Last night the red carpets were rolled out, people smiled broadly as paparazzi snapped photos and new fall fashions took center stage as West Hartford Center held its first Fashion’s Night Out.
The fashion event, which is held in towns and cities globally, began as the brainchild of Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour in September of 2009. Wintour conceived the idea as a way to jump-start the seriously flagging economy by encouraging people to spend money on the latest fall clothes.
Intentionally planning the evening of shopping to take place during the week of the spring fashion tent shows proved beneficial. New York was inundated with fashion insiders and enthusiasts, and celebrities who loved to shop and be seen. As an added shopping incentive, most of the participating stores agreed to donate a portion of the sales proceeds to various charitable organizations.
The first year was a huge success and every year since then it has grown to include additional cities. Models, celebrities and customers have flooded department stores and independent boutiques to rub shoulders and party with like-minded fashionistas. Last year there were 4,500 events across the country.
Yesterday, West Hartford stores joined in the fun.
In the Center, crowds of people walked in and out of stores, many stopping to strut down red carpets that lined some entrances.
Photographers were stationed in front of stores eager to snap the “glitterati.”
Various shops offered fashion shows, refreshments and exclusive discounts. At , the latest jewelry styles were displayed and customers' rings could be cleaned for free. offered a trunk show, raffle and refreshments.
For the men, was previewing their fall collection with exclusive discounts and hors d’oeuvres.
The fun was not limited to clothes and accessories, though. was demonstrating scarf and sarong-styling tips and was featuring a wine tasting from around the world.
At , this Patch reporter had been asked by owner Kimberly Moster to participate in the evening’s fashion show. I arrived early with a tote bag of my own shoes and a fluttery stomach.
Gisele Bündchen I’m not, and even the shortest catwalk seemed like an invitation to splay myself out prone in front of a large crowd. Nerves were calmed in the models' waiting room, a.k.a, the store’s basement, as glasses of champagne were extended to all of us pre-show.
My modeling compatriots and I were given the star treatment. Antonia Melcon of tweaked some hair-styles and local make-up experts applied “new” faces. Family, friends and customers packed the store and sipped on cocktails supplied by Tisane Euro-Asian Café.
Then the DJ amped the music as we, super models, took our places. The rest was a blur as we glided around the store once, then changed into our second outfits and took one more stroll along the catwalk.
The day before the event owner Jackie Peterson anxiously awaited the arrival of shipment of clothing due the following morning. For Fashion’s Night Out, she planned a trunk and fashion show, door prizes and refreshments and she needed to fill her dwindling racks with the latest fall fashions.
With Labor Day barely past, Peterson said that she had already “sold out like crazy” her first shipment of fall clothing. She stated that this month holds special meaning for her as she celebrates her second year of ownership and the store’s 48th anniversary. She was excited about the event, noting the increasingly sophisticated fashion tastes of her customers.
“We are looking forward to Fashion’s Night Out becoming an annual event with all of the merchants involved. West Hartford has become a shopping destination for women who crave a wardrobe filled with high style and fashion.”
That same afternoon, store manager Virginia Mumejian was running around town trying to find a red carpet runner for her runway. Once that was found and purchased, it was on to other last minute details.
Her store would also be having a fashion show, along with food supplied by and a specially concocted cocktail served by celebrity host of WHC-TV’s “Cameras Rolling,” Marsha Howard Karp. A portion of the evening’s proceeds would be given to the , a West Hartford residential home for teen mothers and their infants. Mumejian took a few moments to discuss the upcoming event.
“What we are most excited about is benefitting St. Agnes Home through our proceeds and any donations we receive. We are also launching our 'Looks We Love' that evening. We will feature outfits we love and our models will have on looks that will be popular for the season, with colors and textures that people wouldn’t normally mix together before. Throughout the year, we will display photos in the window of the looks we love and we will have store mannequins dressed in these newest clothes. We will rotate the looks according to the season.”
Back at Kimberly Boutique the evening of the event, Moster was thrilled with the turnout. “We are really excited in West Harford Center to have Fashion’s Night Out. It is designed to bring people out to celebrate fashion. It isn’t just a ladies night out; it is a people's night out, with everyone walking around the Center, enjoying the fashion and having cocktails.”
Moster must have an uncanny sense of where the fashionistas shop as she referred to a recent article in Connecticut Magazine. “Last month they did a segment on three towns that are shopping destinations in Connecticut and West Harford was one of them.” The other two? Westport and Guilford – the town where her second store is located.
As I enjoyed the afterglow of my brief modeling stint, relieved that I had remained upright on the catwalk, I couldn’t help but think of how iconic French designer Coco Chanel had theorized that fashion was not merely what a person wears.
She said, “Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” Coco was so right… fashion was everywhere in West Hartford Center last night.