The Important Lesson of Fashion’s Night Out

By GamalHennessy

Maybe youlike Fashion’s Night Out, maybe you don’t. Considering the annual event is onlyin its third year, I understand if you are still on the fence about it. That’show I feel too. I want to dislike it, but it makes a point that nightlife could learn from.

This year, Idecided to join in the festivities by attending the Armani party on Madison Avenue. While this excursion didn't make me fall in love with FNO, it did prove two things to me. First cougars enjoy groping young,well-dressed black men. Second, it is hard to deny that FNO, like the Fashion Weekevent that spawned it, gives the fashion industry attention and buzz thatimproves the industry’s image exponentially.

Image andSpectacle
One of themajor strengths of fashion is its ability to generate spectacle and manipulateimages. FNO is a perfect example of this. Described in marketing terms, thenight creates positive energy among a very desirable demographic (the ladiesthat spend money on clothes) and encourages brand interaction (going to thestore, getting excited about clothes and ultimately buying something). Thenight is covered by media at all levels before, during and after the partiesstart, creating an attention tsunami that drowns out almost everything else.

Yes, it encouragescougar groping. Yes, it encourages amateurs to get sloppy. Yes, it has thepotential to an annual nightlife train wreck of the same magnitude as New Year’sEve, Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day. But none of that really matters in the endbecause people eat it up. If defines the conversation people have aboutfashion. No one talks about the price of the clothes, possible sweatshop laboror the negative body image coming out of fashion. They just get hear about aparty, get excited, go out and associate fashion with a good party.

Learningfrom the Masters
FNO issimilar to Restaurant Week, Spa Week & the Tribeca Film Festival in termsof their public impact. Each event improves the image of and generates interestin those respective activities.

Nightlifedoesn’t follow this model. In fact, nightlife operators schedule many of their majoropenings and events around Fashion Week to ride the long tail of media hype(see the New York Times article here).This is a missed opportunity. There is more than enough good energy innightlife to create a spectacle and improve the image. Music, dance, mixology,social interaction, sexual expression and yes, even fashion all converge tomake nightlife what it is. Why not harness that energy create the biggestspectacle of all?

Nightlife hasan image problem both in the mainstream press and within the culture itself. Ifwe take a page from FNO we can change that.

Have fun.