The Council of Fashion Designers of America, whose offices have been located on Broadway & 39th for over 15 years, have outgrown their Garment District digs and recently signed a lease on a new space about 38 blocks downtown (we’re neighbors!). The CFDA, in addition to supporting American designers, have been dedicated to the preservation of the Garment District and established programs like the CFDA Fashion Incubator (low-rent studio spaces for emerging designers in the Garment District) and a study called “Made in Midtown.” So, not surprisingly, their decision to move out has been met with some disapproval from designers who see it as a snub to them and the district they, too, would like to preserve.
“We are extremely disappointed by the CFDA’s decision to leave the Garment Center,” Nanette Lepore told WWD. “We only hope this does not signal the end of their previous support for New York City manufacturing and emerging American designers.” Her husband Bob Savage, who also works on the Save the Garment Center campaign, has similar worries: “With this move, are they saying they are turning their back on the Garment Center? I am concerned that this is a signal that the Garment Center is not relevant to the CFDA. ”
Doesn’t that seem a little extreme? CFDA CEO Steven Kolb told WWD, “The work remains and the programmatic piece of what CFDA does for the neighborhood continues, but for us to function and to really grow over the next 10 years, 65 Bleecker presented a better scenario for us.” Can the CFDA’s physical location really make that big of an impact on the garment discrict? Yeohlee Tang, also a strong supporter of the Garment District and a CFDA board member said, “Because I feel the fashion district and the CFDA is one community, only time will tell how the move will affect the neighborhood.”
On the other hand, Anthony Lilore, one of the founders of Save the Garment Center, a trade association devoted to promoting the Garment Distrct, was the most fair-minded about the situation, offering, “the New York Times is not located in Times Square, Sullivan Street Bakery is not on Sullivan Street and Madison Square Garden is not at Madison Square, so the CFDA should be where the designers are and that could just as easily be L.A., but they are still in New York City.” Still, while he says he doesn’t see the move as “a jab or a stab against the industry,” he does say that “symbolically, it’s not right.”
Logistically, the CFDA’s physical location within Manhattan shouldn’t have any real impact on the work that goes on in the garment district or the work they do themselves to support it; but symbolically it could feel a little discouraging to those who are working so hard to preserve the fashion industry’s presence there. If the CFDA can’t set up shop there, it would be wise to do something to symbolically show their support in a tangible way. Or maybe CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg already has. She tells WWD, “I am expanding my factory and sample room there, so I am certainly all for [the area].”