Fashion Week Is Mired in Controversy (and It Hasn’t Even Started Yet)

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Fashion Month is fast approaching, with New York Fashion Week (NYFW) taking place from September 6 to 14, and London Fashion Week (LFW) following from September 13 to 17. However, both editions are mired in controversy before they’ve even started, with the troubles potentially affecting the runway shows we’re so used to seeing twice a year. Here’s everything you need to know.

New York Fashion Week

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) runs NYFW, and the troubles it has encountered are mainly political. You might have seen recent calls on social media to boycott gyms like SoulCycle and Equinox because of their ties to Stephen Ross, the billionaire real estate developer who recently hit the headlines for throwing a re-election fundraiser for Donald Trump at his house in the Hamptons.

His wife Kara Ross, a jewelry designer, is on the board of the CFDA, and attended the event at their house. Ross’ development company is behind the newly updated Hudson Yards, which is a venue featured heavily on the NYFW schedule. This has caused prominent designers like Prabal Gurung to openly speak out against Ross, and say they would not be showing at Hudson Yards.

Gurung referred to the couple’s fundraiser as “appalling, shocking, and an indication of their integrity and values” on Twitter. He added, “My goal here is to start a dialogue and maybe, hopefully, change some minds. I was previously in conversation with Hudson Yards’ The Vessel as the venue for my brand’s upcoming 10-year show during NYFW. When I heard about this fundraiser, I chose to pull my participation.”

According to Fashionista, the CFDA – which is headed by Tom Ford – has refused to kick Ross off the board, despite calls for her dismissal. This has caused designers like Dana Lorenz of Fallon Jewelry to cancel their membership to the organization.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Dear Mr. Ford, Mr. Kolb, members and board of the CFDA, Effective immediately, I regretfully but with great certainty, cancel my membership to the Council of Fashion Designers of America. After many years of membership I will no longer participate if a woman that funds the current administration remains on the board. I will no longer be a part of what seems to be allowing a pay for play, money over merit arrangement with someone that clearly wants to advance an agenda that is hurting many businesses large and small with this trade war. I do not feel her views speak for me as a member and I will not allow her to make decisions on my behalf. I thought about this decision well, and although I appreciated support in the beginnings of my career, I no longer feel the membership represents me. I will fondly remember hearing I was nominated for a CFDA Award, I will gratefully remember my time as a CFDA/VOGUE Fashion Fund nominee, and I will always be thankful for your ear, Steven. However, after emailing you about concerns as to the board seat of Mrs. Ross I was met with a response that felt very much like the pacifying public statements from SoulCycle and Equinox. I was told “not our problem” and to focus my energies elsewhere. So I will. The annual membership dues and future high priced tickets to awards will be spent fighting what this administration is destroying, specifically equal rights and climate change. Yesterday, while Mrs. Ross was putting finishing touches on her Trump fundraiser, I was making sure my sobbing housekeeper had her entire family’s documents in order, a woman with 3 years citizenship living in fear. It is not enough to post rainbows on your Instagram feed. Do something. As a side note, the Fashion Fund is irrelevant unless it is entirely made up of sustainable designers. FALLON JEWELRY

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Ross responsed to the outcry last week in a statement, saying, “I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions… I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”

Overall, fashion is a fairly left-leaning industry – NYFW barely goes by without a few protests on the catwalk targeting Trump, so these associations aren’t sitting particularly well. Just think back to Philipp Plein’s 2017 show, when many fashion editors refused to sit next to the president’s daughter, Tiffany Trump. As public figures like Chrissy Teigen, Billy Eichner, and Gurung cancel their memberships to Equinox, will these associations with Stephen and Kara Ross affect NYFW as well?

London Fashion Week

Fashion has an environmental problem. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the textiles industry produces 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year – more than international flights and maritime shipping combined.

Climate activism group Extinction Rebellion wants to do something about this, and has written to the British Fashion Council (BFC) begging for the cancellation of LFW. It writes: “London Fashion Week sets a global precedent. It creates the desire that results in the consumption of fast fashion and beyond. Fashion should be a cultural signifier of our times, and yet the industry still adheres to an archaic system of seasonal fashion, adding pressure to relentlessly create new fashion from new materials. The embodied emissions, as well as damaging cultural resonance of fashion weeks, is not something the planet can afford.”

 

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We face an existential threat if we do not change course by 2020, yet meaningful action has not yet begun. We need culture to lead the way. Fashion is one of the most polluting industries and one of the most influential. Fashion should be a cultural signifier of our times, and yet it still adheres to an archaic system of seasonal fashion and relentless newness at a time of emergency. 🚨 ⁣ ⁣ On the 26th of July, we sent a letter to the British Fashion Council. “In recognition of the existential threat that faces us, we ask the British Fashion Council to be the leaders the world needs now and to cancel London Fashion Week. We ask that instead the industry convene a People’s Assembly of industry professionals and designers as a platform to declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency, to face the truth and to take action following in the footsteps of The Tate and Culture Declares.” The BFC agree “We are facing a climate change emergency and all need to act” but we don’t see emergency action.⁣ ⁣ We will not stand by while the natural world is being taken from beneath our feet. We will send a clear sign to the fashion industry that business as usual is leading us to extinction.

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According to Extinction Rebellion, the BFC agreed, saying, “We are facing a climate change emergency and all need to act.” Having said that, Fashion Week will still go ahead as usual. Extinction Rebellion later posted on Instagram: “We will not stand by while the natural world is being taken from beneath our feet. We will send a clear sign to the fashion industry that business as usual is leading us to extinction.”

This suggests that the organization will disrupt the five-day event. It has already organized something called London Fashion Week: Rest in Peace, and Ramón Salgado-Touzón of Extinction Rebellion’s fashion action group told The Times: “We are planning non-violent direct action civil disobedience.” This is all in a bid to “shut down” LFW, and will focus more on preventing people from getting in and to shows rather than dramatic storming of the catwalks. If crew, models, and fashion editors can’t make it to the shows – which are part of a jam-packed schedule spread all over the city – Fashion Week could be thrown into disarray.

Exctinction rebellion protest
Photo: Courtesy of PA Images
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