By Colleen Jurkiewicz Reporter Published Sep 02, 2012 at 9:02 AM

Fashion's Night Out began in New York City in 2009 - a year when everyone in America (retailers especially) could really use a party.

"The economy was not doing well," said Jordan Dechambre, managing and fashion editor at "M Magazine." "Retailers were really looking for an excuse to get people out shopping again. Not just because they wanted to make money but because it was getting to a point where fashion was almost turning into something negative."

Spearheaded by "Vogue" magazine, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, NYC & Company and the City of New York, the first Fashion's Night Out was organized to boost consumer confidence in the strength of the American retail community and the relevance of fashion in a struggling economy.

"Fashion makes us happy," said Dechambre. "It was about trying to find a way to really celebrate this and really make this what it should be, which is a celebration of art, of feeling good about ourselves, of empowerment."

Dechambre has attended the event every year, and watched it grow to include over 100 satellite cities in 15 countries.

Now she and co-organizers Jeffrey Raddatz and Chanell Royston are bringing the party to Milwaukee.

This Thursday, Sept. 6 from 5 to 9 p.m., the Historic Third Ward will be consumed with a celebration of all things fashion. Approximately 30 area boutiques are participating in addition to "pop-up" shops showcasing retailers from outside the city. 

Dechambre calls the Milwaukee fashion scene "a really fabulous secret." But with the high interest in FNO Milwaukee, it would seem that the secret is getting out.

"We have such a fantastic retail scene here, and so many people still think you need to go to Chicago to get great brands," she said. "You don’t. You can stay right here.

"Our event is mainly taking place in the Third Ward and Downtown area, but there are also some great shops over on Downer Avenue like Ma Jolie that has the most amazing selection of jeans," she said. "And you can’t forget about the suburbs – places like Faye's where you can buy Missoni, Piccardi shoe parlor in Brookfield and Mequon where you can buy Jimmy Choos – how many people know you can buy Jimmy Choos in Milwaukee?"

"I think it’s so exciting and overdue," said Lynn Marie Reich, marketing director for participating vendor Neroli Salon & Spa.

Reich moved back to Milwaukee about a year ago and was "shocked" that the city was not yet host to an official FNO event. "It’s such a big, worldwide event and to have Milwaukee be a part of it, I think, just really speaks to this city really becoming a big player and coming into its own."

Although some Milwaukee-area boutiques have, prior to now, hosted events incorporating the FNO name, theme and logo, Dechambre says that this event marks the first time Milwaukee joins places like New York City, London, Rome, Paris and Milon in being declared an official Fashion's Night Out designate city.

"It was very important for us to be part of the national event and support that," she said. "So we worked with the city of Milwaukee and the mayor’s office, and after a few months going through the appropriate channels we were finally able to declare Milwaukee a Fashion’s Night Out city. So that’s really, really exciting for us.

"There are a lot of people who will just kind of go out there and have an event ant toss a logo on it – they’re not actually registered, they’re not part of the national event."

So is Fashion’s Night Out only for the most discerning fashionista, who can tell a Manolo Blahnik from a Louboutin with one glance?

Absolutely not. "This is for anyone who loves to shop," said Dechambre. "It can be the college student who doesn’t really go out shopping because they don’t have a lot of money but they want to be able to be a part of this party atmosphere, or it can be this amazing mom out in Brookfield who doesn’t really have a lot of time to shop who’s going to make time just to come down with her girlfriends. It’s for everyone."

And no one should shy away just because they aren’t familiar with downtown traffic or parking. To create maximum "ease of use for the shopper," the organizers of Fashion’s Night Out recommend visiting or to find convenient parking (click on "parking options"). The sites will also give specific instructions regarding interstate exits and street parking.

"We do have trolleys running that night so people can jump on that. They will be staffed by public service ambassadors with maps and models in FNO T-shirts handing out maps and greeting guests," Dechambre said, adding that the distance between stores and events for the evening will be "very walkable."

Cream City Rickshaws and Milwaukee Pedal Tavern will also offer transportation.

Ultimately, this is a celebration not just of Milwaukee fashion but Milwaukee itself – its style and its stylemakers alike.

"We have an amazing arsenal of local fashion designers and we use events like this to try to put them in a spotlight," said Dechambre. "We have this amazing local boutique scene and really I think the biggest challenge that it faces is that so many people are kind of afraid to come downtown. They don't realize that downtown Milwaukee is not a scary place. There’s everything you could possibly imagine right here in downtown Milwaukee."

Reich agrees, and feels that the FNO vendors will get to showcase not only their goods but their accessibility.

"Being able to make it just so user-friendly for everyone within the Milwaukee area allows them to really make a night of it. It’ll be a really easy experience for people who want to come in and just have a great night of fashion and fun," said Reich.

 Participants in Fashion’s Night Out can also expect some great deals, prizes and entertainment. The event will feature sidewalk chart artists, three different bands, roving musicians and students from the Art Institute of Wisconsin sketching the scene.

Guests can stop by the Boston Store Pop-Up Shop on Menomonee Street to pick up a punch card and, after receiving 10 punches throughout the night, the card can be dropped off at the event’s after-party at Oak on East Buffalo Street to be entered in a drawing with $1,500 worth of prizes, including gift cards to The Iron Horse Hotel, Surg Restaurant Group, Mason Street Grill, Rustico, Boston Store, Erik of Norway and Roots Salon.

Fans of The CW's "Gossip Girl" will have an even bigger incentive to attend - as will anyone who's ever fantasized about raiding a starlet's closet. Actress Jessica Szohr, who plays Vanessa on the show, is originally from Milwaukee, and her mom is hosting a trunk show at the Aveda Institute of Beauty and Wellness. 

"She's selling a ton of designer clothing, jewelry, shoes - you name it - that designers send Jessica and she wears once and passes on to her family," said Dechambre. "Plus, a portion of the proceeds from this sale will benefit children's charities. To boot, Jessica is co-hosting the Fashion Police (on E!) with Joan Rivers for Fashion's Night Out!"

For those worried about dragging their husbands along, Dechambre promises there will something for the men, including a J. Hilburn trunk show at SPiN and a men’s display at Boston Store.

And if that doesn’t pique their interest?

"We’re going to have some gorgeous models walking around handing out maps and promotional materials!" she said. "Get a babysitter. Make a night of it."

A full listing of FNO Milwaukee events for September 6:

A-Trio featuring Brenda Schweder Jewelry
215 N. Water St.
Brenda Schweder will host guided "Make-N-Take" sessions (while supplies last) to make Creative Hand Pendants. There will be complimentary jewelry inspections, cleanings and polishing to everyone. A-Trio will showcase new additions and offer champagne and cookies

301 N. Broadway
There will be refreshments and treats, models showcasing favorite fall looks and a Personal Shopper on hand for free services.

Boston Store Pop-Up Shop
262 E. Menomonee St. (next to Snap Fitness)
Your Fashionable Milwaukee Prize Punch Card pick-up location. Buy the official Fashion’s Night Out Ts and tote bags, listen to DJ Bizzon and enjoy cocktails & hors d’oeuvres from Ryan Braun’s Graffito. There will be gift card and prize giveaways every 30 minutes plus Chanel mini makeovers and Chanel Nail Bar. Discounts on everything in the shop.

Boutique Larrieux
315 N. Broadway
Denim trunk show feat Not Your Daughter's Jeans, sizes 12-24, gift with every purchase of 2 pairs of denim or more.

Erik of Norway-Downtown and Groom on-the-street ambush makeover teams in the Third Ward.

Eye Candy Pop-Up Shop at Neroli Salon & Spa
325 E. Chicago St.
Complimentary make-up refreshes with new Aveda Flower Passion Fall Makeup.

Five Hearts
153 N. Milwaukee St.
Drinks, sweet treat table, models wearing fall styles, music, giveaway with purchase on top of 15% off fall and 20% off denim, plus a raffle to win a La Mer Watch.

Flirt featuring Roots Salon
317 N. Broadway
Free mini makeovers from Roots Salon, plus Buy 2 Get 1 Free Sale with Flirt.

Goldi Pop-Up Shop at Dart Salon & Spa
121 N. Jefferson St.
Inviting music, light food and beverage and 20 percent off salon services.

"Gossip Girl" Jessica Szohr Designer Trunk Show, Bieg Boutique and HoodiePet Pop-Up Shops at The Aveda Institute of Beauty & Wellness
327 E. St. Paul Ave.
Szohr's designer clothing at a fraction of the cost — with proceeds benefiting children's charities. There will be complimentary makeup refreshes and braiding plus Bieg giveaways for the first 10 people to make a purchase. Gift certificates will be distributed throughout the event.

Hotel Metro’s Zen on 7 rooftop lounge featuring Fred Boutique and Zita Bridal Salon
411 E. Mason St.
Cocktails and fashion — plus, the city’s best rooftop view!

I See London Pop-Up Shop featuring Impressions Day Spa at The Marshall Building
207 E. Buffalo St.
Featured fashions from the store, Julie Schnoll Designs and Jodi Marcus Vintage Designs on-site, apps and beverages, plus hair and make-up tips from Impressions.

321 N. Broadway
Free gift with $100 purchase, Skinny Girl cocktails, Packer game on big screen, sidewalk chalk artist, video recording the whole night and uploading to YouTube plus chair massages by Stan the Man

Luci Boutique
532 N. Water St.
25% off entire store, wine & cocktails, light apps, onsite photographer, hair and makeup, light massages and a violinist playing outside.

Luxx Boutique
338 N. Milwaukee St. #202
Live music from Aliesa Nicole, massages, cocktails and make-up demo by Isreal Glam.

Molloy’s and Stella & Dot Pop-Up Shop at Blush Beauty
249 N. Water St.
Cocktails, beauty, fashion, surprises and more!

Boutique B’Lou, Planet Bead, Timothy Westbrook and WellSpa at The Pfister Hotel
424 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Fashion Show, live music, still models, street dancers, necklace beading contest, food and drink, resident Artist Timothy Westbrook presenting a collection of designs, still models in windows of The Pfister Hotel, makeovers from Trish McVoy and Well Spa mini chair massages.

SPiN Milwaukee Men’s Suite
233 E. Chicago St.
Men’s Lounge featuring J. Hilburn Men’s Clothier by Lisa Gibb, drink and food specials and lots of ping pong!

Stephanie Horne
244 N. Broadway
Tammy Spice trunk show, makeup demonstrations by Anne, cupcakes from Milwaukee Cupcake Company and a drawing for $100 gift card.

The Shops of Grand Avenue
275 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Free libations, live music, free gift and new retailers including the debut of Flagship. All events in the Center Court.

Zita Bridal Salon (with David Liska Custom Jeweler and HollenWolff) and Linda Marcus Design at Cranston
250 N. Water St.
Wine & appetizers, featuring the Wedding Day Collection from David Liska, Exclusively at Zita Bridal Salon, and so much more!

Stop by any of these vendors during FNO Milwaukee for cocktail specials:
SPiN Milwaukee
Club Charlie's (featuring a Michael Jackson vs. Prince dance party!)
Hotel Metro
Ryan Braun's Graffito

For more information, visit FNO Milwaukee's Facebook page. 

Colleen Jurkiewicz Reporter

Colleen Jurkiewicz is a Milwaukee native with a degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and she loves having a job where she learns something new about the Cream City every day. Her previous incarnations have included stints as a waitress, a barista, a writing tutor, a medical transcriptionist, a freelance journalist, and now this lovely gig at the best online magazine in Milwaukee.