Arriving to Michael Kors on time is still an hour too early.
If the promos for Fashion’s Night Out are true, the attendees here have a fun night of karaoke, Kate Upton and “YouTube celebrities” ahead. Customers and staff alike stand around beneath the glaring white lights at Michael Kors’ Madison Avenue shop, surrounded by gleaming handbags and other accessories. It’s a public event, so the first 50 or so people who made this their first FNO stop squeeze into the small area. The makeshift stage takes up a small part of the front of the store, because let’s not forget that Michael Kors is here to sell things. Above the stage, a glittering sign reads “KORS KARAOKE,” but below are a keyboard and two microphones — who’s going to bring sheet music and a duet partner to karaoke?
Bow-tied waiters, each replete with a strong jaw and five o’ clock shadow, dole out glasses of bubbly to anyone who looks of age. The normally frigid store is warmed by the mass of slightly inebriated bodies. Sales associates, wearing v-necks emblazoned with Kors-designed aviators, lean across glass tables to affix crystal-encrusted watches to the wrists of the few customers who are actually here to spend money, or at least keep up the pretense of doing so. Tonight the retail focus is on Kors’ sunglasses, which are selling for a specially discounted price of $45 and come with the opportunity to have one’s portrait taken by fashion photographer Victor Demarchelier. He has not yet set up shop in the pop-up photo studio downstairs, so everybody continues to wait, fortified with a dinner of free Prosecco.
Forty-five minutes pass, and the low hum of chatter builds with the wavering density of anticipation. The glass front doors are now closed, and the people in line outside don’t know what they’re missing, which at this point is nothing.
Finally, Michael Kors ascends the staircase to a flurry of camera flashes. Eliciting a few excited shrieks from bystanders, the designer takes to the stage and surveys the room through a pair of black aviators. In keeping with the theme of the night, he announces that three YouTube celebrities will perform renditions of Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses At Night.”
“This isn’t karaoke late at night,” Kors declares with the flair of a ringmaster. “This is the real deal, guys.” He then takes a seat next to the four other judges, supermodel Kate Upton and actresses Debra Messing, Nikki Reed and Nina Arianda, each a fabulous presence in her own right.
The performers are a who’s who of widely viewed cover artists: Jessica Jarrell, Sam Tsui and Macy Maloy each take the stage to croon into the store’s tinny sound system. The store’s dazzling fluorescence provides exactly the opposite of mood lighting, and only Sam’s powerful vocals are able to deflate the audience’s noise level into a murmur. The judges deliberate while guest performer and former American Idol contestant Paul McDonald (otherwise known as Mr. Nikki Reed) straps on his guitar and debuts a new song he wrote about New York.
Without much pomp, the winners are announced and awarded shopping sprees at Michael Kors. East Coast native Sam Tsui, who is perhaps best known for his viral Michael Jackson medley, is cheerful about his $3,000 second-place prize. “I’ll have presents for my female friends and family members for a while,” he says brightly. “Being a YouTube personality is amazing because I get these opportunities to travel all over the world.”
At last, the photo studio downstairs is ready for business, and aviator-bearing women queue between the dimly lit racks lined with fur and tweed coats. “I love Michael Kors,” Victoria Balton enthuses as she picks through her instantly printed photos with her friend Elizabeth Weinstein. “These turned out pretty good!” The two women plan to check out next-door DKNY’s “beefiest firefighters” lineup.
On the main level, the crowd has dispersed; celebrities and “celebrities” alike linger behind to chat and tweet photos of one another. (Adorably, Debra Messings’ phone case is a panda.) If this were a normal concert event, they would be taking photos with fans and signing autographs, but inside these walls, people keep their composure. This is high fashion, baby, and don’t forget to buy a pair of aviators on your way out.