Americans Behaving Badly: What’s The Real Reason Behind The Disappearance Of Fashion’s Night Out?

September 11, 2013  |  

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week arrived in all of its well-heeled, perfectly-accessorized splendor last week and with it, a flurry of blog posts, tweets and even New York Times articles. But for the first time in four years, the first Thursday of fall Fashion Week passed without a Fashion’s Night Out in New York.  The brainchild of Anna Wintour, FNO launched during the 2009 recession in NYC, and “had expanded to stores in over 500 cities nationwide and 30 cities around the globe,” according to WWD.

Last year, the “powers that be” (Vogue, the CFDA and NYC & Co., that is) all decided to pull the plug on FNO.  According to Steve Kolb, the chief executive officer of the CFDA, “[After each FNO] we would always return to what was our original mission and purpose and that was to reinvigorate the shopping experience and the consumers’ engagement in stores. After this last one, we felt we had really created this renewed presence at retail that really brought added value and a fun experience back to shopping.”

Goodbye to free cocktails, dance parties with DJs and celebrity appearances by everyone from Victoria Beckham and Nicole Richie, to Pharrell and Kanye West.

Notice that I wrote “goodbye” — not “adios,” “sayonara,” or even “ciao” (which would be much more apropos in the fashion world).

That is because the FNO party train only stopped in the U.S. this year.  Here in the States, tweets like those of attorney and TV commentator Midwin Charles proliferated my timeline: “Dearest fashionistas: what the hell happened to Fashion Night Out???????? #FNO #RIP #NYFW”.

Elsewhere though, the #FNO hoopla was in full effect. Christian Louboutin posted a pic of its latest shoe, the camo Keny. There were pictures and commentary from attendees at FNO parties thrown by Vogue Germany and Vogue India and even Vogue Australia.  Additional tweets indicated FNO festivities in France, Brasil, Hong Kong and South Africa.

Contrary to popular belief, it would seem that Fashion’s Night Out is alive and thriving. In fact, Nicky Eaton of Condé Nast International confirmed to WWD that “19 countries will be participating in 2013. Thailand and Ukraine will be hosting FNO for the first time.” But nothing in the United States?

The cause of FNO’s stateside demise may have been fiscally-based – at least in part. Started during the recession, FNO’s goal of stimulating revenue was apparently not met.  There were no discounts in conjunction with the event so those who found Louis Vuitton prices exorbitant on any other day did not have a change of heart just because it was FNO. Additionally, the ubiquitous champagne flutes — which initially may have been introduced as a way to loosen purse strings — soon became synonymous with the best places to party for free at FNO.

Year after year, the event became less retail and more social. Crowds grew and began spilling into the streets. When boutiques closed, crowds did not dissipate. Instead, they grew restless looking for food, entertainment and of course, more drinks. Last year, the copious amounts of free alcohol and the sizable crowds led to a small riot in Soho. “I guess that’s what happens when you gather an enormous crowd, get them drunk… and then remind them that they can’t afford any of the pretty things that you’re waving in their faces,” says blogger Beth Hammarlund.

Kolb and others can sugarcoat it, but bad behavior appears to be the real reason that Fashion’s Night Out was cancelled indefinitely here in the U.S. A free party in the name of fashion was not the original intent of the FNO sponsors. Here in the States though, that is what it became. The fact that FNO went on as scheduled in some countries, and even made its debut in others, indicates that the event is still worthwhile in the eyes of its creators.  But like a party guest who overstays their welcome, as Americans, our party privileges have simply been revoked.

Karen J. Francis is a freelance writer and media attorney living in New York City.  Please follow her on Twitter @karebelle.

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