In cities like Paris, Milan, London, and New York, fashion plays a crucial role in the local economy. The cities have established themselves as design capitals, with the best designers holding court in their boutiques and flagship stores. The locals take clothing seriously and hold events that the world anticipate. Case in point, Fashion Week. But in recent years, a new storm has taken over the global fashion scene. It’s called Fashion’s Night Out.
Conceptualized in 2009 by Anna Wintour, Vogue, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and NY & Company, Fashion’s Night Out aims to resuscitate the economy by urging the people to spend. By inviting Hollywood celebrities and fashion royalty, consumers are drawn to the one-night celebration filled with music, champagne, limited edition merchandise, activities, and the promise of a great new handbag by the end of the night. What started out as a one-night event in New York has stretched to a three-week extravaganza held every September in over 19 countries.
“It was clear that something needed to happen to get people comfortable with shopping again and to remind them that their purchases were helping to support the economy and the lives of those around them that worked in fashion,” says Susan Portnoy, vice president of Condé Nast. At the success of the worldwide event, we wonder: could we pull off a Fashion’s Night Out in the Philippines and save our economy?
It’s no secret that a large chunk of the money we make is through remittances made by OFWs, with a recent report by the National Economic and Development Authority claiming that we cannot be completely independent from it. But what would happen in case the demand for OFWs slows down? Where would that leave us?
An event like FNO could be the answer. The clothing industry is a key player in the global economy, and can affect the country involved. If you think that the business of suiting up is best left for the rich, consider that in New York alone, the industry provides 100,000 jobs and has $14 billion in earnings. In 2008, the global community spent $192 billion on clothing, a healthy sum that can buy the entire Louis Vuitton S/S 2013 collection and a Rajo Laurel dress. In the Philippines, apparel is one of the biggest exports, rivaling that of the computer chip and the OFW.
But can fashion really save the Philippines? The thought of having FNO Manila seems like a long shot, considering how Filipinos aren’t as committed to fashion. Being in a third world country, most have bigger priorities such as food and shelter. An event as frivolous as an all-night party with designers and models doesn’t sit well for most Filipinos. The cultural divide is palpable, the dominant side a group that doesn’t care for heelless shoes and slouchy chic.
Established blogger and fashion star Cecile Zamora-Van Straten isn’t impressed, too. “I witnessed it in Tokyo last year. I was in a cab with my friend and we saw these fashion blogger-types lined up outside stores and I couldn’t be bothered or be excited to join them,” she says.
But fashion designer Santi Obcena offers a more positive view. “The concept of Fashion’s Night Out is indeed a great way to showcase up-and-coming brands from young designers and companies. God knows how hard it is for Pinoy brands, small or big, to compete with cheaper imports from other countries nowadays.”
Burgeoning shoe designer Joco Comendador has a few ideas on how the industry could help the country. Comendador, whose latest project is dressing up the models of the recent Bench Universe shows, is known for his killer heels. “The fashion industry can save the economy by maximizing locally produced raw materials such as fabric and leather, and hiring skilled workers locally instead of importing materials.” Involving everyone, from designers to mass retailers can encourage everyone from all economic backgrounds to join in the fun.
“The challenge for the Filipino market isn’t convincing them to buy, it’s basically to buy Filipino goods. Why aren’t we buying our own? I guess a Pinoy Fashion Night Out would be a great way to edit that perspective and probably bring the whole fashion community closer, hitting so many fashionable birds with one glamorous stone,” Obcena concludes.
Let’s admit it, the Filipino is becoming stylish. We’re not there yet, but the talents of our local designers are proof that we are ready for an international market. And the smizing Filipino public is hungry for more. A revolution is starting, and the best-dressed will lead the way. Dress appropriately.