with our friends while “They,” the retailer, attain email addresses from those who might never have set foot in their store otherwise, turning us into new customers without our knowledge. Until Monday that is when we groan over our clogged inbox. Intention revealed, goal achieved.
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