The models were dressed. The champagne poured. The dancing flash mob and roller derby demo were ready to go. But then came the rain. Lots of it.
Despite the the enthusiasm Georgetown’s business owners showed for Fashion’s Night Out — a now global event that launched two years ago in New York as a way to drum up consumer optimism during the recession — participation by shoppers willing to step out into Thursday’s storms for the sake of fashion was decidedly lackluster.
“People are filtering in and out,” said Emily Rubin, manager of Wink, a clothing store on M Street NW, at about 7 p.m., one hour into the festivities. “It’s better than a typical Thursday in September,” Rubin added enthusiastically. “Usually we’re closed by this time.”
[See more photos from Fashion’s Night Out here.]
Wink was among 105 Georgetown businesses that opted to stay open late, offer free and discounted services, and put on special events that included a fashion show and photo booth.
Shoppers willing to brave the deluge in exchange for scoring deals and free swag trudged from shop to shop, donning wellies instead of stilettos. As night fell, M Street and Wisconsin Avenue turned into a sea of black umbrellas illuminated by frequent flashes of lightning as much as street lights. Claps of thunder added an additional line of bass to music flowing from DJ booths inside stores.
Businesses, for the most part, tried to make the most of the situation. Lush, which sells bath and beauty products and hosted the roller derby demo, gave out free shower gel, an oddly appropriate giveaway given the fact that everyone passing by was already soaked.
Pedicab drivers like Brian Graber and Don Clark conspired to think of ways to attract riders when offering the rides for free wasn’t enough.
“Once people get wet, they won’t care,” said Graber hopefully. “Maybe we should just start splashing people.”
But mother nature took care of the soaking for him and by 8:30 p.m., business had picked up. Shoppers resigned to the fact that they would get wet whether or not they were on foot took advantage of the lifts.
Rubber-soled rainboots squeaked on shop floors and wet umbrellas dripped in entryways as crowds of mostly women tried on clothes, snacked on hors d’oeuvres and had photos snapped by faux paparazzi. Few carried shopping bags.
By night’s end, it was clear the event hadn’t lived up to the precedent set in 2010, when Georgetown participated for the first time.
Still, as an attractive pair of “psychics” read fashion fortunes — “You have expensive taste; go to Intermix for colored denim,” they advised one shopper as she flipped a tarot card — the optimistic tone of the evening came to mirror the original intent of Fashion’s Night Out.