By Gamal Hennessy
Fashion Week and New York nightlife go together like models and bottles. There will be hundreds of official and unofficial events, parties and shows going on while the tents are up. A, B and C list celebrities will spend more time drinking and taking pictures than they will spend sitting by the runway. But why are these two industries so enamored with each other? What is the connection? There are a variety of reasons both superficial and fundamental that link these two industries and many of the people who inhabit both worlds.
There are several reasons that boil down to the hustle. The fashion industry is a business. Like any business, they need to generate excitement and positive energy when they are trying to sell their goods. Seducing buyers, marketers and writers from around the world with beautiful women, liquor and music might not be the best way to make them happy, but the best way is probably illegal.
At the same time, operators know that they get at least two benefits from hosting Fashion Week parties. First, they get the corporate revenue, foot traffic and secondary spending that pays the bills and keeps the doors open. Second, when a venue is featured in magazines, television segments and online, it helps build a club’s reputation. This can go a long way towards attracting tourist patrons and bringing in dollars long after Fashion Week is over.
Finally, the press is more than willing to take the pictures and write the stories that will elevate a rather insular and specialized trade show into a worldwide media spectacle. All we want in return is a few dozen parties and a lot of liquor.
There are also deeper reasons that link Fashion Week and nightlife. Both are based on fantasy. The advertising flooding any fashion magazine depicts scenes that are idealized at best. The models strutting down the runway have no realistic relationship to the size and shape of the average American consumer. And even if the majority of Americans could fit into the outfits they will see next week, they probably can’t afford to buy them. A designer once told me that for most of us, fashion and Fashion Week are aspirational. They give us an image of how we want to see ourselves or what we want to look like, not how we really look from day to day.
Nightlife is also a fabrication. It is a machine built to satisfy our need to escape. We go to bars to get away from life at work and home for a few hours and connect with friends or strangers. We drink to alter our consciousness. We see shows, listen to music and dance for experiences that will take us beyond the everyday. We hustle to break out of our daily grind and make some cash on the side. We spend money to make ourselves feel like celebrities for a little while. We give our libidos the freedom to express themselves more fully than we do during the day, hoping to find someone who can satisfy that constrained energy. Nightlife isn’t real life, which is why we are drawn to it.
Nightlife and Fashion Week will never get married. They are both too promiscuous for that. But there is a connection there that will last for a long time. Even if boutiques try to become clubs for a night or bottle service continues to decline, nightlife will be a home for Fashion Week. The fantasy and escapism that they both represent connect them much more than just models and bottles.