Au Revoir Fashion’s Night Out

The CFDA and Vogue announced today that Fashion’s Night Out is going on a “hiatus” in the United States. It was fun while it lasted, but like any overheated romance, it had to come to an end.

Revellers party at Prada's SoHo flagship | Source: Business Insider

LONDON, United Kingdom — It seemed like a good idea, and for a short while it was: for one night of the year, in balmy September, stores along New York’s Fifth Avenue, Lower Broadway and in the city’s Meatpacking district — everyone from high-end brands like Gucci and Stella McCartney to mid-market names such as Ann Taylor and Guess — stayed open late into the night, welcoming would-be-shoppers and treating them like VIP’s, or at least like part of the otherwise impenetrable fashion community.

To this end, designers and hired celebrities appeared in stores and mingled with guests while deejays and free drinks provided the setting of a surprisingly democratic fashion party. Goodie-bags were handed out and — in a laudable effort — forty percent of the proceeds from special FNO-branded merchandise sold during the event went to the New York City AIDS Fund.

Yet today’s announcement, in WWD, that until further notice Fashion’s Night Out will no longer take place in American cities suggests that all that fun may have come at too high a cost.

It all started in 2009, at the height of the economic crisis, as a vehicle to boost the struggling U.S. clothing industry. Jointly sponsored by Vogue, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and the City of New York’s tourism agency, the thinking went that if shoppers could be induced to just step into the stores and were plied with free drinks and entertainment, they would return and spend money. In addition, the media coverage of the highly publicised event would reach millions of consumers outside of New York (through the pages of Condé Nast magazines and its web domains), helping restore consumer confidence even among those who weren’t out on the streets of Manhattan.

What happened?

People did turn up, in hordes, giving the impression to organisers that theirs was a winning plan. FNO became a yearly event and by 2009, every medium-sized American city had its own version, while international editions started sprouting up around the globe, from London and Madrid to Seoul and Mexico City. But as it spread like a virus, did anyone stop to assess Fashion’s Night Out’s real merits and weigh them against the possible shortcomings of the expensive production?

While the so-called celebration of shopping did attract more in-store traffic, increased numbers of people did not necessarily translate into increased sales. More importantly, the event soon turned into a circus, as more and more crowds showed up for the complimentary champagne and to take photographs of the stars. One consequence was that serious shoppers stayed away that day, to avoid what often devolved into a boozy street-fest. As the party element became the focus of the proceedings, the intended sales-boosting element was all but forgotten, and it became increasingly difficult to take Fashion’s Night Out seriously.

But staging the event came at an extraordinary cost for participating stores, who often only took part because everyone else was doing it and out of fear of falling out of favour with the powerful organisers. And as the event’s popularity increased, brands had to invest more in order to compete with other stores and offer something that stood out and had at least the veneer of exclusivity. The bottom line was that the extravagant once-a-year expenditure not only failed to generate sales, but also became an unnecessary distraction, especially for emerging brands, who would have been better served spending their money on more fruitful projects.

The official story released today is that FNO is going ‘on hiatus’ even though it was an unqualified success. In any case, the decision is the right one, as it will allow designers to reallocate their budgets on more worthwhile revenue-generating initiatives.

It was fun while it lasted, but like any overheated, unsubstantiated romance, it had to come to an end.

Editor’s Note: This article was revised on 28 February, 2013. An earlier version of this article misstated the year that Fashion’s Night Out was launched. It was 2009, not 2008.

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  1. FNO is just not into the US anymore it will still take place in 19 other countries. It’s not really over, its just over for us.

    Fashionisgreat from Maspeth, NY, United States
  2. Excellent analysis. I’ve always been very skeptical of Fashion Night Out. Indeed it seemed much more like a party that strained resources than a night where people actually shopped. I know many in the fashion industry who purposely stayed away from the spectacle.

    Although, didn’t it start in 2009? I’m pretty sure that was the first year, not 2008.

    jacqueline | the hourglass files from Chicago, IL, United States
  3. You can replace “Fashion’s Night Out” with “New York Fashion Week” in this story and you’ll have an accurate story about the future.

    All fashion shows and events have turned into a circus that have high costs and generate little money. They don’t connect with consumers and the outlandish fashionistas have started turning away the buyers.

    This the sound of the Fashion Show Bubble bursting.

    Matthew Mountford from Fremont, CA, United States
  4. excellent analysis ! truly an eye opener on the amount brands had/have to spend on marketing and gimmicks

    ritu jadwani from United States
  5. Having opened our atelier in West Hollywood and hosting an FNO event along with attending Fashion Week in NY, I am really happy to hear this event is over. Both events, while having great intentions, turned out to be a circus, inviting clowns from every genre to get free this and free that and drink way too much.
    We never hosted another FNO event again. Our items remain exclusive, and while we may have had several items on celebrities, our focus has been on our private clients that can appreciate our collection.
    It is so sad to see what fashion has become; designers want to be stars while stars want to be designers. It is no longer about the clothing, it is about ego and profit.
    The market is now flooded with too much and it all looks the same.

    David Klein from Monterey Park, CA, United States
  6. It is sad to hear the cancellation of FNO in US, but it is a good news for other countries to organize it better to suit the need of the brand and make some changes. It is and always been a great opportunity to promote the brand and make a few sales along the way. Hence, It did not evolved properly for some brands, specially the very high-end ones.Also i have to point out it is a very best venue for lower brands in the industry and they should continue it.
    As a fashion designer i suggest that the very high-end brands stay clear out of this FNO. Instead they can have a twice of a year exclusive night
    out for their listed main customers as an introduction to a new season collection and have another night out for young fashion bloggers and fashionistas so they can promote the brand, and both these groups must not mixed together because their needs are different, therefore it should be addressed and organized accordingly

    pierre garroudi from London, London, United Kingdom