Tag Archives: Toronto

Underexposure

10 Sep

I went to Fashion’s Night Out last week.

FNO is a huge shopping party, naturally, in the spirit of fashion. It’s celebrated by hundreds of stores all over the world. Once a year, stores stay open after hours and host shopping parties with champagne, hors d’oeuvres, D.J.’s, and SALES!

It’s extremely popular in fashion capitals like NYC and Paris.

Fashion’s Night Out

Stores and shoppers in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver participated in Canada’s very first FNO last week.

There were parties all over the city. I decided to stay in the Queen West neighbourhood, because Queen West is one of my favourite parts of Toronto. Plus, it’s the official ‘fashion’ district of Toronto! Ah, I had expectations.

I’ve been to Toronto Fashion Week before. So I knew that most people in the fashion industry have a quirky (and very forward) sense of style. I expected racks and tables filled with brand new goodies. Inspirational designs. I was looking for some FALLspiration, and this was my salvation.

I was nervous, too. I expected mile long crowds of conceited, designer-clad, and leggy models fighting over the smaller sizes. Bouncy techno music. Pretentious conversations over bubbly pink champagne. And microscopic amuse bouches.

Thankfully, all of my expectations were wrong. I arrived at a laid-back yet stylish loft. It was full of people. There were racks of clothes neatly organized by designer. There was a D.J. and there was a bar. Although I couldn’t hear most conversations, nobody (except for a handful of people) looked pretentious. Most people were hanging out on the couches and chatting each other up. Drink in hand.

Although there were at least 15 designers and at least 30 racks of clothes in the loft, it didn’t feel like a sale. Each designer’s station had a salesperson. Nobody was accosted to buy anything. Everybody was there to have a good time. And nobody was in a hurry to leave.

The Bazaar at Queen Street West.

This venue ended up hogging most (if not all) of the Queen West crowd. Seriously. Nobody was leaving. I ventured out onto the street to visit other boutiques. I didn’t see any other FNO shoppers out and about. And most boutiques were closed past 7 p.m., which I found extremely disappointing. Don’t they know it’s FNO?! They’re missing an amazing opportunity for exposure!

I was greeted with enthusiasm at the boutiques that were open. Salespeople seemed excited to see me. Probably because they haven’t seen anyone all night. I was greeted with a glass of bubbly and informed that everything was 30 % off. This a sale, not a FNO party. I looked around, chatted with a few people, didn’t buy anything, and left.

On my way home, I spotted a few FNO volunteers scouting stylish pedestrians. FNO was promising, but not popular enough. They needed more exposure, and quick.

From a consumer’s perspective, FNO deserved more exposure. I heard that Holt Renfrew on Bloor attracted thousands of shoppers. Not bad for a first try. It’s ironic that the fashion district of the entire city only had a few hundred people in a loft. Even then, most of them seemed to be sticking around for the drinks, conversations, and freebies. The streets were barren.

What can be done for next year’s FNO? Well, we need more exposure. Honestly, I didn’t even know about it until a friend in fashion told me about it!

But it’s not enough to tell people about it. You have to give them a reason (other than free drinks) to be interested and show up. Not everyone is a fashionista. You need to offer something regular people would want. Competitive prices. Unique and interesting clothes. Basics. A good time. Kudos to Yorkdale for featuring a panel of stylists offering style tips. As for the empty and hopeful boutiques, 30% is only incentive to your regular clients. Even then, you should make sure that all of your regulars know about the promotion. Facebook. E-mail. Twitter. Or pick up the phone. Be persistent. Hype it up.

It would also be a huge benefit if you had a rack alongside other designers at a loft party. Sure, there’s competition. But if your products are unique and your prices are competitive, you’ll do fine. As a boutique, your goal isn’t just to sell things at FNO, but to represent your brand and encourage customers to come back.

What did you think of your city’s FNO?

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