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Tonight marks the third annual Fashion’s Night Out. It’s an evening of fashion fun and frolicking that takes place across New York from the meatpacking district to the upper East and West Sides (as well as Milan, Atlanta, and the wilds of Williamsburg).

Fashion’s Night Out vs. Savage Beauty

Of course, there’s no way this event will dethrone the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met’s Costume Institute as the hipster happening of the season. Some say McQueen is a genius; others that he’s sick, citing his penchant for covering the models’ mouths or entire faces with fabric, chain mail, or other bits of hardware  and forcing them to hobble down the runway in sadistic-looking  footwear. As one attendee summed up the exhibit: “Nightmare clothes and nightmare presentation. The exhibit space was so crowded I couldn’t run out of it as I wanted to. If that was what was going on in his head, no wonder he killed himself.”

Yes, plenty of his designs are disturbing. But others are enchanting, exquisite, charming, and beautifully constructed and tailored.

Creativity vs. social CRM

The New York Times laments that when the McQueen exhibit “finally closed in August, a curtain quietly came down on contemporary fashion’s great decade of experiment and expansion,” and that Fashion Week and Fashion’s Night Out are more about appealing to the “Maxxinistas” rather than pushing the creative envelope. But the masses aren’t even bargain hunting at FNO. Mashable reports that Simon Doonan says sales in 2009 were disappointing. The event may be less about pushing product and more about building brand awareness and loyalty and creating a “strategic marketing initiative” by engaging customers via mobile apps and social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr et al.

I’m not quite ready to mourn the demise of couture. My takeaway from the McQueen exhibit was that he was a master of marketing more so than even the usual top designers. It’s highly unlikely anyone bought a dress with sleeves that wrapped around your torso like a straightjacket or a skirt made out of wood. But by grabbing our attention by creating groundbreaking runway shows and scandalous garb, he had customers lined up to buy the understated, less ridiculous, but quite lovely gowns to wear to red-carpet parties so they could say they were wearing a McQueen.

Here’s to creativity, in whatever form it takes.