The idea was to assure people that even in a beleaguered economy, it was OK to traipse around the city - funky recycled tote in hand - and shop. Fashion is not frivolous, argued Wintour; it's a key way to keep the economy alive.
Four years later, it can't be ignored. Traditionally held on the first night of New York Fashion Week, FNO - with its own line of T-shirts and canvas totes - is a way for fashion diehards to feel closer to the Lincoln Center runways.
Philadelphia almost didn't have a Fashion's Night Out.
City representatives were reluctant, fearing that retailers would prefer FNO to the Philadelphia Collection - seven days of shopping, shows, cocktails, and seminars created to boost the city's fashion cred and persuade high-end designers like Tory Burch to open specialty stores in town. About 75 of the city's 198 fashion retailers will participate in this year's Collection, which starts Sept. 13.
In the end, the city agreed to host FNO because not only were local fashion leaders pushing for it - namely Shepp, Nicole Miller franchisee owner Mary K. Dougherty, and public relations guru Rakia Reynolds - but so were corporate giants such as BCBG, Juicy Couture, and Steve Madden, who had a New York FNO presence and wanted to stay open late in Philadelphia, too.
"We are viewing Fashion's Night Out as a preview to the Philadelphia Collection," said Melanie Johnson of Philly's office of the city representative. "This is another step toward letting people know that Philadelphia is a great place to come, shop, and enjoy fashion. We wanted to make sure Philadelphia was recognized."
Christiana Mall in Delaware will also take part in its first Fashion's Night Out.
Center City's first FNO promises to be fun-filled.
Highlights include a pre-party at Saks Fifth Avenue in Bala Cynwyd offering free makeovers, spray tans, and blowouts for those about to embark on their shopping journeys. Juicy Couture is giving out samples of its new fragrance, Viva la Juicy, and Commonwealth Proper will host an evening of fine haberdashery and cocktails at the Library Lounge in the Union League.
If you're looking for a way to get around the city, Uber, a luxury car service you can summon with a smartphone, will be offering $10 off rides to FNO events.
If making the scene at 20 stores sounds overwhelming to you, here's where I'll be spending my time tonight.
I'm starting at Joan Shepp, where national Accessories Council president Karen Giberson will be promoting "USA-made," an initiative to bring the manufacturing of costume jewelry back to the States. About a dozen jewelry designers, including Philadelphia's own John Wind, will be there.
Across the street at BCBG, stylists will be dressing shoppers whose "after" photos will be sent out on Instagram (hashtag #BCBGNFNO is key).
Next up is a sweep through Egan Day to see Kate Egan's smashing fall jewelry line and get my portrait done by silhouette artist Zachary Murray.
I've heard quite a lot about Philadelphia-based clothing label Couture Vulture, so next I'll be popping over to Aoki, where designer Dominique Negron will be chatting with customers.
I've been buying a Sarah Van Aken dress for the last two seasons, so how could I pass over SA VA, where there will be a sneak peek at this season's Harvest Moon collection? Stylist Caroline Kohler will help people find styles that best suit them.
Next stop is Knit Wit, where owner Ann Gitter will be partnering for a meet-and-greet with designers who manufacture clothing in America. They are housed locally at Rakia Reynolds' Skai Blue Show at 12th and Sansom.
A few doors down, Kembrel, a store that hosts revolving pop-up shops, will feature local designers Duke & Winston and Pretty Rebel.
Then I plan to Uber down to Old City's Third Street Habit, where owner January Bartle will host a Mother Denim Trunk Show.
I'll end my night at Nicole Miller in the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue, where the party will go on until 11 p.m. Dougherty will have a window display of designs created by local fashion-school students.
Besides, who can pass up a Miller-tini?
For more information, visit http://www.fashionsnightout.com
Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @ewellingtonphl.