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Fashion's Night Out Did Nothing for Retail—Nobody's Surprised

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Alessandra Ambrosio at the Victoria's Secret store in Soho in 2012, via Getty Images
Alessandra Ambrosio at the Victoria's Secret store in Soho in 2012, via Getty Images

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Remember this day two years ago? Probably not, since you were hungover from knocking back free glasses of Prosecco at every store between Fifth Avenue and Soho. And it was all because of three little letters: F. N. O.

But Fashion's Night Out wasn't about turning the city into a raucous, albeit well-dressed party. As is widely known, the public kick-off event for New York Fashion Week that hatched in 2009 and was backed by Vogue, the CFDA, and the city's tourism marketing agency was intended to jumpstart shopping during a recession. Clearly, that's not how it worked out.

"It was just so out of control," New York City council member Margaret Chin told the New York Times. "It wasn't that people were coming in to shop. There were mobs there."

Those mobs were not only because of celebrity and designer appearances, but also because stores also felt obliged to entice potential customers with free goodies—yes, including booze. No one was really looking to spend any money.

"People just enjoyed the drinking and had fun," the owner of Soho boutique 3NY Sam Desner told the paper. "It was very busy, but people didn't shop."

Wink owner Ilse Werther felt the pressure from customers to participate in FNO, who would ask about it beforehand. "I don't think ultimately the consideration for the small businesses was really thought through," she said. "It was unsafe crowd conditions that we needed to handle on our own."

And in some cases, the crowds led to serious problems: If Boutique owner Phillip Brennan told the Times that two Haider Ackermann items valued at $2,000 each were stolen from his store during the 2010 event. "It was a big loss for us," he said, adding that "people were going from one place to another to see if they could steal."

So the "hiatus" of FNO came as a surprise to no one in 2013, and this year is no different—though other cities both around the country and around the world still continue the event. But it seems like New York has found its happy medium with free events sprinkled throughout the city all Fashion Week long, from free snacks to manicure stations—most of which are alcohol-free.
· Why Fashion's Night Out Faltered [NYT]
· Fashion Week Freebies: Get Fancy, Get Caffeinated [Racked NY]
· R.I.P. Fashion's Night Out. Here's Your Eulogy, Presented by Cats. [Racked NY]