NEW YORK My editors, and no doubt you readers, will be glad to know that I am going to skip the obligatory themed intro and get right into the meat of Fashion’s Night Out, the shopping bonanza organized for the night of September 10 by Vogue, NYC & Company, and the Council of Fashion Designers of America to get people out in stores and buying again.
Macy’s Queens Center
“Just jump on the R train,” Patrick O’ Connell, Vogue’s director of communications, told me. “It will be fun. Just find me and we’ll take it from there.” I wanted to ask a few questions of Anna Wintour, which I studiously wrote down in advance. My plan was to buy three of the official Fashion’s Night Out T-shirts and ask her one per signing. “That’s what she’s there for,” Patrick said. He is nice.
- In your editor’s letter and again this week in WWD, you refer to this “shopping is bad” mentality, which is particularly acute in this recession, and that even people who can afford to keep spending aren’t. What’s driving that?
- Did you donate clothes to the drive partnered with the event, which benefited the NYC AIDS Fund? If so, what?
- If the night is a success, will you follow in your colleagues Hamish Bowles and Oscar de la Renta’s footsteps and commit right here and now to a cabaret act next year?
I left my Chelsea apartment at 3:40 p.m. with a Landmark Liquor pink plastic bag laden with three newspapers plus yesterday’s New York Post’s 44-page Fashion’s Night Out section, a roll of mints, a goatskin journal that my friends at Graphic Image gave me (I want Ms. Wintour to think I have taste when I jot her answers), two pens, some water, sesame snacks, and two Fiber One bars. (The Daily Beast said they would help me lose weight.)
An hour and 10 minutes later—not 40 minutes as Google Maps predicted; thank God for the papers and snacks—I finally arrived and raced up Woodhaven Boulevard. The PETA demonstration let me know I was in the right place.
It was bedlam on the second floor. People were crowding escalators; there were hundreds of people in two separate areas. I bought my three T-shirts, which are light as a feather, but sales reps gave me a huge plastic Macy’s bag into which I dumped my Landmark Liquor bag. I found an attractive, official-looking lady with a clipboard and asked for Mr. O’Connell. She looked at me kindly, “I’ll try. Wait in the paddock.”
I started to object, but in looking around, I saw that the paddock was way better than the main floor, which was positively teeming with bodies.
I saw Eric Wilson, a fashion writer at The New York Times, so I figured this must be the place. I decided to interview him instead.
“Where are you going tonight?”
“Back to the office.” Jeez, what an overachiever.
I finally got him to admit he “might” go to Yves Saint Laurent for drag diva Joey Arias and then to Barneys to hear Justin Bond. When I admitted I didn’t really know who Justin Bond is he rolled his eyes. He told me that in London and Milan there were mob scenes for this event.
I look around the paddock and meet Michael Rodgers, New York district facilities manager for Macy’s. He estimated there were 1,000 people there and I do not doubt him.
The show was supposed to start at 5 p.m., but at 5:15 p.m., there was nothing doing. So I asked Michael what the hold up was and he said the mayor. Anna told WWD this event was going to be run like a military campaign with “battalions,” but that “there will be battalions that are more prevalent than others.” Mayor Bloomberg’s battalion was holding up the show.
Finally at 5:26 p.m., the train left the station. Macy’s C.E.O. Terry Lundgren introduced Michael Kors and Kate Hudson, who looked awkward and let Kors do all the talking. Maybe she felt awkward because she is not Blake Lively, the advertised celebrity.
Then the cast of Hair took the tiny stage and the whole mood changed. They were absolutely terrific and the sound quality was excellent. Three songs later, the room was transformed into a zone of felicity that even Michael Bloomberg’s lame bald jokes couldn’t mar.
Now Anna was just 10 feet away from me, dutifully signing shirts, but I was corralled in the paddock. Not wanting to cut in the line and concerned about missing the whole Manhattan thing, I decamped.
The way back took less than half an hour, making me too early for everything.
I knew he was in town, but he was not at his Madison Avenue store, said the manager. It was only 6:30 p.m., so neither was anyone else. I kept moving. He is Italian after all, and I felt dumb for asking.
Hay bales on the street and cowboy hats made the theme real clear at his store on Madison Avenue, which I had also just read about in today’s “Page Six.” My lengthy train reading session was starting to pay off. The small store was jumping. They were serving three kinds of drinks. Socialite Lisa Anastos was posing. I started to enjoy myself.
It still wasn't yet 7 p.m., thus quiet. Armani's Wanda McDaniel and PR director Jenia Molnar had time to chat me up.
Nora Ephron introduced Rosie O’Donnell, who performed a monologue from Nora and Delia Ephron’s upcoming play Love, Loss, and What I Wore. A waiter brought me champagne, and I learned that Nora is a long-time Armani client. Talk about perfect tie-ins.
I asked Wanda and Jenia about a recent episode of The Rachel Zoe Project, in which Rachel asked Armani to make two different trains for a beaded dress for Anne Hathaway at the last minute for the Oscars and then used neither. “She wore the dress and looked great,” Wanda said diplomatically.
I saw caterer Chris Robbins, who told me he had 10 events that night, including the other Armani store and a bunch of other things I can’t remember. He promised to send a picture of the food. There is no place to put the glass down anywhere—this is Armani—but a waiter appeared and offered his hand. Charming. But that technique was going to get tricky once it got crowded.
I was intrigued by two black leather bags in the window vitrines. A fancy looking guy didn’t invite me in but I peeked anyway. I wrote down “not a soul.” Later when I got home, I’d written the same note for Furla, Mikimoto, and Bulgari.
A cobbler was making shoes right by the front door. Did you know they hammer in every one of those little rubber nubbins on the soles by hand? A translator was there to fill me in but never actually asked the “artisan” any of my questions, she just answered for him. The hammering process was really loud and honestly didn’t look that hard. I asked, “How long does it take to make each pair?” hoping for some conversational traction. “About a day” was the not-so impressive answer.
By 8 p.m., the streets were packed. I had been concerned that there just wouldn’t be enough bodies to fill all these stores, but I was wrong. This was a huge success from a turnout standpoint. Whether stuff was selling I couldn’t tell. But by then I was having a blast.
Michelle Monaghan was there, wearing a short silver sequined number and too much makeup. I don’t know what she is famous for, but she was gracious. The New York Times Magazine’s men’s fashion editor, Bruce Pask, talked to me until a famous underwear designer came up.
Barney’s New York
I considered finding out all about Justin Bond and seeing if Eric Wilson was there, but I was distracted by the Glamour cupcake bus, which was efficiently passing small cakes through a vending window. Photographer Marina Garnier told me I shouldn’t have one, which made me feel bad, but I did anyway. It was scrumptious. I crumpled up the cupcake liner and threw it in my giant Macy’s bag, which by then had collected a plastic surgery brochure, a map of Fashion’s Night Out, a PETA flyer, a little plastic thing that looked like a baby pacifier, a bunch of crumpled napkins, and a bottle of some European soda.
Chanel had advertised a create your very own classic Chanel bag display, and I had been imagining for days what it would be like. I pictured a long row of rivets and chains and camellias and bedazzlers and glue guns and I just couldn’t wait.
But first I was going to buy some stuff. My mother wears Chanel No. 5 and my sister likes the lipstick, and I hoped that a Chanel shopping bag would dress up my now-ripped Macy’s bag with the unsigned shirts and snacks.
The first floor was hopping, thanks to DJ Omi, whose CD The MashUp Queen vol.2: Yummy Sexy Elecktro explains much better than I can her groovy vibe. Girls were getting outrageous makeup applications in every chair. Omi winked at me, and I was having fun spending a little money.
It must have showed because Erica Kasel, vice president of marketing, approached and said, “You look like you are enjoying yourself.” I told her that the scene there was much more relaxed and playful than I expected and she explained that they use the beauty part of the brand to make things more accessible, which makes sense. Upstairs is where the heavy hitters go. There was a giant Chanel bag, the one from last season’s runway show in Paris, not the one from the spaceship exhibit in Central Park. It is so hard keeping those giant Chanel bags straight.
I admitted to Erica that I was really interested in the invitation-only handbag-making, and like magic, I was taken behind a velvet rope. I glanced nervously at the fancy printed card, which said the bags are $3,400 for a classic and $3,600 for the jumbo (just like with soda, the bigger size is the better deal) and hoped that Erica wouldn't persuade me to upgrade from my little shopping bag. But she nicely handed me off to a bag engineer who explained that you really only get to pick the liner color for the inside and whether you want gold or silver hardware. Still, it was fascinating, and I fingered all the lambskin swatches. I also learned that at Chanel, they just call it the 1112 bag, which is so cool, and that if you want black then the liner must be burgundy, no homemade liner fooling around choices on the classic black Chanel handbag.
While I was wondering if they break the rule for J. Lo or Claudia Schiffer, I noticed that bags are being actively customized at other stations. I asked how long it would take to get my handbag made (by then I was thinking I might like one) and was told me six months. I tried to calculate how many pairs of Tod’s driving shoes I could get made in the same time. I asked whether there was a discount that night on the bags and learned that actually they were charging extra for the custom design work. Genius!
Society doyenne Barbara Tober whisked by with a giant Chanel shopping bag and I noticed that the little one I had only made my ripped Macy’s plastic bag with unsigned T-shirts look even more forlorn. I used my cupcake-expanded body to hide my shameful lack of retail prowess.
Is right next door to Chanel, but I couldn't for the life of me think what could be so fabulous that it had a few hundred people lined up. So I asked a few queuers who immediately thought I was trying to cut in. The line wasn’t moving at all and I estimated, oh, two hours before they would get to the door. They eventually let me in on the secret: Charlize Theron was inside, signing copies of Vogue. (She’s on the cover, ya know.)
Now listen. I’m not saying Charlize Theron is boring—her mother shot her father in front of her, which I say is interesting as heck—but really, with all the action on the street, not to mention free food and drinks in every store, this was what people lined up for?
Yves Saint Laurent
I love Joey Arias’s singing and have known him for years. I fantasized about running into Eric Wilson and asking him if he wanted me to introduce him to my pal Joey. Instead I went for the quick briefing where I learned that after Joey sand they were handing out “a few” reprints of the ad campaign and canvas bags like you get from pledging Channel 13.
Another huge crowd I couldn’t comprehend. I recognized a security guy who explained that Victoria Beckham had just arrived. It was like the Day of the Locust. I asked him how her disembarcation went.
“She’s tiny and moves very fast. No one could keep their eyes on her.”
He offered to take me in the side door, but I passed. I am afraid of getting lost in the big department stores. These shindigs are too big and too fabulous for little old me.
I am sure that Oscar de la Renta is a fine singer and, being Latin, can cut a mean rug, but the idea of Hamish Bowles singing Noël Coward songs at Juicy Couture (which is like the opposite end of the world from his Savile Row look, I think), sums up why Vogue deserves huge credit for the evening.
I arrived just in time. Juicy designer Gela Nash-Taylor has a big feature in Vogue this month and a crazy new campaign and the waiters had curlicue greasepaint moustaches and the look was all-over-the-map baroque, I guess.
Hamish was singing—he’s not bad—and people were applauding like crazy. His last song was “Charleston.” And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, there were two dozen flappers, all different shapes and sizes, doing a reasonable facsimile of the Jazz Age dance. The place went wild. It was a moment. It was the best moment of the night by far, and it had already been a night of great moments.
When the song ended, the dancers went running out in the street, waving their hands in the air as if they were going to jump in Gatsby’s pool. I wanted to follow them, but their departure haf made room for me to do some actual work.
I buttonholed Hamish first. He has a new ‘stache himself, at least new to me, and he was wearing a very dark suit, unlike his normal candy-dandy coloring. He copped to being nervous before he started, but once he was up there, he “loved it.” He was doing a second set, would it be the same? “Oh, who knows.”
I cut through here hoping to get a taxi when I came upon a house complete with traditional porches, yard, fences, and a nontraditional disco dance floor. Apparently House Beautiful has tried to get in on the act by putting one of those snap-together houses overlooking the rink area. It was cozy, with comfortable chairs and really fancy refrigerators. But because it made no sense, it was kind of empty. I added a copy of House Beautiful to my load, plus a bunch of other printed materials I assume are about floor coverings.
Despite an earlier Cindy Crawford appearance for her new home line being sold here under the inventive name of Style, the Fashion’s Night Out magic dust was not sprinkled here. A DJ played to some security guards. I tried to buy an umbrella since it was raining and I was on 33rd street, which feels like Siberia, but the checkout counter had not one cashier. I took a picture and wished I had more time to explore the giant store by myself. Maybe I could shoot a Webcam movie with a Twilight Zone feel?
By then it was 10 p.m. and the West Village was winding down, which surprised me. But the restaurants were jammed and it felt like I'd missed a parade. I regret not having started down here and ended uptown where I assume the action was.
There are, like, four Ralph Lauren stores on Bleecker Street—I can never tell which one is for which label, color, or product group, so don’t ask me. There was a mob scene at one with paparazzi. It was Blake Lively. Here she was, that two-timing hussy. (The other double dipper was Taylor Momsen, whose band played at the Teen Vogue Perry Street block party and at Versace uptown.)
I asked if the designer was there or at her scheduled cook-off with Padma Lakshmi at Bergdorf, but she was doing fittings for her show the next day. Poor dear.
If you work in New York runway fashion, this must have been nightmare timing. I wonder if next year they are going to start having Fashion Week before Labor Day.
There was a guy making balloon sculptures. Maybe it wa the hour, but it looked really lame. When I first read about it, I thought it made perfect sense with Cynthia’s girlish sensibility.
It was time to go home. I was tired. But I kind of didn’t want to go home. Who knows if there will ever be a night as crazy fun as this again, and I didn’t want it to ever end.