Fashion’s Night Out presents a friendly face

Beverly Hills usually prides itself on an air of exclusivity. But Thursday night, Rodeo Drive stores kept their doors open late for shoppers of many sorts with a welcoming approach and fun for all, ushering in a new era of friendly consumerism.

Fashion’s Night Out began in 2009 as a joint initiative of American Vogue, The City of New York and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, an association built to support American fashion talent. By convincing stores to host special events on the opening night of New York Fashion Week, the cooperative hoped to put enthusiasm back in consumer spending during a time when sales were sluggish.

This year, more than 100 cities in the United States participated, including several parts of Los Angeles. In Beverly Hills alone, more than 100 stores wooed shoppers with everything from free champagne and bites of Bottega Louie chocolate at Juicy Couture to nail polishes exclusively for Fashion’s Night Out at Chanel.

Fendi featured a photography display shot by Karl Lagerfeld, while Gucci presented a special edition 90th anniversary Fiat designed by Frida Giannini, the brand’s creative director. Lanvin may have had the most creative approach—it set up a stage in the middle of the store and held a dance-off to mimic its fall ad campaign which features models breaking out in retro moves.

But these weren’t even half of the attractions.

The city closed down Rodeo Drive to traffic and welcomed 17 of the city’s food trucks, which are a far cry from the area’s usual white tablecloth dining, but equally as delicious. The casual atmosphere was well received; shoppers sat on the street’s exquisitely clean sidewalks and chowed down on lobster rolls from the Lobsta Truck and ice cream sandwiches from Coolhaus. The Sprinkles truck served a specially decorated red velvet cupcake in honor of the event.

The night’s standout feature was a four-story Ferris wheel on the south end of the street, an attraction that guests could present a receipt from any store to gain admission. The top of the ride offered views of some of Beverly Hills’ historic landmarks, as well as of the cheerful crowds below. Some parents even brought along their children for a little carnival fun, which signaled the entire motive of the night.

Families were able to enjoy the same attractions as the West Coast editors of Vogue. Thousands flocked to a street that may have previously been unchartered territory. Considering the expenses of drinks and DJs, stores may not have had their most lucrative night. The long-term effects could prove to be worthwhile.

The Thursday evening spent in Beverly Hills was one of changed impressions. Event-goers got an entirely new perspective on the row of shops in Los Angeles’ high-end shopping mecca. As one of the most expensive streets in the city, it is easy to be intimidated as a tourist and as a local.

On Fashion’s Night Out, however, everyone was welcomed into the stores without a hint of arrogance. Attendees sparked conversation with the salespeople; everyone seemed to share the same enthusiasm for the new season of clothes and a new round of ad campaigns—the way shopping should be.

If Thursday night was any indication of a new, friendlier direction that retailers are taking, perusing stores can be fun regardless of one’s intent to spend.

We are fortunate to live so close to a place where the world’s fashions convene, and Fashion’s Night Out has served as a reminder of that. Even without all the bells and whistles that accompanied Thursday’s festivities, anyone can have fun just window shopping.

Purchasing a perfume or nail polish can be a great way to get your hands on a Chanel shopping bag without breaking the bank. Unfortunately, the time for FNO’s exclusive colors has passed; maybe that just means we will all have to wait until next year to get our hands on 2012’s mementos.