Fashion’s Night Out rocks in Los Angeles
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The third year of the shop-stravaganza known as Fashion’s Night Out -- organized by Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America to stimulate the fashion industry around the world -- brought out the crowds in Southern California on Thursday. But the most palpable sense of enthusiasm seemed to come not at the cash registers, but at the photo booths, styling chairs and food trucks that encouraged social interaction and resulted in keepsake photos. We checked out the scene at some major retail hubs, including the Beverly Center, the Grove and Rodeo Drive.
5:10 p.m. A crowd of several hundred gathers in the center court area of the Beverly Center awaiting opening remarks and a runway show. Among them is Miss California USA Katie Blair, a picture of poise as she poses for photos, her pageant sash slung across a pale yellow dress from Los Angeles label For Love & Lemons.
5:25 p.m. Although Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa doesn’t make his scheduled appearance at the opening ceremony (he was attending President Obama’s speech in Washington), a taped message appears on a gigantic LED screen towering over the onlookers. That is followed in quick succession by remarks from ‘American Idol’ judge Randy Jackson, who tells the crowd he is wearing ‘Randy Jackson by Randy Jackson for Randy Jackson;’ Vogue West Coast editor Lisa Love and actress/designer Nicole Richie.
The mall’s opening event wraps with a runway show featuring looks from tenant retailers, including Macy’s and Traffic. Afterward, a center representative points out that retailer participation in the event this time around is close to 100% -- up from 70% last year.
6 p.m. A crowd starts to gather on Rodeo Drive just above Wilshire -– the site of an enormous Ferris wheel brought in for the occasion. Circus performers on stilts are stationed nearby to hand out fliers.
6:07 p.m. Although the frenetic pace of the Beverly Center festivities hasn’t yet hit the stretch of Melrose Avenue between San Vicente and La Cienega, it already sounds like a party -– thanks to the music pumping from one of the newest members of the Southland’s food-truck fleet *parked in front of Alpha Gear for Gents. LA Sweetbeats, which is a curious combination of ice cream truck, DJ sound system (complete with turntables) and rolling T-shirt shop that’s the brainchild of Cielo Alano and Marianne Matsuura.
As she serves up a chocolate-dipped, salted-caramel ice cream pop, Alano says the records -– and the wheels -– started spinning through the streets of L.A. two months ago, so it is too early to determine if there are any particular hot tracks that help move cool treats. ‘But we do roll down the street playing the Beatles’ ‘All You Need Is Love.’’
6:23 p.m. The ivy-covered Fred Segal Center on Melrose is a hotbed of interactivity, from astrology and tarot card readings taking place at a quiet table flanked by the question ‘What’s Your Sign?’ and surrounded by stacks of Goldsign jeans to a bright yellow pop-up photo studio erected in the parking lot, which offers to take fashion-style photos (wind blowing through the hair and the like) by photographer Diana Koenigsberg and courtesy of Smashbox Studios.
Even though they aren’t selling anything at all, Smashbox’s vice president of creative, Dee Delara, says there’s a huge upside to this method of participating in Fashion’s Night Out. ‘We’re posting the photos to our Facebook page, and when people go there to find their pictures, they’ll find out a little bit more about our creative culture blog Yello!, and that’s the kind of thing that raises general awareness about us.’
7:10 p.m. Lines at the half-dozen or so food trucks along Rodeo Drive reach critical mass, as do the lines for hair and makeup services from Blushington Makeup & Beauty Lounge and the Vito Esposito salon. Freebie blowouts, full hair and makeup and giveaway products clearly rule the night.
7:30 p.m. The photo booth at Van Cleef & Arpel on Rodeo Drive is packed with people blinged out in the brand’s jewels and being snapped by street-style photographers.
7:40 p.m. The ground floor of the Grove’s Nordstrom store is a beehive of activity. Particularly popular is a styling station and photo booth kiosk being run by a company called Keshot, at which twentysomething women, many clutching shopping bags, don hats, wraps and sunglasses to mug for the camera, with the results sent to them via email -– which also means the store now has a way to reach them as customers.
‘Oh, they already have me,’ said L.A. resident Natalie Zurawin as she waits in line with shopping co-pilot Louie Cohen with two shopping bags over her arm. Her previous stops included Michael Stars and Crate and Barrel, and Zurawin proudly displays a blue-and-white fabric necklace she made at the latter.
Asked if they’d been drawn out to shop as a result of the heavily promoted event, Zurawin flashes a mischievous smile -– but says nothing -– as Cohen speaks up. ‘She said: ‘Let’s go out for a snack,’ and the next thing you know, here we are,’ he said. ‘She knew all along.’
7:45 p.m. The Lanvin boutique on Rodeo readies for a dance-off competition -– with the first- and second-prize trophies (each over four feet tall) having the distinction of being the two tackiest things to ever darken the doorstep of the boutique.
7:50 p.m. A Fiat tricked out by Gucci -- think double-G rims and seat belts in the luxe label’s signature red-and-green stripe -- is the center of attention for photos, videos and envy.
8:30 p.m. The Cults take the stage at 3.1 Phillip Lim in West Hollywood, drawing arguably the biggest crowd we see anywhere all night. A reveler is overheard saying: “Thank God the walls are squishy” as the mass of people press her against the foamy wall like a butterfly pinned into a display case.
9:30 p.m. and into the night. Although most events were scheduled to run 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Arcade boutique on Melrose Avenue is still packed with people waiting to have their fancy footwear autographed by designer Jerome Rousseau, and even as late as 11 p.m., stragglers from the fashion flock can be spotted shuffling home, bags in hand.
-- Melissa Magsaysay and Adam Tschorn
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Top photo: A model walks the runway during a fashion show at the Beverly Center during the annual Fashion’s Night Out.
Second photo: Randy Jackson and Nicole Richie make appearances.
Third photo: A circus performer on Rodeo Drive.
Fourth photo: The LA Sweetbeats food truck.
[*Updated 9/9/11, 2:56 p.m.: An earlier version of this post omitted the location of the LA Sweetbeats truck.]