BUSINESS

Fashion's Night Out: Global celeb-studded shopping party marks start of NY Fashion Week

09/08/2011 04:12 EDT | Updated 11/08/2011 05:12 EST
PARIS - Fashion's Night Out, the worldwide nocturnal shopping extravaganza that's the brainchild of Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, entered its third year Thursday, kicking off in Paris with a Champagne-soaked frenzy up and down the Avenue Montaigne luxury row.

Among the Paris revellers was 35-year-old Sandra Pauwels, who called FNO "an event I just couldn't miss."

"With the Champagne and the music, it's like a party in here," she said while sipping a cocktail at Ungaro.

Fashion's Night Out started in 2009 in New York as a celebrity-studded way to lure shoppers into stores during the recession, but it's turned into a global shopping party. Retailers around the world — from upscale boutiques to suburban malls to online retailers — are embracing the event, which coincides with the start of New York Fashion Week and the important fall fashion season.

Mass appeal highlights in New York include Dolce & Gabbana hosting an appearance by Justin Bieber and Michael Kors mixing it up with the Rockettes at Rockefeller Center. Milan, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, Mexico City and even Adelaide, Australia, were among the cities participating worldwide.

In Canada, Fashion's Night Out is slated to take place in select cities within British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Participating retailers include American Apparel, Eddie Bauer and Juicy Couture.

A search for more specific details on events in Canada can be conducted online at http://fashionsnightout.com/fno/outside-nyc.

Sporty American designer Tommy Hilfiger, who's slated to appear at Macy's Manhattan flagship with jazzy singer Joss Stone, hailed Fashion's Night Out as "a big celebration."

"Anna Wintour came up with such a genius idea, and it actually worked," Hilfiger told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "I think it's not just about the shopping that night. I think it's the idea of getting out there — exposing the fact that fashion can be fun. ... It doesn't have to be this serious thing that's too expensive. Fashion and shopping doesn't have to be anything but fun."

Getting face-time with his customers is another of the event's positive side, said Hilfiger: "To see them and hear directly from them is pretty cool."

Last year's extended hours and blitz of promotions and entertainment provided a measurable sales lift for merchants, said Michael McNamara, vice-president of research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which tracks cash as well as credit transactions. He estimated that sales at department stores and clothing chains across the U.S. were up two per cent on Fashion's Night Out last year, compared with the 2009 period that was limited to events in New York. Shoes and teen clothing fared the best, he added.

In Paris, teenage girls mingled inside boutiques with grand dames in Chanel jackets and pearls. The crowds were so thick they spilled off sidewalks and into the streets, much to the annoyance of taxis snared in the surge. More than 50 stores in Paris' so-called "Golden Triangle" luxury shopping district took part in this year's event, including Chanel, Dior, Prada, Armani and Ralph Lauren.

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AP Fashion Writer Samantha Critchell and AP Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio in New York contributed to this report.