Vogue fashion news/features director Sally Singer was present when the idea for Fashion's Night Out began to germinate. With the event approaching, she sat down with nycgo.com to discuss the philosophy behind it, explain what goes into planning a worldwide party and chat about her own plans for the night. Shopping? Maybe, but she's going to be on duty regardless.
What was the impetus behind Fashion's Night Out?
Sally Singer: It was an idea that was generated during the [fall] Paris collections in response to the tidal wave of negativity and uncertainty that [Vogue editor] Anna Wintour perceived among people in the industry and among her colleagues in retail. So many of the major retailers and small-store owners alike were really worried, given the deep discounting that had happened after last October. Instead of waiting to see how the economy would rebound, or if it would rebound on its own, she called a meeting of all the major editors of Vogue—for all the major editions of Vogue around the world, of which there are about a dozen—and said, "Let's get people out and about, and if not shopping, then at least enjoying the pleasure of stores." In that sense, stores as a kind of wonderful urban space where you can have all sorts of experiences. It's really what department stores were invented for. This is the late-19th-century definition of department stores, as a sort of social club, a recreational zone for urban women of a slightly well-heeled stripe. I think she felt we could take that idea, bring it back, then combine it with the White Night concept that you often see in Paris, where all the museums are open late in a celebration of public arts.
So it was a proactive approach to helping the industry.
SS: I felt it was an activist idea at a time when very few people were coming up with activist ideas. What was so fantastic about it was that it didn't come at all from advertising or from any sort of business precept. It literally was like, "Okay, people need to shop, people need to get out, people who work in stores are worried." And it's not just the heads of retail who are worried. It's the people who aren't in those positions—the people who depend on foot traffic. One of the reasons people live in cities, and one of the things that makes that so much fun, is the ability to window-shop.
How are you contributing to the event?
SS: I was involved with it at the start on a conceptual level, and as it has gone forward, it's become an all-engrossing process for everyone who's worked on it. The [number] of people we're planning on getting out to be in stores, to be doing things in stores and to be traveling the five boroughs all night, often doing noncommercial things…every single person at this magazine is involved. On the features side, that means getting the writers out; on the fashion side, that means getting the models out, getting the designers out, the photographers, the talent. It's quite something. On September 10, I'll be at Barneys, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Kirna Zabête and others.
Will Vogue editors be acting as personal shoppers?
SS: We're working with the retailers to make something fun. We're not there to impose ourselves. We're supposed to help the stores make something special happen. So I know that at Barneys, I'll be with the Mulleavy sisters from [fashion label] Rodarte. Later I'll be doing something with Jack [McCollough] and Lazaro [Hernandez] from [fashion label] Proenza Schouler at Kirna Zabête. So if stores want a star, or a certain personality to be there, it's our job to help them get that. But it's not about car services and people being styled—celebrity culture in that way. Or if it is, that's up to the stores. We're meant to facilitate a fun street party for fashion.
Was it always a global initiative?
SS: Absolutely. From the first meeting that we had with all the Vogue editors, that was very specifically the goal. But it's up to the individual editors to organize it how they want. I think Franca Sozzani [editor of Italian Vogue] is having a lot of stores create special items for the night, bringing special pieces in, whether they're part of designers' next collections or made for the evening. In New York, it's very clear that it's supposed to be non-hierarchical, non-elitist. It's just about having fun and being out. In London I've heard they're focusing on Knightsbridge—a sort of controlled street party. But each is different, concentrating on individual cities' civic needs and responsibilities, and reflecting the culture of fashion in those places. And it's really going to be global. Brazil's going to be wild. They like to stay up at night. Same with Madrid.
Will there be discount incentives?
SS: There might be places offering discounts, but I think that shopping on sale has made the consumer distrust the value of items. People should buy things that are correctly priced, regardless of where they're shopping. Deep discounting, to me, means that someone, somewhere, is not getting paid. One of the reasons that retail and the fashion industry are in trouble—and all the people they support in terms of labor in America, but also across the world—is that people think they can get something for nothing. That has led us to where we are now. Look, everybody loves a bargain, no question about that. But people should buy the things they love, if they can afford them, and not the four things that were on sale. The world doesn't need that much stuff. The world needs the right stuff. Consumers are looking for good value and good values. They want to make the right choices, and they want good value to be attached to that. That can come at an added cost. Sometimes value comes down to sustainably made items with transparent production. Or it can be the quality [of] something that makes [consumers] dream, that they love so much that they transform their sense of themselves in a superficial way, sure, but also in a deeper way, by changing how they present themselves to the world in terms of confidence. Good value doesn't necessarily have to do with price.
What's the goal?
SS: The hope was simply to relieve the stigma around shopping—that apprehension people feel in a credit-crunch-ridden society. People have retreated from stores. I totally get it. People were overextended and they're worried, and we all know that. Everyone is. But the idea that you can't take pleasure in just going out and looking at things, and enjoying certain spaces, and shopping responsibly, given your needs, that's what we need to break down. And also I think people need to remember that it's fun to dress up. It's fun to go out. Even if it's just dressing up in the clothes from your closet, it's fun. Fashion and style can give you intense pleasure even in the darkest of times. So to create a night that celebrates fashion, that celebrates style, is very timely right now.
For more information on Fashion's Night Out, visit fashionsnightout.com.