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In London, the overall mood was jolly, but the evening wound down early, around 9:30 p.m., when everyone went home or to dinner. Most of the luxury/designer stores — Jimmy Choo, Tod’s, Chanel, Max Mara, Dover Street Market, DKNY, Camper — were packed and buzzy while other, more midmarket, branded stores were empty.
There was some shopping going on, but the streets were certainly not packed, and the bags the shoppers were carrying were few and mostly small.
It seemed that the names that are doing well continued to do well, while others are struggling. Overall, the whole night seemed a little strange, and very forced. Like, “Are we having fun yet?”
Jonathan Saunders joined Antonio Berardi, Roksanda Ilincic, Osman Yousefzada, Atalanta Weller and Ben Grimes, who were all helping shoppers — and sweet-talking them into buying — throughout the night.
“I almost sold a pair of Alexander Wang brothel-creeper boots,” said Henry Holland, who was working on the shop floor at Browns Focus. “The customer’s coming back, so I hope I seal the deal. This night is great! We get to sell to the client directly! We’re cutting out the middle man!”
“I showed one customer a pair of shoes, and then I led her over to my shoes, and said, ‘Why not look at these, instead?’ said shoe designer Weller with a twinkle in her eye.
“The register hasn’t stopped ringing all night!” said Joshua Schulman, ceo of Jimmy Choo. “But it’s not all about the sales — it’s about making people feel good about shopping.”
Chanel was one of the most bustling boutiques on Bond Street Thursday night, with Daisy Lowe and Laura Bailey taking part in a British Vogue shoot at the boutique. “Everything always takes my fancy in here, everything,” said Lowe. “My favorites are my Chanel heels — it’s a wonder they’re still going. I wear them all the time.”
Another hopping store was Tod’s on Bond Street, where Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice swung by to have a drink and listen to DJ Beth Jeans Houghton. At Dover Street Market, Christopher Kane, Marios Schwab, Hussein Chalayan and Stephen Jones all helped shoppers part with their cash.
Nicole Farhi said she’d wanted her New Bond Street store to reflect her French roots for Fashion’s Night Out, so she plied hungry shoppers with fresh crepes. “I thought I should do something that belongs to me,” said Farhi. “I haven’t had many crepes yet, as I have just arrived, but there is plenty of time!”
“Today, for the first time ever, someone asked me for my autograph!” said Richard Nicoll, who was advising shoppers at Liberty. “It was a little girl wearing this cute little Henry Holland jacket and she wasn’t precocious at all. I was so touched.”
“I’m exhausted, but this is such a good cause,” said VV Brown, who was singing at Gap’s 1969 concept store.
Christopher Bailey, Angela Ahrendts and Alexandra Shulman hosted a celeb-packed party at Burberry’s New Bond Street store Thursday night to kick off the Fashion’s Night Out celebrations in London. The event drew names from right across London’s social scene — Gordon Brown’s wife, Sarah Brown, rubbed shoulders with Mario Testino, while hipsters Pixie Geldof, Alice Dellal and Lowe joined guests including Samantha Cameron, India Hicks and Nicky Haslam at the buzzing Mayfair store.
“It’s nice that it’s a celebration of fashion, and just ahead of London Fashion Week. I don’t know if I’m going to be giving [customers] advice tonight, but I will definitely say, ‘Hi,’” said a modest Christopher Bailey as guests flooded into the store.
“I’ve dressed a mannequin for the Theory store here and in New York, so I’m going to go to their store on Marylebone High Street to show some support,” said Hicks, who added she hoped to pick up a few purchases during the night before she headed back to the Bahamas the next day. “I don’t have a huge budget, though,” she said with a laugh.
“Are the registers open?” demanded one guest at the Burberry party, eager to make a purchase as soon as the party started.
“I’m only here for the canapes,” joked a pregnant Jourdan Dunn at Burberry, who added that the night marked a welcome return to the fashion fold since she’d stopped working ahead of having her baby. “I didn’t think I’d miss, work but I really have,” she said.
“We’re going to pop into a few places on Bond Street before dinner,” said Pat McGrath, mapping out her plan for the night after purchasing some Fashion’s Night Out T-shirts at Burberry. “I’m working at Chanel tonight, but I don’t know what’s going on, I’m just going to have to surrender,” said Laura Bailey at Burberry, who was set to take part in the live shoot at the Chanel store later that evening.
“I’m scared,” said Jasmine Guinness, surveying the buzzing crowd and popping flashbulbs at the Burberry party. “I’ve come straight from work. I’m thinking maybe I [should] put some heels on. But at least my friend, Jade Parfitt, is in jeans.” However, the model and designer confessed that, despite the atmosphere, she’d be keeping her wallet shut. “I’ve just bought a farm in North Wales so I can’t do any shopping,” she said ruefully.
“It’s great to see all these people,” said Sadie Frost, who turned up to the Burberry party with her design partner, Jemima French. “I’ve just popped in here tonight — I’ve got to put the kids to bed later.” Frost was also getting into the spirit of boosting retail in London, saying that she’s planning to open a second Frost French store in London’s Soho, to add to her Islington space.
Chris Benz, who was making a round of appearances for Lancôme, sees the cure for fashion’s business malaise as mostly psychological, not even an issue of money. “It’s very much a question of getting past the barrier of going into a store again and reminding people that shopping is glamorous and that they have a relationship with the clothes,” he said. What’s needed, he said, is for consumers to focus on the items, “find specific things that you want to invest in and want to own.”
Benz, who had just left Saks Fifth Avenue and arrived at Lancôme’s boutique on the Upper West Side, said the mobs that came out for Fashion’s Night Out was a good start. “Tonight certainly seems like a good kick in the pants,” he observed.