Given the dizzying number of parties, in-store promotions, and celebrity appearances taking place this Thursday night, no one blinks when I hesitate to answer the question, “So, what are you doing for Fashion’s Night Out?” Likewise, I’m not so surprised by the immediate assumption that I’ll actually be out there in the fray, along with what feels like the rest of the city. Except this year, I’m opting out. Truthfully, I’d rather skid down a 50-foot sandpaper slide into a pool of salt than cope with the lines, crowds, and drunken chaos of the night — and for what, the chance of a glimpse at a designer singing karaoke or some free, watered-down booze? Call me a grouch, but I know plenty of other fashion industry insiders who equally dread FNO (cleverly dubbed “EFF NO” by The Cut), if not more because some of them will actually have to dive in and report on the frenzy for their jobs.
No doubt, FNO is an astounding phenomenon. This global juggernaut, which launched in New York only three years ago under the stewardship of Anna Wintour and Mayor Bloomberg, has since spread to 18 other countries and countless cities. Last year, there were 4,500 events in the U.S. alone, and Thursday night, no fewer than 340 retailers will be participating throughout the city. But while its original purpose was to give the retail economy a much-needed boost in sales and morale, revenue now seems beyond the point.
The economy, especially the retail sector, is in far better shape than it was when FNO started, yet the cost-benefit analysis (and dare I say, the frivolity, given that these still aren’t exactly prosperous times) of having an exorbitantly expensive party shouldn’t go unquestioned. For retailers, the profits may not even come close to offsetting the cost of security and overtime pay for employees, combined with the risk and potential losses accrued by theft and damage. With regards to New York City’s revenues, if you think of FNO as one massive, better-dressed street fair — and it kind of is — similarly requiring police overtime, then there’s no financial benefit to be had.*
Costs and figures aside, there’s the simple question of how you want to spend your Thursday night. Don’t let FNO FOMO force you into the mosh pit if you’re gut is already in knots. Whether you’re staying in and taking advantage of some of the event’s online offerings or having some pals over for a Fashion’s Night [Opt] Out dinner, just remember there’s nothing more fashionable than being an individual and being true to yourself.
*In 2010, 321 street fairs generated $1.6 million in revenue for NYC, while the city paid the NYPD $4 million in overtime.