Last night, we hit the NYC streets to take in Fashion's Night Out in all it's glory. We saw lots of great stuff from Miss Piggy to Justin Bieber to The Roots. What we didn't see? A whole lot of shopping bags--which made us wonder: Does Fashion's Night Out really work? Well, sort of.
We asked a random sampling of roughly 100 people, from events spread all around the city, and found that nearly 70% of party-goers hadn't purchased anything. "We're out more to take it in, experience the night than to shop," 22-year-old student Elsa Goh told us.
"It's too crazy to get into anywhere to shop," said a trio of girls in SoHo, Shala (Astoria, Queens), Juliana (Manhattan) and Wira (Harlem).
For many, the night's value lies in the festivities (and free alcohol), rather than the retail opportunities. "People just come for the drinks," said Morgan Cros, a 27-year-old Brooklynite.
It's a sentiment that retailers are beginning to catch onto. Kenneth Cole, who hosted a live performance by Parachute and posed for pictures with fans, told WWD last night, “I don’t think tonight is about sales." But added, "If tonight works then everything else will work out later.”
Eunice Lee, the designer behind SoHo hotspot Unis, told us that the night was more about promotion, than retail. "A lot of people I have talked to in my neighborhood have all said the same thing--no one actually buys anything in small boutiques," she said. "During the day before my official FNO event I have a normal day of sales...but during FNO’s event my sales: $0. Customers are too busy party hopping."
She added that the cost of hosting the event--something customers may not even be aware of--can offset profits anyways. "We are now required to have liability insurance for the evening. I have to supply beverages if I can’t get a sponsor. This year I decided to get security as well. It gets stressful trying to figure out event planning."
Lee still finds value in the event--just not in the retail aspect. "We, the designers, have become accessible to our customers for that one evening," she said. "I meet a ton of my customers and neighbors. I make the most of it at this point. The hope is that with a little bit of September bite in the air....all these party hoppers will get in the mood to shop over the weekend!"
Indeed if the night is lacking in sales, it makes up for it in customer/brand interaction. "I can't really afford much on a teacher's salary," Gia, 25, at Tom Ford said. "But I got to taste caviar for the first time!"
"At this point, the best thing about it is that it makes designers accessible to non-fashion folks," said a women's magazine editor who did not wish to be named. "It's a chance for everyone to get involved in fashion and be face to face with their favorite designers and buyers. That's always a good thing!"
Indeed, for brands like Opening Ceremony and Saks--who can pull big-name hosts and have the funds to invest in a great event--the night can be a great way to attract new customers and create a buzz around their brand. Brooks Brothers staffer Mirabel, who spent the night at Saks, told us that while she wasn't planning on buying anything, she likes Fashion's Night Out because she would otherwise be intimidated to go into the stores. "It's cool to see the clothes you see in magazines," she said. " It doesn't seem as unattainable."
Of course there are certainly those who do make purchases--whether because of the frenzy surrounding the night, a special discount, or simply because they saw something they liked. "I bought a full price top from Topshop and a necklace on sale from Free People," said NYU student Cynthia Glidden. "I probably wouldn’t have bought these pieces if it wasn’t FNO. I think I was doing it because of the hype but I still think they were both good purchases."
But for those in the fashion industry, the night presents a slightly different challenge. “A packed schedule is what I would call it," Donna Karan told WWD last night. "I have four shows this week: Donna Karan, DKNY, Urban Zen and Haiti. Every free second of the day I’m doing yoga. I wish I was in a yoga class right now!”
Now, with Fashion's Night Out positioned as the kick-off for Fashion Week, designers like Karan have to plan and attend a Fashion's Night Out event in addition to producing a runway show (or four in the case of Karan). "As someone who works in fashion, I think it's too much," said a magazine staffer. "But for the other 99% of the population it's probably perfect timing!"
Of course, this is only a small (NYC-centric) picture of the night-long event and all it's benefits and disadvantages, so we'd like to hear from you: Did you buy anything last night?