LA Times

[LA Times] They came, they saw, they shopped

They came, they saw, they shopped

All across L.A., designers, retailers and shoppers revved up for the second annual Fashion’s Night Out, an evening devoted to style and spending. It appears to have paid off.

September 19, 2010|By Melissa Magsaysay | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Raha Lewis and Daina Beth Solomon contributed to this report.

Angelenos headed out en masse for some “shopping-tainment” Sept. 10 during second Fashion’s Night Out, a celebration that reverberated from Newport Beach to the Valley and beyond. Designers, retailers and shoppers revved up for an evening centered on style and spending that seems to have paid off. Venues were crowded, sales reportedly brisk. More than 20,000 people went through the doors of the Beverly Center, the night’s official Los Angeles hub, where Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa addressed the crowd, telling people to “shop until they dropped.”

Guests took those marching orders seriously, shopping and spending throughout the mall, making a significant spike in sales for Beverly Center stores. “The retailers we have spoken to at the Beverly Center doubled their business that night,” said Cynthia Ruiz, a commissioner for the city of Los Angeles and Villaraigosa’s fashion ambassador. “We consider the turnout of the event to be a big, big win, and the mayor is committed to participating again next year.”

The brainchild of Vogue magazine’s editor in chief, Anna Wintour, in an effort to stimulate the fashion industry in the face of an economic downturn, Fashion’s Night Out was observed this year in 16 countries and more than 100 cities around the world, compared to last year’s 12 countries. Judging by the crowded boutiques, celebrity appearances, drinks, food and four-story Ferris wheel set up on Rodeo Drive, Los Angeles certainly had no intention of being outdone.

Retailer participation was up significantly this time compared to last year, when Neiman Marcus and Fred Segal were the main local stops of the night. This year, there seemed to be only a handful of stores and brands that didn’t participate. Some spots featured celebrity appearances (for instance, Fergie at the Grove, Samuel L. Jackson at Armani and Rashida Jones at 3.1 Phillip Lim); others kept it simple, passing Champagne and tiered trays of cupcakes throughout their stores. For many, the night paid off in exposure and at the cash register. The 3.1 Phillip Lim store reported larger sales numbers than last year’s Black Friday — traditionally the hottest sales day of the year — selling mostly coats and jackets. The Beckley boutique in West Hollywood exceeded the night’s sales goal by 20%, and at Juicy Couture on Rodeo Drive, sales for the day exceeded same-day sales from last year (when they didn’t participate) by 53%.

And shoppers certainly had no shortage of places in which to flex their spending power. The evening kicked off at the Beverly Center, where the crowd, filled mostly with tweens, pressed against the banisters on all floors to watch a full-fledged fashion show featuring top fall trends. “This is the entertainment capital not just of the U.S. but maybe the world,” Villaraigosa noted in his opening remarks. “Almost a million people work in a creative economy. They work in fashion and art, and today we celebrate that talent and we celebrate retail.”

Shoppers set out to find their fall “must-haves,” many of them doing some last minute back-to-school shopping. Orit Metusal, 15, eyed leggings and tights, while Katrina Cainglet, 16, simply wanted to see what the night had to offer “It’s a new experience for me,” she said, “I’ve never been to a fashion show as big as this.”

At the Grove, shoppers knew what was expected of them. “We came to hang out and mingle. And we’re helping the economy,” said an enthusiastic Seble Keb, displaying her shopping bag of Gap purchases.

The Grove was like a festive party with DJs, food, an open bar, models and celebrities, and the night’s activities were shared with the world by 50 or so bloggers, who were part of Bloggers’ Café.

Michael Venedicto, cofounder of the lifestyle media company Fashion Los Angeles, noted that L.A.’s presence at Fashion’s Night Out has grown exponentially since 2009’s inaugural festivities. For him, “L.A. is the fashion capital of the U.S. And you can see tonight that so many people are part of the support for it.”

In Beverly Hills, high-end shopping felt more accessible than usual on the posh strip of Rodeo Drive from Little Santa Monica to Wilshire boulevards due to a festive atmosphere, a Ferris wheel, food trucks and Weezer’s song “Beverly Hills” blaring from loudspeakers up and down the street.

Celine Liu and Una Wu, visiting from Taiwan, purchased jewelry and clothes from Juicy Couture, taking advantage of the stores’ 30% discount for the night. Jourdan Rashing, 12, strolled with her mother toward the Guess store after stopping for sustenance at a grilled cheese food truck that was serving a “fashion” sandwich containing spare ribs, cheese and caramelized onions.

Just across Wilshire at Neiman Marcus, the event’s purpose — to get people shopping and spending — was obvious. Ladies who lunch came with their friends, mothers and shopping buddies in tow to flood each floor of the department store and, well, shop, shop, shop.

Lorena Frcek of Brentwood attended the Neiman’s event with her mother, and the two definitely got their shop on, purchasing some black jeans from CJ by Cookie Johnson (which was a featured product after Johnson staged a fashion show using the store’s centrally located escalators as a runway) as well as plenty of beauty and skin care products. “I’ve been shopping at Neiman’s for 20 years,” said Frcek, who attended Fashion’s Night Out in 2009 too. “I had a blast last year, but I definitely bought more this year.”

For designer David Meister, his first Fashion’s Night Out proved a big success, with sales of his special occasion dresses adding up during his personal appearance on the second floor of the department store. “This is a great event for getting more people out. It makes shopping more approachable,” he said “The atmosphere may be like a party, but it also really promotes the retail business. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

That sentiment rang true with several store owners who saw major foot traffic bringing in new customers. Zainab Sumu, whose boutique Zainab sits farther east on Melrose near La Brea Avenue, had about 80 guests, many of whom snapped up the official “Fashion’s Night Out” T-shirt as well as accessories. Sumu, whose boutique has been open for less than a year, said she found the event to be promising. “As time goes on, it will get even better,” she said. “I will definitely participate again next year. Next year and [in] the years to come, people will understand that it’s a night to support fashion and really buy.”

“We doubled a typical Friday in sales,” said Beckley owner Melissa Richardson, who had a fleet of pedi cabs running customers from her store on Melrose to neighboring boutiques across La Cienega Boulevard. “Everyone in the community really embraced Fashion’s Night Out, and we’ll definitely do it again next year. It brings new faces to the store, and it’s clear people are really starting to shop again. This feels like a turning point.”

Raha Lewis and Daina Beth Solomon contributed to this report.

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