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Fashion’s Night Out, Year 3: Global shopping party

- Associated Press - Thursday, September 8, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Justin Bieber met fans in a purple leather jacket at Dolce & Gabbana in New York, Michael Kors launched his new Rockefeller Center store with a Rockettes kick line, a Ferris wheel went up over Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and crowds of fashionistas spilled into the streets of Paris Thursday as Fashion's Night Out entered its third year.

"I'm wearing Dolce & Gabbana head to toe," said Bieber, who was signing D&G T-shirts ($195 apiece) for fans in Manhattan, one of hundreds of Fashion's Night Out events worldwide.

Fashion's Night Out was started in 2009 in New York by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour as a celebrity-studded way to lure shoppers into stores during the recession, but it's turned into a global shopping party. Retailers ranging from upscale boutiques to suburban malls to websites have embraced the nocturnal shopping extravaganza, which coincides with the start of New York Fashion Week and the important fall fashion season.

Wintour signed September issues of Vogue for fans at an event sponsored by the home shopping channel QVC in Manhattan Thursday night, while Bieber signed shirts at the D&G boutique on Madison Avenue. Nearly every adult shopper at the jam-packed Bieber site had a pint-sized companion, the boys with Bieber hair, the girls with lip gloss courtesy of free touchups to promote D&G lipstick.

Stephanie Steinberg brought her 11-year-old daughter Caroline, who clutched her just-signed shirt after meeting the pop star. "I've never seen her speechless until now," the mom said. D&G donated a portion of proceeds from the event to Bieber's favorite charity, Pencils of Promise.

In Paris, teenage girls mingled with grand dames in Chanel jackets and pearls inside luxury boutiques in the so-called "Golden Triangle" shopping district. Crowds were so thick they spilled off sidewalks and into the streets, much to the annoyance of taxis snared in the surge. Participating boutiques included Chanel, Dior, Prada, Armani and Ralph Lauren.

"With the Champagne and the music, it's like a party in here," said Paris reveler Sandra Pauwels, 35, while sipping a cocktail at Ungaro.

In Beverly Hills, a Ferris wheel lifted shoppers high above Rodeo Drive, where three blocks were closed to traffic for Fashion's Night Out festivities. Gucci offered shoppers a limited-edition tote with a $500 purchase, Coach celebrated the relaunch of its classic duffle and Chanel offered three nail polishes in shades of blue. A DJ spun tunes at Juicy Couture, where shoppers sipped Champagne and tried the chocolate-tasting bar provided by LA eatery Bottega Louie.

Anyone who made a purchase along the shopping street could ride the Ferris wheel for free. Stilt-walkers juggled bowling pins outside the Guess store, where shoppers took advantage of free popcorn, cocktails, mini manicures and makeovers and a photo booth. An onsite artist personalized reusable totes that were sold for $5 to benefit the New York AIDS Foundation.

Shopper Liana Lozada, 25, posed with friends at the Guess store's photo booth. "We just came out for the scene," said Lozada, visiting from Miami. "We want to get a couple deals and do some people-watching."

Milan, Dallas and even Adelaide, Australia, were among other cities participating worldwide. Celebrities at Fashion's Night Out in London included actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who attended a Vogue party. In New York, Fifth Avenue was packed with throngs of shoppers streaming in and out of stores like Bergdorf Goodman, where crowds came to see Oscar de la Renta and get their tarot cards read by jewelry designer Amy Zerner. One of New York's longest lines was outside an Yves Saint Laurent boutique, where fans waited to meet rapper-turned-R&B star Nicki Minaj.

Florida welcomed Fashion's Night Out with runway shows, after-hours shopping and cocktail receptions. More than 65 retailers in the Miami area took part, along with venues in Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville.

Stylist Danny Santiago, who collaborated on looks from the "Sex and the City" movies as well as "Confessions of a Shopaholic," styled a runway show at the Aventura Mall in Aventura, Fla., for FNO using pieces sold at the mall today that echo influential styles from the past. They included sheaths and beaded dresses inspired by the 1920s; hourglass silhouettes reflecting tailored 1940s looks; psychedelic prints and mismatched black-and-white patterns echoing the 1960s; and graphic patterns and the famous wrap dress look from the 1970s.

"I was inspired by vintage pieces that I actually own," said Santiago.

Designer Tommy Hilfiger hailed Fashion's Night Out as "a big celebration."

"Anna Wintour came up with such a genius idea, and it actually worked," Hilfiger told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "I think it's not just about the shopping that night, I think it's the idea of getting out there _ exposing the fact that fashion can be fun. ... It doesn't have to be this serious thing that's too expensive. Fashion and shopping doesn't have to be anything but fun."

Getting face-time with his customers is another of the event's positive side, said Hilfiger, who held court Thursday night at Macy's Manhattan flagship with singer Joss Stone: "To see them and hear directly from them is pretty cool."

Last year's extended hours and blitz of promotions and entertainment provided a measurable sales lift for merchants, said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which tracks cash as well as credit transactions. He estimated that sales nationwide at department stores and clothing chains were up 2 percent on Fashion's Night Out last year, compared with the 2009 period that was limited to events in New York. Shoes and teen clothing fared the best, he added.

Hilfiger agreed that FNO's economic impact has grown wildly in the last three years. "People ARE shopping," he said at Macy's. "It's 100-fold compared to any other Thursday. We sell a lot of clothes." Just as important, "it's such a good time. People love to come out. ... It brings out people from all walks of life."

QVC marked its 25th anniversary at a pop-up location in Soho with a live broadcast. Fashion fans sipped wine and Pellegrino as they waited for Heidi Klum, Isaac Mizrahi, Melania and Donald Trump and others to walk the red carpet and sell their lines.

"Fashion's Night Out is not for the faint of heart. You have to know how to party!" said Mizrahi.

QVC CEO Mike George said the event was "really about our customers. We don't get to meet them very often."

Kris Jenner, among the designers taking part in the QVC event, said she created her line with older women in mind who aren't served well by mainstream fashion: "I wasn't ready to give up on myself. We want to feel good, too."

In Mexico City, which joined the global celebration for the first time, events included the opening of a four-day exhibit called "A tribute to Mexico," in which 13 international designers, including Christian Cota of Mexico, Nicole Miller, Tommy Hilfiger and Tory Burch, created outfits for the hand-made Maria doll, a ragdoll with long braids adorned with colored ribbons, sold in tourist areas.

"Those designers have to develop collections, their time is limited, but they accepted to do this, and that is a great triumph for us," Eva Hugues, editorial director of Vogue Mexico & Latin America, said.

Hugues also said she hoped Fashion's Night Out would promote the work of Mexican designers. "Instead of wearing a cardigan by Tory Burch, I want to wear one by Macario Jimenez. We want it to be affordable for the public, that they can consume it," Hugues said.

FNO events in Mexico City took place in malls and in the upscale Polanco neighborhood, which houses "Luxury Avenue," where Tiffany planned to turn its flagship store into a type of Studio 54. On that same avenue, the Salvatore Ferragamo store planned a karaoke party with Latin Grammy winner band Belanova.

In New York, Kors said it was a "fabulous coincidence" that his Rockefeller Center store launch lined up with Fashion's Night Out. His fans included Fashion Institute of Technology Jamie Vega, who bought a watch and had the designer sign her bag.

"This is so exciting to meet him in person," she said. "I'm a fashion student after all."

At Bergdorf Goodman, about 200 people gathered to watch designers including Mark Badgley, James Mischka, Reem Acra and John Barrett trot out their dogs for a fashion contest. Designs ranged from wedding dresses to bright pink feather collars and a fur-trimmed storm coat.

"I feel like I'm in an episode of `Sex and the City,'" said Ellen Switkes, 58, from Sherman Oaks, Calif., who watched the dog show after picking up a few T-shirts. "This is such a scene."

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AP Fashion Writer Jenny Barchfield in Paris, Associated Press Writer Leanne Italie and AP Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio in New York, Associated Press Writer Suzette Laboy in Miami, AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen in Los Angeles and Associated Press Writer Isaac Garrido in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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