The White House is not the only entity thinking stimulus this week. Just after Obama announced his new plan to get the economy moving, Fashion’s Night Out version 2.0, aka this year’s bigger and better sequel to last year’s global consumption-spurring party, was launched. Tonight will see a mega fashion show for the public at Lincoln Centre in NY, and the first in a series of international shopping events in France. Stores will be open late! Celebrities will appear! Designers will do funny things! And customers will find themselves drawn lemming-like to product, and start, once again, to spend, spend, spend. Hallelujah.
Or so goes the theory anyway, as designed by Anna Wintour, whose brainchild this was, and who has enlisted all her sister Vogue editors around the world in her campaign. But just as opinion is divided over the success of the White House’s last stimulus plan, FNO is not without its skeptics. Here’s the issue: it’s hard to judge whether or not the event stimulates the right kind of sales.
After all, numbers of excited people and numbers that plump up bottom lines do not always equate; people who are dancing and dining and swilling champagne are not necessarily people in the mood to part with $4000 for a handbag. One state of mind is about external celebration; the other is all internal. So while this is unquestionably a good PR initiative for fashion, with intangible benefits in the form of good will, and is thus important during a recessionary era when there is still some reluctance to be seen as supporting the industry that invented the It bag, I’m not convinced about the literal pay-off.
Even if the various stores are moving a lot of limited edition FNO T-shirts (and last year they sold out) and special key chains, and other mementos and knick-knacks, it’s hard to see how the expense of keeping the shops open hours later than usual, which involves security people, staff, lighting, plus all the trimmings, can be off-set by the returns. On the other hand, perhaps it’s really an investment in the idea that the general stimulus plan will create the right atmosphere so fashion’s stimulus plan can start generating dividends. A little accessorising never hurt any government initiative.