Finding Altruism and Best Coast in Fashion's Night Out

[caption id="attachment_13309" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Bethany Cosentino performs with Best Coast in Leeds, UK, August 2011. Photo: Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns"][/caption]

Each week, Lizzy Goodman guides you through the dirty streets of rock and roll.

Fashion's Night Out began as a movement to get people shopping post- 9/11. In the event’s first few years it was a decidedly posh affair, with major designers and fashion editors traveling by limo from one Soho block to another, getting out long enough to ogle each others’ outfits, buy something ridiculous, and sip champagne; it was like trick or treating for grown ups in tall shoes. But the scene has changed a lot. Now, like any initially exclusive event that does well, it’s morphed into a consumerist bacchanal, with stores from New York City to Los Angeles to London staying open late and hosting giant parties attended less by industry insiders and more by common people, which actually makes it weirdly awesome. Turns out, it’s fashion people who suck, not people who love fashion.

I got out of the cab well above Houston Street on my way to the Helmut Lang store to see Best Coast perform. It was just too crowded to even try to drive any further, which, when you’re wearing Fashion's Night Out worthy heels is kind of an issue. (Clearly the dudes who first paved downtown streets with cobblestones did not have Louboutins in mind). While waiting to cross at Houston, I spied an American Express platinum card lying in the street. I was going to cut it up and throw it away, my idea of morally accountable, but the friend I was with, who is clearly a superior person, suggested I call AmEx. Dude, apparently having money is really awesome. When you call the number on my regular old mint green colored AmEx you get a depressed-sounding automated voice not an operator with a glamorous foreign accent of indeterminate origin. Within a few minutes they’d “located” the card owner (kind of scary term, do people with money also have microchips embedded in their necks like my basset hounds) and I was on my way to meet him.

Mercer Street was closed to traffic and had turned into a full-on carnival, with flocks of outrageously dressed fashion kids spilling out into the streets, carrying white balloons, and lining up to buy artisanal ice cream and dumplings out of food trucks parked on the street. I met up with the card owner, a clean cut dude in the telltale off-duty wear of a financial wonk and his two, very polite pre-teen daughters, both wearing lots of sequins. They liked my dress. I liked theirs. “Where should we go next!” he asked, after thanking me for returning the card. And that’s when I got it: for most people, this is recreation! Like a rock festival or an art fair, they’re fashion tourists, dressed up and ready to store-hop, sussing out others’ outfits and generally absorbing the giddy scene. I sent them down to Philip Lim, where Alexis Krauss from Sleigh Bells was supposed to be DJing, and headed in to see what was up with Best Coast.

“This is so not a snooty fashion crowd -- a lot of our fans are here, which is amazing,” enthused frontwoman Bethany Cosentino, dressed in an absurdly hot leather Helmut Lang dress. “And the drinks are really good!” The open bar, courtesy of NYC mixology emporium Death & Co, was a popular attraction. “There’s one, I think it’s called the stigmata something or other, is super ginger-y and amazing.”

Post-show we headed out into the fray once again, passing Kate Spade, where a giant crowd had gathered to cheer on those singing karaoke in the middle of the window display. A few blocks down, outside Alexander Wang, the windows had been blacked out and booming dance music pulsated from inside. Outside Wang doppelgangers, slight and pale with kohl-lined eyes, cued up behind the velvet rope waiting for the beefy bouncer to grant them entrance.

I was off to another book party, this one for Marc Spitz’ excellent new tome, Jagger: Rebel, Rockstar, Rambler, Rogue, so I began the thankless task of looking for a cab amid throngs of decked out fashion kids, many of them wearing top hats (upsetting fall trend, just not a good look). Suddenly, a cab pulled up right in front of me, and out poured this perfect trio of white t-shirt-clad blonde boys. I was prepared for the usual sullen acknowledgment of one another’s presence -- the usual NYC cab exchange vibe -- but instead one of them turned and said, “You guys look so cute. Happy fashion’s night out!”

Wow. Apparently once a year, instead of manipulating people into spending money by reminding them of the lives they should be leading, fashion is actually a force of good, responsible for a kind of city-wide complement orgy. This is especially true if you’re a fashion obsessed rock star like Cosentino who sent this email dispatch from her post-show revelries: “We were outside the Helmut Lang store and a limo drove by and as a joke I was like, 'Let's just ask that guy for a ride.' My friend ran up to the limo and was like, 'Yo, can you drive us to Brooklyn!?' The guy was like, 'Yeah, 60 bucks.' So we were like, uhhh ... how can we resist??? The driver plays tambourine and blasts Madonna. It's AMAZING. His name is Hogan. Look him up if you’re ever looking for a good time in NY!”