At the September 10 kickoff of the New York edition of Fashion’s Night Out, among an unlikely cast that included Anna Wintour, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Michael Kors, Kate Hudson, the Broadway cast of Hair, and 1,000 Macy’s Queens fashion fans—who knew?—a whiff of success hung in the air. So I guess it was inevitable that someone pose the question to the evening’s key impresario, Queen Anna: “Will you do it again next year?”
“Ha, ha,” she answered. “It’s 6 p.m. Ask me tomorrow.”
Later, as I navigated Fifth Avenue, laden with shopping bags and boosted by booze, I struggled to negotiate the crowd-choked streets while speed-dialing friends to come out and play with me. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime evening,” I blabbed more than once.
And from where I stood, based on turnout alone, it was a monumental success. Vogue and Ms. Wintour had generated enough buzz that three-fourths of the Midtown-to-uptown stores I visited were mobbed with, well, if not shoppers, at least eager visitors.
Credit, I learned later, must also be shared with French Vogue editor Carine Restoin-Roitfeld, who lifted the idea from the French arts world’s Nuit Blanche, a night when theaters, galleries, and museums had thrown open their doors simultaneously and yielded a surprisingly strong turnout of patrons of the always-suffering fine arts.
With people literally dancing in the streets (Juicy Couture hired flappers) it was a night to remember. And that is why I’m really hoping that Vogue, C.F.D.A., and NYC & Company don’t go and ruin it by trying to make it bigger and better next year.
It happens all the time, at fetes both public and private. You’ll be tripping the light fantastic on the prow of a ship, or huddled with chic little glasses of port around dimly glowing tables after an uproarious dinner, and some fool will blithely announce, “We simply must do this again!” Everyone chimes in. The host, flattered and pressured at the same time, relents. The guests all cheer, and the wheels are set in motion for Le Grande Evening Part Deux.
For public events, the premature urge to repeat, like a child demanding to be reread a bedtime story, is based not on logic but on anticipated gratification: “I enjoyed it once; please, please, do it again.” But all events, even great ones with flappers running out into the streets, need to be evaluated in the cold, hard light of the coming days.
Did we make money? Did we make enough money based on the human and financial resources we put into this? Can we hit all these people up again next year?
In the case of Fashion’s Night Out, even a professional partygoer like myself is in no position to decide whether to hit the repeat button. As Simon Doonan said in his New York Observer column “Shop Till You Drop Off!,” “There is nothing quite like the prospect of a ‘shopping night’ to strike terror into the hearts of we retailers, especially wee retailers like me. The sight of non-shoppers and looky-loos eating our fancy hors d’oeuvres while we rack up bar bills, additional operating costs, payroll, electricity, etc., makes me homicidal.”
I was wildly impressed by the turnout, but it certainly wasn’t a universal one. After my heady jaunt uptown, I found a deserted J.C. Penney (despite an earlier Cindy Crawford appearance) and a surprisingly early-to-bed West Village. A friend told me not to even bother heading to the Upper West Side.
The problems with the urge to revisit a successful event are twofold. First, there’s event fatigue on behalf of partygoers. Most people already have a set of annual events they’re lined up for each year. Then there’s the prospect of catching lightning in a bottle a second time.
So the next time you are at a truly magnificent party—say, one with underwater fireworks, or monkeys on trapezes—and your fellow revelers are squealing with delight, why not find the host or hostess or whoever’s running the show and pay them the ultimate compliment: “This event is absolutely magnificent! Please don’t ever do it again!”