Now that all of the world’s Fashion’s Night Out [FNO] ‘celebrations’ have concluded, and I experienced being at the epicenter of one of the biggest ones, I have decided to declare that any and all forthcoming Fashion’s Night Out events are out of fashion to attend.
FNO was the brainstorm of Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. It was created to coincide with New York Fashion Week and to stimulate retail sales after a dismal fall season during the 2008 recession. Since then, the event has become huge, proliferating to cities around the world. Underwritten by retailers and corporate sponsors, a portion of sales is designated to go towards various charitable causes. But a review of the website dedicated to FNO does not clearly spell out where the giving goes.
Skeptical about the spectacle at best, I happened to be in Milan, by happenstance on the night of Fashion’s Night Out. And even though Anna Wintour herself is no longer even associated with the event she helped to create, we just had to go see what all the fuss was about – just like moths to a flame.
Milan’s fashion district is in a ghetto-like quarter of the city, interconnected by cobblestoned pedestrian streets and private palazzos, now home to chic boutiques and headquarters to innumerable top high fashion brands. So I put on my ghetto fabulous best for the fest because in Milan, fashion is a visual international language that buys you access into places, especially when you are just one of a half million people vying for entry into those same places.
Still, wearing a couture quality garment doesn’t exactly part the masses on a narrow pedestrian street that suddenly becomes standing room only. The only times my pricey [and very tastefully designed] Gucci shirt seemed to work in my favor were when there were back-ups to get into stores, like Gucci itself. While we were patiently waiting to enter Gucci, a woman with fake “everything” pushed past us along with her camera crew, but was shooed away by the front door security crew. We were soon after allowed in, no doubt because they wanted to be assured she didn’t forcibly storm in along with her nasty attitude.
Once inside, we grabbed drinks in plastic cups, perused luxury goods on the main floor, and headed upstairs to look at actual clothes. We eyed some nice goods, as well as some truly ghetto-like Gucciwear I suspect are popular with the Jersey Shore sort of crowd, and upon turning back toward the rest of the collection made a gorgeous discovery: the Gucci white bicycle. As I admired it, a woman sales associate noticed me admiring this two-wheeler as I was wearing my Gucci ghetto fabulous printed shirt, and she took out her camera and snapped a shot of me with the bike. How wonderful for her. So I decided to take a photo of the bike, especially since no one could be bothered to help me. And as soon as I did, the bouncer-like security man approached me to say in English with a heavily Italian accent, “No photo!” And so it went.
Store after store, we entered and exited with a desire to shop but no one could be bothered to help. Their only interest was to control the behavior of the crowds. What was the point of this fashion farce, I wondered? It certainly couldn’t be for commerce.
Back on the street, there was performance art, body painting in store windows, vamping, and blaring music. And you could barely move. They may as well have named the event the “S & P 500K,” where S & P stand for Stand and Pose and 500K refer to the number of people standing and posing, and drinking, and hardly shopping.
In the post-recession era, chic shoppers prefer discretion and would never consider making large purchases in the presence of hundreds of people crammed into their favorite boutique. The reason for Fashion’s Night Out is passé, even though we’re still in a recession. It’s an expensive event to put on, and ultimately, these costs are passed on to the consumer. In a day and age when consumer prices are climbing with little justification, I want to see that high quality merchandise and meaningful, high quality events are designed for the right crowd.
I love fashion.
But Fashion’s Night Out? It’s out!
Joseph Rosenfeld helps high-profile individuals revitalize, manage, and be secure in their personal visual brand. Visit JosephRosenfeld.com for details.