Fashion brands have been hosting parties and events for ages as a means of connecting with editors, customers, or both. As an editor myself, I’ve been to plenty of these shindigs, and I have learned that there’s a fine, tough-to-achieve line between work and play. Brands, after all, are trying to sell you something—even if there are delicious drinks and a perfect playlist involved—and you’re there, either as an industry player or discerning consumer, to essentially be convinced of what’s on offer.
So, when a good friend texted me one night to head downtown for a party at Garrett Leight’s SoHo store, I assumed I knew what I was getting into—another fashion party that was fun, but not too fun, because there was a money-fueled motive behind it all.
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Once I got past the guy at the door checking names, however, that assessment felt all wrong. Despite the beautiful design and lighting of the store, the vibe was more organic—as if the coolest kids in the neighborhood had just stumbled upon the party of their own volition. No one was forcing their attention on the product, and they didn’t have to: people were gravitating toward the shelves of California-cool sunglasses on their own, casually trying on different pairs and buying them sans sales pitch.
The designer himself was making the rounds, too, chatting everyone up like they were old friends (and some probably were), as a finely-tuned hip-hop playlist filled the room. Why did he decide to start throwing these parties in the first place? I asked him afterward. “A combination of the space and the need to engage the New York community,” he explained, adding, “It's important to embrace the community in which you open stores. We've done that since day one in all of our stores.”
The space, as he mentioned, certainly lends itself to events, with it’s 1000-square-foot basement (in New York, might I remind you) painted white from floor to ceiling. It was in this area that the party really took shape, with honey-laced gin cocktails served under the orange light of a GLCO sign and a dance floor that quickly filled up with people showing off moves both casual and competition-worthy… the perfect mix at any party, if you ask me.
The night was downright fun—memorable, even—from start to finish, and if college taught me anything, it’s that with that comes some precaution. I asked Leight if he had any hesitations about hosting an experience less staid than the average brand. “The hesitation never goes away,” he confirmed. “New York is an interesting combination of retail and residential, so upsetting the neighbors with loitering or loud music is a big concern [along with] injury, alcohol poisoning, and theft. These things can be a reality at a party, so it’s important to do them on the right day, at the right time, with the right people.”
But given their regularity and my own experience (there were no mishaps to report, only new friends and some top-notch Snapchat videos), it appears the rewards are outweighing those risks. Leight concurs, pointing out that it creates a culture around his brand reflecting that it’s more than just a business. “We believe in things—art, music, fashion, food—and we’re using our spaces as a foundation for local creatives to display their talent.” It’s true, local art graces the walls, neighborhood DJs get to show off their skills, and—for many parties—up-and-coming eateries like Mofongo provide dancers with the hippest fuel. “I think [the parties have] paid off because we continue to grow and people like what we do,” Leight tells me. “I don’t have any analytics to support that—I just feel it.”
And how refreshing, in our data-driven world, is that? A brand operating by gut, with an eye toward the local scene and the privileging of genuine fun over a forced focus on the bottom line. “We don’t like to take ourselves too seriously,” Garrett concludes. “Suit and tie just isn’t our thing.”
If you could go to a party thrown by any brand, which one would it be? Let us know in the comments!