In 2009, Anna Wintour, fashion icon and editor in chief of American Vogue, announced the launch of Fashion’s Night Out (FNO), a mass shopping festival organized to not only celebrate but also help keep the fashion industry vibrant in a declining economy. New York’s first FNO, which took place just in time for the fall-winter season, proved fashion was still very much alive, with the city’s retailers experiencing an increase in foot traffic of an estimated 50 percent.

A global event, FNO was also launched in other countries, and this year, 16 cities, from Paris and Athens to Shanghai and Seoul, are participating throughout September. Each city has chosen an original draw for consumers and the dates of events differ slightly — good news for jet-setters who might want to attend several FNOs across the world.

New York has been live-broadcasting fashion shows since Sept. 7 and consumers will be able to buy runway items on Sept. 10 at the New York Night Out. Moscow is holding a charity dinner and auction in memory of the late British fashion designer Alexander McQueen, while Tokyo is promoting an array of special, limited-edition fashion items. Vogue Nippon Chief Editor Mitsuko Watanabe says that FNO 2010 Tokyo will offer consumers items from various well-known brands and designers, including Rem Koolhaas-designed T-shirts from Prada and Michael Kors’ “Micheal Kors (heart) Toyko” tote bags.

In a country that loves limited editions, such one-offs might not be a surprise to the Japanese public, but the numbers show that the tactic still works a charm. Last year, 217 stores participated and in return they received approximately 55,000 visitors. This year, more than 350 stores — ranging from high-end boutiques such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Issey Miyake to “fast fashion” brands such as Forever 21 — will participate, and Vogue Nippon has a positive outlook for the event. Last year, sales of brand goods totaled over ¥30 million.

For FNO’s charitable side, which has been criticized as a “faux charity” as well as applauded as an ideal way for modern society to shop and give, pop artist Takashi Murakami has designed Japan’s contribution: T-shirts and bags printed with his signature flower and Pom-chan characters. Sold at ¥2,000 each, a portion of the profits from the Murakami merchandise will go to KnK International (Children without Borders) and Keyaki Kikin (an organization created to help maintain the Japanese zelkova trees lining Tokyo’s Omotesando street). It may sound like a minor contribution for the scale of event, but the popularity of last year’s FNO charity offerings, T-shirts designed by artists Cap & Pep and a celebrity goods auction, raised ¥3 million for the same charities.

This year, FNO Tokyo starts from 5:30 p.m., with its closing ceremony at 11:30 p.m., and during the available shopping time, consumers could find themselves bumping into Japanese celebrities such as musician Verbal (m-flo), actress Anna Tsuchiya, star makeup artist Ikko or even Murakami’s Pom-chan character, who will be wandering around the area with Vogue Nippon’s editors. If you’re the very first person to approach an editor walking with Pom-chan, you’ll also be the winner of a gift coupon for one of the Murakami items. If not, however, there are plenty of other freebies at the event, including glasses of Champagne, ice cream and glamorous makeover photo-shoots. In this economic climate, freebies, for sure, can add fun and joy to shopping.

Fashion’s Night Out Tokyo will be held on Sept. 11 from 5:30 p.m. (opening ceremony till 6 p.m.) to 11:30 p.m. Omotesando Hills is the official main center for the event but participating stores are also spread across the Harajuku and Aoyama districts. For more information, visit www.fashionsnightout.jp

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