Anna Wintour's Make-People-Like-Me-Before-My-Contract-Is-Up Tour 2009 needed a charitable arm. She came up with Fashion's Night Out, a plan to save the industry, the economy, and her job all at once. But it's not a charity, it's a power play.

Fashion's Night Out is on Thursday, September 10 — Anna mentioned it on the Late Show — and it is an evening to fight one of the great ills of society: people not buying enough clothes! Yes, go out and buy things or else fashion will die and we will have to dress in sack cloth and Ed Hardy T's for the rest of our lives!

The FNO website describes:

In a global initiative to promote retail, restore consumer confidence, and celebrate fashion, U.S. and international editions of Vogue are coordinating evening extravaganzas in their respective world fashion capitals.

Even though they're trying to sell it like one (and even asking for volunteers) it is not a charity. That's right, it's bunch of store parties across the five boroughs. In Manhattan just about every fashion emporium is participating from Balenciaga to Banana Republic and Narcisco Rodriguez to Nine West. If you live in the Bronx, you're stuck with only Macy's and Lane Bryant. Sorry.

What exactly will be going on? Some highlights:

  • The Misshapes will be spinning at Versace.
  • Tom Ford is having a cocktail party (Tom Ford not included)
  • Our Hero Grace Coddington will be "telling a visual story" in the SoHo Prada store.
  • Cindy Crawford will appear at the much maligned JCPenney in Herald Square.
  • Oscar de la Renta will be singing at the Carlyle Hotel. Vogue editor Hamish Bowles will be singing at Juicy Couture. How that is helping humankind, we have no idea.
  • Carolina Herrera herself throws a party for photog Larry Fink at her boutique.
  • Anna Wintour told Letterman that she'll be at Macy's in Queens, but she didn't say which one. We are determined to track her down and get a photo.
  • Bergdorf Goodman seems to be the most fun of all, with windows by Zac Posen, a celebrity designer cook-off judged by Padma Lakshmi, the Olsen twins tending bar, and André Leon Talley hosting some sort of game show.

The plan seems to be to spend a lot of money getting people in the stores to spend a lot of money. The one thing we haven't heard anything about is discounts. Just because Catherine Malandrino is converting her Meatpacking showplace into a French cafe for the evening doesn't mean that suddenly more people will be able to afford one of her cocktail dresses. Also, none of the money made will go to charity, it will go right into the pockets of retailers, where it belongs. Most participating locations will have stations for visitor's to donate used clothes for charity, but it seems a bit like bringing a canned good to get access to an open bar.

So, just why is Anna doing this? Of course if all the brands go out of business, so will Vogue. But times of crisis are also the best times to consolidate power. Who knows if this one-night shopping event will save New York's fashion industry (it won't) but it already has people talking about Anna as if she's the one and only person who can save the fashion world from crumbling. Also, Condé Nast is sure to give her another 5-year contract (and, we hear that the deal is already done). Well played, Anna. Well played.