In the makeup department, Lorrin Lynn, 24, a CPA, got a free makeover at Bobbi Brown after buying her special FNO lipstick. She also went hunting for reality star Bethenny Frankel showing off her shapewear line in the intimates department and "Bachelorette" star Emily Maynard at the Benefit Cosmetics counter.
"It's fun to go out to the stores, see the trends, and there's free booze!" said Lynne, cruising the night with a friend for their second FNO.
At Lord & Taylor, several hundred people lined up for Kardashian's autograph.
"Kim is the only person I put my life on pause for," said Aaron Ward, 26, a personal trainer from the Bronx who showed up at 4:30 p.m.
He bought the Kardashian perfume gift set for his mother and has purchased more than 50 other items from the Kardashian brand as gifts.
"I love Kim but I am not a girl," he added. "I am a Kim Kardashian curator."
Meanwhile, Nicole Richie and Jennifer Hudson were among a handful of designers who were promoting their creations on QVC from 9 pm to 12 midnight. "It's a dream to debut on Fashion's Night Out," said Jennifer Hudson, who had just finished a 12-minute segment selling 13 pieces of her new collection exclusive for the home shopping network.
This is the third year that QVC televised its shopping program in Manhattan on Fashion's Night Out. Company officials noted that viewership typically is twice what they see compared to other days.
Does all the starpower and hoopla help at the register? "Ask me tomorrow," Max Azria said with a laugh backstage before his BCBG presentation at New York Fashion Week. He said it can't hurt to meet shoppers.
Stores across the U.S. also held events, though less star-studded. In Chicago, Saks Fifth Avenue offered free cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and music; in Atlanta, Lenox Square Mall gave out gift bags and makeup touch ups at Aveda.
Models walked a quarter mile runway at the Galleria Dallas. The mall's fashion expert Holly Quartaro said that by the end of the night, each model will have walked a mile and a half in heels. NorthPark Center featured runway shows, beauty stations for mini-makeovers and an exhibit of Roberto Cavalli gowns.
"We've got an amazing crowd out here," said the shopping center's director of public relations, Victoria Snee, adding that some shoppers were "dressed to the nines."
Fashion's Night Out, timed for the first day of New York Fashion Week, also coincides with the final night of the Democratic National Convention. A Vogue spokeswoman said the event was planned a year in advance with thousands of retailers.
She added that Wintour is a supporter of President Barack Obama and noted that shoppers had five hours of events — plenty of time to get home to watch Obama speak if they wish.
Thakoon Panichgul — who has dressed first lady Michelle Obama — planned to do just that. But the conflict didn't bother Simon Doonan, the creative ambassador-at-large at Barneys: "That's what Tivo's for."
NBG Productions analyst Brian Sozzi said Fashion's Night Out started inconspicuously but has gained traction over the years.
"It gets customers into stores in a non-peak hour after work and it gets them energized," he said. "It's a win-win for retailers who are piggy backing on Fashion's Night Out's own marketing so it's not a big investment for them."
On Twitter, Fashion's Night Out's hashtag, (hash)FNO, was one of the top trending keywords. Laura Ashley tweeted about goodie bags while designer shoe label Christian Louboutin shared a special Fashion's Night Out Spotify playlist.
Kelly Talamas, director of Vogue Mexico & Latin America, said that last year's Fashion's Night Out boosted local sales. For its second year, Fashion's Night Out Mexico more than doubled the number of participating stores, to 250 from 100 in 2011. FNO Mexico will also expand to the Mexican city of Guadalajara, where activities will be held Sept. 13.