Hip to haute on and off the Avenue

Photographs by Anthony Carboni

Who says all good things must come to an end? At least that was the sentiment shared among Greenwich merchants when “Fashion’s Night Out” came to an end last year.

The brainchild of Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, FNO began in 2009 at the height of the recession in an attempt to get shoppers back into stores. The idea took hold across the country in more than 500 places, including Greenwich. But last year, the powers that be decided that FNO would be no longer.

No worries, fashionistas. It doesn’t look like Greenwich Avenue is abandoning ship anytime soon, judging by the throngs of shoppers that showed up Sept. 12 for the third annual “Fashion on the Avenue.”

It’s all thanks to Geri Corrigan, Saks Fifth Avenue’s director of marketing in Greenwich. She has spearheaded the effort to organize a community event by partnering with other merchants and the town to create a red-carpet runway show on Greenwich Avenue from Lewis to Elm streets. More than 80 models strutted the latest in fall fashions, including Anne Friday, Jill DuPont, Nanci Boudé and sisters Erin and Kelly Gallagher while Mercedes-Benz of Greenwich showed off its latest 2014 SL550 roadster, E350 Cabriolet and 350 4Matic sport wagon and Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom of Greenwich dancers performed a samba down the catwalk, dazzling spectators who ran the gamut from the well-heeled set to a scantily dressed transvestite taking selfies on her iPhone and a darling little girl skipping down the runway before the show.

But the real fun began following the runway show at the nearly 40 open house parties up and down the avenue as retailers stayed open late, luring customers with music, food and bubbly.

Event producer Jen Danzi headed over to the Saks Fifth Avenue’s post party after modeling a Lazaro bridal gown from Fontana.

“It’s the center of ‘Fashion Night on the Avenue,’ and it’s where everyone heads after the runway show,” she says. And it’s easy to see why as customers were regaled with food, wine and vodka tastings, coffee-roaster demonstrations, a string quartet, a DJ spinning, chair massages, character sketches, makeovers and much more.

“It was just a fun night for everyone to come out to kick off the fall season,” says Billie Messina, Saks’ manager. “We had very good business that night, and when you think of the amount of people in that night, it made them aware of what the trends are for the fall season and got them thinking about what they didn’t buy last night. It will spark some ideas of what they need to add to their fall wardrobe.”

Danzi, a Greenwich native who has seen the avenue change shape over the years, says “Fashion night is great, because it appeals to so many people who love fashion but can’t make it into New York City.”

And, she adds, “Greenwich Avenue fashion has come a long way. Richards has been carrying high-end designers for years, leading the way for designers to make Greenwich Avenue their home. With stores such as Ralph Lauren, Hermès, Vince, Joie, Scoop, Theory, Intermix, BCBG, Calypso, ROAM, Alice + Olivia, Lilly Pulitzer, J. Crew and Vineyard Vines, not much is missing from our humble strip.”

Allied Property Group Managing Partner Tom Torelli – whose company is active in retail leasing on Greenwich Avenue, representing tenants such as Tiffany & Co. and Brooks Brothers and recently completing leases with new kids on the block Vince, Joie and Marmot – says he came for a fun night out with wife, Megan, and to support his many clients involved in the event.

“I’ve been to the event twice before, but this year may have been the best, because the fashion retailers seem to be having more fun with it. And I suspect the retailers saw more sales as I spotted a fair amount of shopping bags.”

After the catwalk, the couple headed over to parties at Saks, Sandro and ROAM, then dined at Barcelona.

A booming noise could be heard from around the corner on Elm Street where perennial Wagger Babe Rizzuto and daughter Sophia Wojczak of ROAM were showing their support with a rockin’ party replete with a DJ, makeshift lounge and lite bar resembling a Manhattan club, all in the store’s back parking lot. Customers danced (myself included) and shopped while sipping from mini Moët & Chandon bottles with red and white swirl straws.

“That’s really our thing – have fun shopping by creating a fun, relaxed shopping environment so you can come out, have a drink. We’ll make you an espresso and help you find your style,” Rizzuto says of her year-old boutique, which prides itself on its “un-Greenwich” edgy and eclectic look.

Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei, who also is on the event’s board as honorary chairman, says, “‘Fashion on the Avenue’ provides an opportunity for all of our outstanding businesses and retailers to show off the very best in merchandise and bring the community out and have some fun modeling fashion and all the accoutrements that go with it.”

John H. Howland, president and CEO of event sponsor First Bank of Greenwich, says, “We love doing stuff in the community like this. It’s amazing to come down here and see this group of people from all walks of life.”

Mercedes-Benz of Greenwich General Manager Lou Liodori says he got involved in the event, because, “If something is important in our clients’ lives, it’s important to us as well. We are one of the oldest retail businesses in town, and we are very loyal to our community.”

So is Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom, says president Christine Georgopulo.

“It’s important to support ‘Fashion on the Avenue’ for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that Geri is our neighbor and a friend, but also we believe in being a part of and giving back to the community and supporting our fellow merchants. We were delighted to bring some entertainment, joy and social dancing to the party. After all, dance is universal.”

Not only that, she adds, but its influence on fashion in recent years is unmistakable.

“Major designers are reflecting the fashions seen on ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ Prada is using much more bling on their clothes and bags, as are YSL and quite a few others. And we all know that bling makes everything better.”

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