Fashion’s Night Out Hits NY and LA

It was a sea of champagne and shopping bags in New York and Los Angeles’ major retail corridors Friday night as designers, celebrities and thousands of shoppers – and sightseers – hit the streets for the second annual Fashion’s Night Out. Registers were ringing, cameras were flashing and the most famous faces of fashion mingled amongst fans from Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

Kenneth Cole’s Rockefeller Center flagship was certainly rockin’, at least for the lucky shoppers who got inside. A line snaked around the block for several hours, and the scene was just as frenetic in the store, where a DJ spun tunes and the crowd sipped cocktails. Several dozen fans got the chance to pose with the designer, who encouraged them to “make a statement” by creating personalized signs to hold in the photographs. “Fashion’s night out brings out the best in everyone,” Cole said.

On Madison Avenue, George Esquivel was working the room at Fratelli Rossetti, where he chatted with Footwear News about the new lines, as well as his big 40th birthday coming up (the designer will celebrate while in Milan for Fashion Week).

Just a few doors down, ping-pong balls were flying at the Stuart Weitzman store, where shoppers were invited to challenge the designer, an enthusiast of the game. Weitzman was sporting shoe-shaped Silly Bandz on his wrist, which conveniently matched his purple T-shirt, displaying a “SW” logo similar to the signature Superman look. “[The shirt] came about because everyone said, ‘You wear Clark Kent glasses,’ I thought I’d surprise them,” the designer said. “[It stands for] Super Woman, not Stuart Weitzman, for my customers.”

Meanwhile, interior decorator (and Brian Atwood love) Nate Berkus was spending some time at Bally before heading over to Bergdorf Goodman, where karaoke awaited. While he said he was planning to sing a duet with a pal, he would steer clear of the obvious. “I’m going to try to avoid ‘Sweet Caroline,’” he joked.

There was also buzz at the Jimmy Choo store, where Tamara Mellon proudly unveiled the brand’s much-anticipated collaboration with Ugg. “[The reaction] has been amazing. Everyone loves the Uggs,” she said. But Mellon couldn’t spend all night showing off the sheepskin boots; she was rushing off to Calvin Klein for a special Bryan Adams performance. “I’m a fan,” she said.

At Roger Vivier, “Gossip Girl” Leighton Meester helped the brand tout its newest fragrance, while Jaslene Gonzalez, winner of “America’s Next Top Model,” season eight, chatted with shoppers.

Giuseppe Zanotti spent time at his Madison boutique, after hanging at Bergdorf Goodman, welcoming celebrity guests such as Whitney Port of MTV’s “The City” and talk-show personality Wendy Williams. The designer chatted with FN (in between signing shoes for shoppers), describing the night as a combination of Cirque du Soleil, Woodstock and the Super Bowl for the fashion world. “Thanks to this event, [there is] a new possibility to create a communication between all levels. Fashion is fashion, [from] $19 to $9,000.”

The store was packed over at Nine West, where guest designer Joss Stone performed and attracted a crowd, including Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola from MTV’s “The Jersey Shore” and Jay Manuel from “America’s Next Top Model.”

But one of the biggest Fifth Avenue sightings was Karl Lagerfeld, who was headed into Fendi and trailed by a swarm of awed fashionistas.

And, on Lexington Avenue, Steve Madden employees beckoned shoppers with a megaphone, while a line formed out the door at Payless ShoeSource, where guests eagerly awaited the arrival of designers Christian Siriano, Isabel Toledo, Lela Rose and Pat Field.

It was one massive block party at Bergdorf Goodman, with a line trailing down Fifth Avenue and then 58th Street. But the party was undeniably on the third floor, which was shut down completely for Victoria Beckham’s appearance alongside Brian Atwood. “Fire hazard,” said a beefy security guard manning the velvet rope.

Reality-star-turned-designer Nicole Richie was also swarmed by photographers and screaming fans as she navigated the floor in a lacy little black dress and black pumps. “It’s always like this with Nicole,” said Rick Cytrynbaum of Modern Vintage, which produces Richie’s House of Harlow footwear.

At Saks Fifth Avenue, the 10022-SHOE area was transformed into a rock ’n’ roll-themed nightclub, complete with dark velvet curtains, as Sergio Rossi’s new creative director, Francesco Russo, mingled with VIP shoppers (including Rolling Stone Keith Richards’ daughters Theodora and Alexandra). Russo signed shoes for customers and was on hand to show off the exclusive Cachet pump. He also gave FN insight into his upcoming collection: “I’m exploring more architectural heels and working on the idea of sharpness and straightness,” he said. “That means a straight heel, combined with a more pointy last to create a silhouette like the letter L.”

The partying continued at Barneys, where Creative Director Simon Doonan was selling — and signing — limited-edition pairs of Havaianas he designed for the brand. “I’ve already sold 50 pairs [in the last hour] and it’s not even flip-flop season,” he exclaimed.

In the men’s department, Rag & Bone designers Marcus Wainwright and David Neville were spotted scoring 1-1 in ping-pong games against shoppers. Their spirits were up despite having been up since 5 a.m. prepping for their two runway shows held earlier in the day. “They turned out great,” Wainwright said.

At Lord & Taylor, Libby Edelman and Vince Camuto held court in the packed second-floor shoe salon, signing shoes and mingling with shoppers. “I used to do personal appearances every weekend during the Sam & Libby days,” Edelman recalled. “Actually, I’ve loved talking to customers ever since my first job as a waitress.” Camuto, who came with wife Louise, said he planned to spend much of the weekend meeting and greeting, with an in-store appearance at Nordstrom in New Jersey’s Short Hills Mall set for Saturday.

Pour La Victoire designers Jay Adoni and David Giordano were on hand at the women’s shoe floor at Bloomingdale’s Soho. “[FNO] is a lot of fun, but it’s also really helping make us better designers by getting real feedback from customers,” Adoni said. “It brings a new energy to the streets because it cheers people up in this economy. They should have it twice a year.”

In the Meatpacking District, champagne and shoppers flowed from one shop to the next. Diane von Furstenberg’s Washington Street shop was bursting with customers and fans. “It’s incredible — there are so many people,” she said. Clad in her official FNO shirt, the designer posed for photos and chatted with admirers. With a runway show two days away, however, she admitted, “I’ve been running back and forth [tonight] doing fittings.”

Outside Tory Burch’s shop, meanwhile, the Shake Shack served up burgers and fries while shoppers sipped white wine, Coronas and Cokes.

Lane Crawford Fashion Director Sarah Rutson browsed Jeffery New York in hopes of adding to her shoe collection. (She admitted traveling with 15 to 20 pairs of shoes.) “My wardrobe is always about shoes and accessories,” said Rutson. Nicholas Kirkwood, one of Rutson’s favorite young designers of the moment was also on hand at Jeffrey, sketching his favorite styles, autographing soles and decorating shoe boxes for his fans.

Christian Louboutin’s carnival-themed affair featured a juggler, plate spinners and popcorn, among the red-soled footwear. Shoppers even got a peek at what’s to come for spring ’11. Two shoe styles were on display, along with a tote, all color-blocked in red, silver and blue and peppered with rhinestones. Designer Oday Shakar, who was shopping with his namesake brand’s CEO Sharon Chan, stepped into the shop to try on a few styles: A bejeweled black evening look for Chan, while Shakar eyed a leopard high-top. “This is my favorite shoe store,” Chan said.

Shoppers in Soho stopped traffic — literally — in front of Ralph Lauren’s West Broadway location just to get a glimpse of Jessica Alba and Vogue’s Andre Leon Talley. (They were also treated to a special in-store performance from Grammy-nominated singer Janelle Monae.) “This year is so much bigger and better than last year,” Talley to FN. “Janelle Monae just rocked Soho.” The FNO atmosphere was electric enough that Monae said performing inside the Ralph Lauren shop made her feel like she was on stage at a world tour. “It was amazing to have that type of support and it really exceeded my expectations,” she said.

At Soho’s Adidas Slvr store, Elijah Wood, star of current flick “The Romantics” (and erstwhile Hobbit), was spinning for a low-key, shop-happy crowd. According to a store manager, Wood, a neighborhood resident, wasn’t originally scheduled to play the FNO festivities. However, when he found out friend Heloise Williams (of Heloise and the Savoir Faire) would be at the gig, he asked if he could take part.

It’s no secret John Varvatos also loves rock ’n’ roll. So it was only fitting that inside his store were at least two rock-scene icons: photographer Mick Rock and Wayne Kramer, guitar player and vocalist for pioneering punk band MC5. “What [John] brings to the table is style,” said Kramer, who is currently working on the music for the HBO comedy “Eastbound & Down.” “Fashion is temporary. Style is eternal.” Meanwhile, Rock, who has snapped one famous shot after another of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and The Ramones, was in store to take portraits of shoppers who spent more than $300.

The music theme continued at Irregular Choice, with James Brown and a little bit of Britain. On odd choice, but what you’d expect from the quirky shoe store, where a DJ spun the sounds of the Godfather of Soul and shoppers got a taste of the English tea vibe with “sweet treats and sweet shoes,” according to a sales rep.

And on the streets, it was nearly Beatles-mania when hip-hop impresario Kanye West (along with big-time bodyguards) was spotted darting into Hello Kitty and then back out, sprinting down to Prince Street. The sounds of Soho changed in an instant, with voices screaming and hundreds of people stampeding along Greene Street, in search of ‘Ye.

On Bond Street, spinning trapeze artists, sake bottle ring tosses and temporary tattoo tents lined the cobblestone road, and nearby stores benefited from intrigued customers.

At United Nude, shoppers were being treated to vodka-infused energy drinks while they perused architecturally charged block heels ($250) and leopard-print or pony-haired flats ($185). And then there was the music: Rising talent Madisen Hill was set to perform “Suga” plus two other songs, wearing what she described as thigh-high boots “she just loved.” “For us this night is all about fashion and fun,” said United Nude rep Robert Cottone.
Down the street, designer Billy Reid presented looks from his new collaboration with Levi’s. The store, which clearly takes cues from Reid’s Southern roots, played blues music while stylish thirtysomethings browsed and drank beer stashed in buckets throughout the store.

From the laissez-faire beaches of Venice to the hipster neighborhood of Los Feliz, Los Angeles was awash in FNO festivities last night, not to mention champagne.

John Fluevog, who stopped by L.A. on the way to San Francisco for the opening of his new store in Union Square, spent time mingling with customers at his Melrose Avenue boutique over drinks as he signed shoes and sketched personalized images on plastic plates for fans. And while Fluevog, who celebrates his 40th year in the shoe business this year, said his label is undergoing a transformation, he’s enjoying himself more than ever. “The brand is changing, new customers are finding us, [and] my [core] customer is getting older with me,” he said. “I’m having more fun than I ever have.”

At Fred Segal Feet, owner Stanley Silver said events like FNO are just what was needed to reintroduce the store to a demographic that may have fallen through the cracks during the recession. “This whole [shopping] complex has missed a generation of customers,” he said, referring to stores along Melrose Avenue. “For older customers, we’re an institution, but for younger people, they may not know we’re here, even though we’ve been here for 40 years. We have events like this one once a month now. It’s about creating new energy.” Silver’s new approach includes stocking a wider range of price points that all offer optimal fashion. “We might not get the dollars [we used to due to lower price points], but we sure do the units,” he said.

At Diavolina, Velvet Angels CEO Jeff Yarchever said that beyond FNO, he was also preparing to open a new retail store in Las Vegas. “It’s happening in about four weeks, so it’s soon,” he said. For her part, Evelyn Ungvari, buyer and part owner of the boutique, said she sees a change in shopping habits among customers, and the worst of the economic crisis may be over, but that doesn’t mean business will get easier. “I feel like people are out more,” she said. “They’re not buying as much as they did before, but they’re buying key pieces, and those tend to be the more expensive ones.”

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