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Fashionista for a night: The FYI on FNO

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Effie Loukas, glam boutique owner and one of the most fashionable women in Charlotte, has been envisioning, planning and slaving over one of the most stylish events to happen this year. And she's not alone. Across the globe, Sept. 8 will be a day when members of the fashion community join to celebrate a global initiative known as Fashion's Night Out (FNO). Here in Charlotte, FNO spans the town.

Founded by American Vogue, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, NYC & Company, and the City of New York in 2009 during the failing economy to encourage consumers to support the fashion industry, the event has grown into a worldwide celebration. In addition to cities across the nation, 16 countries around the world will join in the initiative to ignite the shopping economy. It may have started in one of the greatest fashion capitals of the world, but just two years later, the initiative has trickled its way down to smaller cities like our own.

When Loukas, owner of Lotus Boutique, first got involved back in 2009, she hosted a small FNO event at her shop, complete with a DJ, wine and champagne. "I wanted to get people excited about FNO, so I gave shoppers a little incentive to shop and celebrate the evening," she says. "I had girls lined up outside. We filled up the store to more than 200 people, with bars outside, and on a Thursday night. It was truly an in-store party. It was one of the best nights the store's had in a really long time. I wasn't trying to tell people about a sale, because the whole thing is to get people steered away from that. There were incentives, but it was really all about creating that buzz and putting excitement back into shopping."

This year, Loukas and her team will help transform the Metropolitan, where Lotus is now located, into a fashion mecca on Sept. 8, and proceeds will benefit Zero Cancer — Great Prostate Challenge 2011. "I want to give one night out of the year for our little local boutiques to showcase who they are," Loukas says. A 60-foot runway will host the newest fall looks of more than 27 local boutiques, including Chezelle, Fresh, Monarch, Monkees of Lake Norman, Revolve, Petal and more, with the gracious help of hair and makeup artists and 100-plus models from all around Charlotte. For more information, including tickets, visit www.fnoclt.com.

The Metropolitan won't be the only place to go to celebrate fashion. Alejandro Torio, promotions and marketing director at Butter NC, was born and raised in the birthplace of FNO and has attended Betsey Johnson, Armani and Oscar de la Renta events at a past Fashion's Night Out event. He wants to recreate the FNO experience he had in NYC and bring it back to the N.C. Music Factory. This will be the second year that the Music Factory joins the fashion party.

In addition to the fashion show, the new thing this year is a trunk show. Both will showcase looks from local designers, including Lore Emelio, Pretty Birdie by Stephanie Teague, Beth Pilger, Stella & Dot jewelry, and boutiques like Revolution, KLa and O1NE Boutique. Proceeds from the event will benefit the American Cancer Society, and Samantha Busch (wife to NASCAR driver Kyle Busch and local fashionista) will be hosting the night's festivities. And with Armand De Brignac as one of the sponsors, the champagne is sure to be flowing.

"This isn't a Butter event," Torio says. "It's all about people shopping and having fun."

For more information about the event and tickets, visit the Fashion's Night Out Charlotte Facebook page.

Recently, a number of artistic designers and trend-setting boutiques have opened their doors in the NoDa area. So it's no surprise that Fashion's Night Out celebrations are in store — literally — for the neighborhood. LaVonndra Johnson, owner of Elle VJ Boutique, and three other NoDa boutiques/designers (Vivian B, Runway Style Studio and Flow by Tara Davis) are taking the traditional gallery crawl to another level.

"NoDa has always been known as the arts district," Johnson admits. "But we want to prove that NoDa is a fashion district as well." The participating boutiques will serve as stops along the way, at what Johnson is calling a "fashion crawl." The boutiques will host girls' night out type events. If you purchase something at one store, make sure you get your card punched. If you shop at each location, you'll win a prize for supporting all the boutiques. Visit www.fnoNODA.com for more details.

SouthParkers, no need to fret. Your beloved mall is also getting into the spirit of FNO. Retailers participating in the evening festivities include BCBG, Everything But Water, True Religion Brand, White House Black Market and more. The night will be filled with oodles of shopping, gifts, fun in-store events and food. It's a free red carpet event, so you can glam up without buckling down. For more information, visit www.simon.com or call 704-364-4411.

While we all love a great sale, Fashion's Night Out isn't about big savings for your wallet. Each event, whether we're talking about multiple spots around the Queen City or around the world, is designed to get people excited again about shopping and fashion. Whether you choose to come out to the N.C. Music Factory or hang out in NoDa, all lovers of fashion, regardless of which side of the cash register they're on, will have the chance to indulge themselves in a night of stylish fun. Sounds like a good night to us.

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