Milwaukee's inaugural Fashion's Night Out celebrates local style
Gallery: Fashion's Night Out
Fashion's Night Out began in New York City in 2009 - a year when everyone in America (retailers especially) could really use a party.
"The economy was not doing well," said Jordan Dechambre, managing and fashion editor at "M Magazine." "Retailers were really looking for an excuse to get people out shopping again. Not just because they wanted to make money but because it was getting to a point where fashion was almost turning into something negative."
Spearheaded by "Vogue" magazine, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, NYC & Company and the City of New York, the first Fashion's Night Out was organized to boost consumer confidence in the strength of the American retail community and the relevance of fashion in a struggling economy.
"Fashion makes us happy," said Dechambre. "It was about trying to find a way to really celebrate this and really make this what it should be, which is a celebration of art, of feeling good about ourselves, of empowerment."
Dechambre has attended the event every year, and watched it grow to include over 100 satellite cities in 15 countries.
Now she and co-organizers Jeffrey Raddatz and Chanell Royston are bringing the party to Milwaukee.
This Thursday, Sept. 6 from 5 to 9 p.m., the Historic Third Ward will be consumed with a celebration of all things fashion. Approximately 30 area boutiques are participating in addition to "pop-up" shops showcasing retailers from outside the city.
Dechambre calls the Milwaukee fashion scene "a really fabulous secret." But with the high interest in FNO Milwaukee, it would seem that the secret is getting out.
"We have such a fantastic retail scene here, and so many people still think you need to go to Chicago to get great brands," she said. "You don't. You can stay right here.
"Our event is mainly taking place in the Third Ward and Downtown area, but there are also some great shops over on Downer Avenue like Ma Jolie that has the most amazing selection of jeans," she said. "And you can't forget about the suburbs – places like Faye's where you can buy Missoni, Piccardi shoe parlor in Brookfield and Mequon where you can buy Jimmy Choos – how many people know you can buy Jimmy Choos in Milwaukee?"
"I think it's so exciting and overdue," said Lynn Marie Reich, marketing director for participating vendor Neroli Salon & Spa.
Reich moved back to Milwaukee about a year ago and was "shocked" that the city was not yet host to an official FNO event. "It's such a big, worldwide event and to have Milwaukee be a part of it, I think, just really speaks to this city really becoming a big player and coming into its own."
Although some Milwaukee-area boutiques have, prior to now, hosted events incorporating the FNO name, theme and logo, Dechambre says that this event marks the first time Milwaukee joins places like New York City, London, Rome, Paris and Milon in being declared an official Fashion's Night Out designate city.
"It was very important for us to be part of the national event and support that," she said. "So we worked with the city of Milwaukee and the mayor's office, and after a few months going through the appropriate channels we were finally able to declare Milwaukee a Fashion's Night Out city. So that's really, really exciting for us.
"There are a lot of people who will just kind of go out there and have an event ant toss a logo on it – they're not actually registered, they're not part of the national event."
So is Fashion's Night Out only for the most discerning fashionista, who can tell a Manolo Blahnik from a Louboutin with one glance?
Absolutely not. "This is for anyone who loves to shop," said Dechambre. "It can be the college student who doesn't really go out shopping because they don't have a lot of money but they want to be able to be a part of this party atmosphere, or it can be this amazing mom out in Brookfield who doesn't really have a lot of time to shop who's going to make time just to come down with her girlfriends. It's for everyone."
And no one should shy away just because they aren't familiar with downtown traffic or parking. To create maximum "ease of use for the shopper," the organizers of Fashion's Night Out recommend visiting historicthirdward.org or milwaukeedowntown.com to find convenient parking (click on "parking options"). The sites will also give specific instructions regarding interstate exits and street parking.
"We do have trolleys running that night so people can jump on that. They will be staffed by public service ambassadors with maps and models in FNO T-shirts handing out maps and greeting guests," Dechambre said, adding that the distance between stores and events for the evening will be "very walkable."
Cream City Rickshaws and Milwaukee Pedal Tavern will also offer transportation.
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