On Fashion’s Night Out, Normal Hits the Streets

By STUART EMMRICH for NEW YORK TIMES STYLE

Published: September 11, 2010

Night Out, now in its second year, may be responsible for several things: marking the unofficial start of fall fashion, bringing New York Fashion Week to the masses and demonstrating once again the power of Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue and the person most responsible for getting hundreds of retailers throughout the city to turn their stores into party spaces for a night.

But it did one more thing on Friday night: It returned the meatpacking district to actual New Yorkers.

Gone were the women from points unknown, in high heels and too-short skirts, recreating their favorite scenes from “Sex and the City.” Missing were their male counterparts, in pressed jeans and untucked shirts, looking as if they were on a casting call for “Entourage.” In their place were fashionably dressed women and men (and some of indeterminate gender) who looked as if they lived, worked and shopped in the city.

As they milled around the Diane von Furstenberg store on West 14th Street, sipping Moët Champagne in their faux-military jackets and ankle socks worn with kitten heels, they talked of art openings, the day’s fashion shows and what store to hit next.

Outside, there were lines everywhere: lines for the Shake Shack burgers at Tory Burch; lines to get past the red-velvet rope at Stella McCartney for hot dogs, or to sip more Champagne and gawk at Helena Christensen; lines outside Elizabeth and James to spot the Olsen twins.

It was a street party with actual street cred.

And it was a night when designers like Ms. von Furstenberg were legitimate stars. “There she is,” a sharply dressed woman yelled out to a friend, as Ms. von Furstenberg skittered across West 14th Street, and the two of them snapped her photo on their iPhones. They looked thrilled.

The star wattage was arguably brighter in Midtown, where department stores rolled out the red carpet for celebrities and everyday shoppers alike. The corner of Fifth Avenue and 58th Street was uniquely chaotic, with pedestrians wedged between Bergdorf Goodman and a Frites ’n’ Meats snack van. Two young women said they had been waiting 45 minutes to see Mary J. Blige and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Around 6:45 p.m., Ms. Wintour was seen leaving Barneys, trailed by journalists and bodyguards. She had gone to see a doll done in her likeness, by the designer Andrew Yang, and then stopped to meet Tavi Gevinson, the teenager style blogger, who was autographing tote bags designed by a Montauk surfer and artist named Tin Ojeda. The store was getting progressively more crowded, but at least you could move about. Caramel corn was served on the fourth floor, next to Givenchy.

Finished with her duties, Ms. Gevinson went to meet Daphne Guinness, who was autographing bottles of her fragrance. Dressed in a fitted black dress, her white-blond hair piled on her head with a streak of black forming circle, the stylish Ms. Guinness shook hands with the fashion rookie, who looked overwhelmed. “She’s like one of those people you can’t imagine looking normal,” Ms. Gevinson said. “She’s a true eccentric.”

Macy’s in Herald Square was less about fashionistas and more about fans. Shoppers in jeans and sneakers, shorts and rhinestone-encrusted T-shirts showed up to glimpse celebrities like Diddy and Kimora Lee Simmons.

But the most chaotic scene unfolded on the usually tranquil eighth floor, where, amid the china and the linens, was Jennifer Lopez, unveiling her new fragrance, Love and Glamour.

The first 300 fans who spent $135 got to have their photographs taken with Ms. Lopez, who was near a faux fireplace. “I’m Mr. J Lo!” said Joshua Lopez, 31, who is not related to the singer and actress, as he proudly flashed his photo. “Oh man, I’m so excited.”

But most fans never even saw the superstar. The crowds were so intense that security guards herded customers away.

“I’m just a fashion fan,” said Mouna Moussa, 25, who had had been keeping track of the night’s events on Facebook and Twitter, and had planned to swing by other events farther downtown. If she did, she would have encountered more lines.

At the Ace Hotel, on 29th Street and Broadway, customers lined up at a Parisian-style flea market that had been set up by the hipper-than-thou retailer Opening Ceremony, which has a store there. Several designers known for their four-figure sweaters and dresses had made exclusive products for the store, including many varieties of supercool T-shirts.

It was funny to see how the prices varied, since basically they were all just T-shirts. Colette, the much-hyped store in Paris, charged $40 for a T-shirt with “New York” printed in reverse. Band of Outsiders (a label that is favored by insiders) charged $45 for one with a picture of what looked like Cookie Monster. Proenza Schouler made a digital print of traffic, fitting for the night, on black tees for $100.

“It’s fun just because it’s a party,” said Jane Sangster, a television producer, who waited outside. “And it’s good people watching.”

Fewer lines were found on Bond Street in NoHo, which had been transformed into a kind of carnival midway with giddy stalls and games. A burlesque performer twirled on a hoop inside a giant birdcage. A Big Bird-like creature in black velour stalked the street, lumbering on 10-foot stilts.

At Oak, a vanguard fashion outpost, visitors posed for video portraits and chatted, uncensored, about their checkered pasts. Representatives of Kai-aak-mann, a label sold at Oak, invited passers-by to act the role of stylist for a night.

Hollywood A-listers were in short supply but style-world luminaries like Daryl Kerrigan, who pioneered Bond Street as a retail strip, Erin Wasson, the model turned designer, and Rem D Koolhaas moonlighted as hosts.

“I’m here for the scene,” said Abiola Abrams, who appears as a host on several television variety shows. “I can shop anytime. Anybody who tells you different is lying.”

Reporting was contributed by Cathy Horyn, Ruth La Ferla, Denny Lee, Stephanie Rosenbloom and Eric Wilson.

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