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TOKYO — Anna Wintour ascended to rock star status this weekend as she and all of Vogue’s top editors from around the world descended here for Saturday’s extraordinarily large Fashion’s Night Out, which also attracted a long roster of designer attendees including Michael Kors, Burberry’s Christopher Bailey, Roberto Cavalli, Derek Lam, Thom Browne and Dior Homme’s Kris Van Assche.
Hordes of passersby in the Omotesando and Aoyama shopping districts clustered outside each store Wintour entered. They strained their necks to try and catch a glimpse of her. They called out her name and even followed her down the street when she and her daughter, Bee Shaffer, decided to walk between stores they visited, which included Louis Vuitton, Tod’s, Burberry, Michael Kors, Rag & Bone and Marc Jacobs. In what was undoubtedly one of the key photo ops of the day, partygoers gathered to watch her pound rice cake paste with a giant wooden hammer at Theory.
The frenzy surrounding Wintour’s visit caught some observers off guard, given the Japanese people’s reputation for quiet reserve. “I’m surprised. I thought of all places, Japan would be slightly immune to that,” said Marcus Wainwright of Rag & Bone, just a few minutes after Wintour and Shaffer toured the brand’s quaint store in Omotesando as partygoers looked on as they sipped Asahi beer and ate cotton candy.
Wintour, speaking Friday on the eve of FNO after spending the morning signing autographs at Isetan with fellow Vogue editors Franca Sozzani, Emmanuelle Alt and Alexandra Shulman, expressed a desire to interact with as many people here as possible during her stay, her first visit to the country in 20 years.
“What I really enjoy is meeting the Japanese people. It’s very moving to see how much it means to them for all of us to be here.…It’s great that the designers are here but, you know, I see a lot of Michael and Rag & Bone in New York so really for me the most important thing is to meet as many of the Japanese customers as I possibly can,” she said.
Japan’s supersized FNO festivities kicked off Friday night with Vogue’s opening cocktail and gala dinner at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. Wintour and Vogue’s international editors in chief started the evening by assembling for a rare “family portrait” shot by Frederic Aranda. The Vogue brigade then joined the party to mingle with a host of designers, fashion executives and other VIPs, all of whom made their entrance by descending a staircase and walking over a dramatic transparent platform covering scores of white lilies. Anna Dello Russo, editor at large for Vogue Japan, cut a dramatic figure in a floor-sweeping pale blue Nina Ricci gown and feathered hairpiece. Peter Copping, the house’s artistic director, accompanied her into the party by chance since they arrived at the same time. “There was quite a lot of stairs for her to maneuver, so I was there to help her. So it was almost like the service that comes with the dress,” Copping said with a laugh.
At dinner, Jonathan Newhouse, the chairman of Condé Nast International and the architect of the event, gave an emotional speech touching on the tragedy of the March 11 tsunami and the importance of the Japanese market to the fashion and luxury goods industries. He broke into song at one point, singing several bars of “Ue o Muite Aruko” — best known in the English-speaking world as “Sukiyaki” — a poignant song of love and loss.
“I thought, what if we could get all of the editors to come; that would make a very powerful statement,” Newhouse said on the sidelines of the event. “When there’s trouble, it’s not enough to send a sympathy card…in a way we’re the only ones that can do this,” he said.
Wintour, referencing the Newhouse family’s $1 million donation made immediately after the quake, also stressed the importance of coming together to support Japan.
“It’s not usual for 17 editors in chiefs of the different Vogues to be doing something like this, so I think it’s really a testament to Jonathan’s initiative and forward thinking and philanthropic endeavors that we’re all here,” she said.
During her time here, Wintour also took time to meet with Japanese designers, including Sacai’s Chitose Abe and a handful who show in Tokyo.