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The Art & Science of Shopping: Fashion’s Night Out

September 8, 2011 marked the third annual Fashion’s Night Out, a retail cause célèbre feted in major fashion capitals across the globe. The event is the brain child of Anna Wintour, who proposed it as a remedy to the recession and the lackluster sales comps that accompanied it. The now-international event dedicates one evening during NYC’s Fall Fashion Week to taking the customer experience to a whole other energy level. I’ve calendared this event for three years, but this was the first year I was actually in NYC to enjoy it. Shopaholic that I am, I was like a kid waiting for Christmas to come.

Like Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, on the evening before FNO there was a special preview party for press and fashion dignitaries of the Missoni for Target Collection at the namesake pop-up store located at the base of 1095 6th Avenue across from Bryant Park. I was lucky enough to score an invite to the event. As I waited on line to pay for my precious finds, a process that took longer than the actual shopping, I had the opportunity to admire the temporary shop décor as well as spot a few of the notable guests - Nina Garcia, Emma Roberts, and Mamma Missoni. The environment was very fun and surprisingly residential but with super-sized lampshades hanging about and a massive ‘puppet’ (for lack of a better term) in the center of the space being operated by two staff. I found out later that this puppet was the persona utilized during their massive pre-launch marketing campaign. I understand she showed up in a few unexpected places around town earlier in the week and am glad she didn’t take the subway.

Marina, the fashionista blogger, was the brain child of the marketing team that developed the Missoni for Target campaign. She roamed NYC during Fashion Week, tweeting & blogging as she went.

The next day I was totally consumed with mapping an itinerary for the evening. Anxious to know the extent of festivities, I Googled FNO and discovered it had its own website. It was quite a handy tool to plan one’s retail excursions. There was a master list of participating stores, and what events they had scheduled throughout the evening. As I scrolled through the store listings, I selected the stores I wanted to visit, creating a customized store list as I went. Then I printed out my list, and it was complete with a map that had the stores I had selected keyed on the map. Thanks to this map, I realized I would be riding the subway the better part of the evening if I didn’t do some strategic editing.

Then I remembered an email I had received from Lucky Brands a day or two before. I must have given them my email address at some point in time, as I get sale notices occasionally.. This email contained a “special invitation” to see Tim Gunn at their Soho Store for a signing of his new book as part of their FNO festivities. Well, that trumped everything. My daughter, age 12, and I are die hard Project Runway fans. This was a full blown mission: get to the store early enough to get in and see Tim Gunn! So I headed downtown from my office at 6PM, and exited the Prince Street Subway Station 15 minutes later.

As I ascended the stairs, I was thrust into the beginnings of a mob scene, albeit an extremely fashionable one. I made my way to the Lucky Store, where I shopped, played dress up with a variety of new looks, and made my necessary purchase to qualify for my free copy of Tim’s book, which he would sign upon his arrival. Like the rock star he has become, his arrival was fashionably late. I happily killed the time drinking mediocre (but free) wine and snacking on colorful designer macaroons (all the rage now) with a girlfriend who I coerced into joining me. Given my early arrival, I managed to be the first on line for the signing, and enjoyed a brief conversation with Tim and his ‘handler’ about the amber bracelet I was wearing that I had procured as my souvenir while in Moscow last April. I am pleased to report he was as lovely in person as he seems on the show. And I earned “cool Mommy points” for life when I bestowed Tim’s book upon my daughter.

So I guess I have to ask retailers the following:

Why is FNO an effort that only gets exerted once a year? The website (fashionsnightout.com) alone is a fabulous tool for tourists and natives alike, for charting a day’s shopping excursions. It should definitely be active all year round, if it isn’t already, and the retailers should update it regularly to include other events as they occur. I would go further to advocate that EVERY major city should have one of these websites. The website, which was operated by QVC for FNO in NYC, seems easy enough to replicate, and could be financed and managed through the marketing budgets of either the CFDA or at the city /state tourist bureau level. Seems a better alternative to the printed brochures found at rest stops along our Interstate highways.

And why load all the great activities into one night? Spread them throughout the year. Certain retailers complained in the press that the stores became too crowded and that the actual sales did not offset the cost of planned events. By spreading out the activities over the course of the year, the goal of improving the customer experience can be achieved without the need for crowd control and hopefully with some financial reward to the retailers. We don’t need Michael Kors dancing with the Rockettes on 5th Avenue on a regular basis (yes, he actually did that at his flagship), but people love, and unfortunately need, a reason to go out and shop.

Chatting with Tim Gunn at Lucky Brand’s FNO Book signing event.

Tim admiring my amber bracelet (high fashion snaps for me!)

Kathleen Jordan
Kathleen Jordan is a principal in Gensler’s New York office, and a leader of our retail practice with over 24 years of experience across the United States and internationally. Kathleen has led a broad range of retail design projects as both an outside consultant and as an in-house designer. She has led projects from merchandising and design development all the way through construction documentation and administration, and many of her projects have earned national and international design awards. Contact her at kathleen_jordan@gensler.com.

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  • Response
    An educated person is very much sensible. He never makes a decision that makes sense. It is due to this that everyone likes to take their opinion on the matter because they have the ability to analyze their problems well.

Reader Comments (1)

What a cute design! Anyway, talking about Fashion Night Out; how I wish I could be there. But I'm not special enough to be invited! LOL=))

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