Fashion’s Night Out or Ouch?

The LeSportsac pedicabs were the best way to get around town on Fashion’s Night Out.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been a cheerleader for Fashion’s Night Out since the day it was first announced over four years ago. In fact, that first year I was on the committee in the Meatpacking District along with Diane von Furstenberg and Theory to rally the neighborhood retailers as there were plenty of skeptics. Naturally, Anna Wintour and the Vogue initiative prevailed and the event continues to grow, especially on a global scale. The 4th Annual Fashion’s Night Out was another zoo-like situation, especially in the Meatpacking District. With long lines to get into stores, blaring dueling DJ’s in the streets and plastic cups strewn on the ground, it was like a weekend street fair. And when I say street fair, I mean it in the most loving, downmarket kind of way.

My questions from last year’s FNO recap still stands:

1. Did the retailers clock monumental sales? Any sales?
2. How much will the benefiting charity get this year?
3. How much did they get last year?

In the spring I had a great conversation with my contact at Conde Nast who is on the team that spearheads the initiative. We met up at a Soul Cycle class and talked about the evolution of FNO. My biggest note was that Vogue needed to bump up the communication of the fundraising component. In small print on the FNO website we learn that proceeds from the sale of the official FNO T-shirt benefits the New York City AIDS Fund in the New York Community Trust. That is a good thing to know. But what is a better thing to know is that that this Fund has granted over $19 million dollars since 1989 to one hundred and eighty organizations. How many of last night’s revelers knows this compelling ditty?

After seeing how enthusiastic and motivated consumers are that come out in droves to suck down all the free booze and “shop”–using the term loosely here–there is so much more to do altruistically speaking. All this good-will can be harnessed and the giving aspect of this event can be multiplied exponentially. Many brands are grumbling about Fashion’s Night Out and it would be a crying shame to let this fantastic global platform peter out because the ROI (a term that scares the beJesus out of me) cannot be realized immediately.

We are a generous society and although our economy is suffering, people are still willing to step out and do something for the greater good of mankind. Perhaps several charities can become beneficiaries of FNO and each retailer can select an organization that is more in keeping with their DNA (another scary term) to justify their investment. Rather than let thousands of tire-kickers and looky-loos get away with doing nothing, there must be a way to expand the fundraising aspect of this event with a call to action that allows people to participate in a way that is more meaningful. Fashion’s Night Out has a similar vibe to New Year’s Eve. If we embrace the charitable aspect of the event, then it’s success will be quantifiable. My suggestion is to create an FNO Fundraising Committee that includes other media outlets, engages a series of charitable organizations so that we come together to drink, shop, and be of service. The potential to establish a global fundraising force on an unprecedented scale is within our reach. Anna Wintour has created a fabulous monster, one that can still be tamed.

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