Friday evening, somewhere between the Gucci-jostling melee outside Bergdorf Goodman’s and the raucous, champagne-tippling dancing at the Soho Prada boutique, the second annual Fashion’s Night Out established its firm identity: It is Halloween, with slightly different costumes.
Last year, in its chrysalis, Anna Wintour’s brainchild was a more insular, tentative affair. The Voice team joined the bustling yet fairly modest party at Barney’s, hopping joyfully for commemorative photo flipbooks and oh-so-delicately imbibing all champagne within a 40-rack radius. We hopped the R down to Alexander Wang’s Opening Ceremony fete, which bustled with sartorial power players enviously pawing the Rodarte and pocketing Momofuku Bakery cookies. We left late, top-heavy with our souvenirs gleaned in the very most fashionable way: for free.
But, as the music industry has well determined, the path to retail solvency isn’t lined with gratis goodies, which may explain why this year’s Fashion’s Night Out was much more rowdily packed with diverse attendees and also costlier for the average one; unlike last year, almost every experience came with a price tag. From Fifth Avenue to Canal Street, the streets were overrun with shouting teenagers, lacquered fashion insiders, and various artistic ilk, all outfitted with mindful trendiness and nibbling from food carts. All events at the stores and on the sidewalks were open to the public, but we saw lines stretch for blocks at the Ace Hotel, Bergdorf’s and Mercer Street boutiques.
So while Friday was a far more inclusive evening, as Miz Wintour may have intended all along, it was unfortunately overcrowded enough to remain daunting to fashion newcomers. Also, with the emphasis on hosting off-kilter events instead of promoting sales, it’s hard to say whether this intended boon for retailers was successful, but the mammoth crowds were surely a morale boost.
Dispatches from a sea of gorgeously accessorized humanity:
1. The Voice team first hit up Bergdorf Goodman’s, where a massive queue pushed back nearly to the Plaza Hotel. We split for Barney’s, where precious Alexander McQueen-swathed Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington dolls adorned the entrance. Precocious fashion blogger Tavi played ping-pong (quite expertly) in the men’s denim outpost, designer Tom Brown’s silent Moonmen strolled the floors gamely, and Barney’s creative director Simon Doonan and actress Gretchen Mol posed with pewter pairs of Havianas. Caramel corn and potato chips were dispersed near a lackadaisical rendition of musical chairs, in which almost no contestants ran (not in those heels!) and the host routinely forgot to remove a chair between rounds. Everyone wins in the game of fashion. (Especially Tsarina Wintour, who was nearby at Rockefeller Center.)
2. The Ace Hotel’s Parisian-themed flea market in Flatiron was a tremendous draw; hip youngsters bottlenecked in every direction. Opening Ceremony’s carnival booth offered limited-edition t-shirts, and sprightly French designer Colette manned an adjacent polka-dotted ice cream truck, offering ribbon-tied sprigs of wildflowers to her shoppers (so impossibly French!).
3. The 3.1 Phillip Lim/Rag & Bone block party on Mercer Street was absolute insanity, with eager downtown types in flat boots, denim jackets, and camel parachute pants(?) crowding around the shuttered burger truck. Hip-hop and dance-pop pulsed from open boutiques and glittery twentysomething women screamed, “Wooo, fashion!” as they euphorically embraced strangers.
4. The Prada boutique on Broadway ran dry of champagne but not the loud and lively crowd, which ran slightly older than the boisterous masses on the Soho streets. Security guards warily eyed those clambering into the giant, circular glass elevator and gesturing animatedly over the handbags.
5. The Bond Street block party in East Village offered a relatively calmer experience, as Luke’s Lobster and BondST Lounge sold street food and hosted a ring-toss booth of champagne bottles, respectively. A lithe acrobat twirled inside a geometric cage and jugglers threw pins with abandon. Aside from a few independent designer tents and a Rogan-sponsored photo booth, there was less of a fashion presence than a foodie one (and do those twain often meet?). Nearby, at her dervish Bowery store, Patricia Field enticed the more glamour-seeking masses.
With the emphasis more on carnival spectacular than retail indulgence this year, next year’s Fashion’s Night Out should prove definitive: What does the retail world actually want this night to be? Keep the soi-adult trick-or-treating, make it inclusive but subtract the mob scenes, and we’ll be there with bells on.