Heal the wounds.
That was the most common answer to the question WWD asked designers, executives, artists, writers and others about what the new president’s number-one priority should be. Now that the most antagonistic and divisive campaign in modern history has finally ended, the President faces a country clearly split over economic, racial, demographic and cultural issues and from their very first day and is likely to face a blizzard of criticism for everything from their policies to their looks, not to mention the scandals that plagued them throughout the 18-month campaign.
The need to bring the country back together was mentioned by most people, but others pointed to issues ranging from education to growing the economy; boosting Made in America to appointing a new Supreme Court justice.
Here, the industry’s view:
“Shorten the campaign season to six months. The government gives each candidate a dollar amount they can spend any way they like. No donations allowed. No fundraisers allowed. Pleaseeeeeeee.” — Norma Kamali
“Number-one priority for our new president should be to lead in bringing the country together and focus on ending the hate talk and divisiveness. We are all human beings first and Americans second which comes before any political party affiliation.” — Mark Lee, chief executive officer of Barneys New York
“Gun control.” — Jonathan Simkhai
“Tax reform.” — Adam Selman
“I think there are many top priorities at stake. Unifying our country is so important. I would also like to see some of the WPA [Works Progress Administration] programs come back.” — Zac Posen
“Creating a sense of communion has to be the first priority, that we’re all on the same side. The core of democracy is compromise. That’s the core of democracy. You’re never going to get what you want 100 percent of the time. So we all have to coalesce around an idea that society matters. Which is honestly one of the functions of art. Art matters for that reason, because it civilizes society.” — Ippolita Rostagno, jewelry designer
“To change the perception of what’s going on in this world right now.” — Liz Swig, LizWorks
“It’s going to be so hard, but somehow to try and unify people. It’s just really, it’s going to be hard. Trump’s campaign has made his supporters so angry about what will happen if he doesn’t win. I think it’s going to be really tough.” — Cindy Sherman, artist
“Irrespective of who is elected president, it’s important that he or she represent the entire country and not just one specific point of view. That person has to bring the country together and move ahead to solve the practical daily issues we have in our economy and health care. After a very long and divisive election process, it’s most important for the next president to embrace the diversity and richness and optimism that has made us such a light for the world. America is a place of opportunity. Our values are universal and still aspirational to the rest of the world.” — Victor Luis, ceo of Coach
“I think that the next president of the U.S. should focus on the following two top priorities:
1. Strengthen and grow the U.S. economy. I believe that a strong economy is at the core of our country’s leadership and provides Americans with opportunities to fulfill the American dream. [Gross domestic product] and job growth, cutting the national debt and creating a healthy surplus to fund infrastructure projects, education and security are critical focus areas for our country. I think that the president and policy makers are in charge of enabling the right conditions for growth.
2. Position the U.S. as a strong and effective leader of the free world. The world is a challenging place today. One that requires significant alignment between countries and key regions of the world to gain political stability, fight terrorism and promote democracy as the system of choice. I think this is critical to be able to develop and support a successful global economy for mankind. I am confident that the U.S. has been and still is best positioned to exercise that leadership role and make this world a better place for all. Our next president should be the catalyst for this evolution.” — Carlos Alberini, ceo of Lucky Brand
“The president needs to assure the entire American population that they are their president and they will make them proud to be Americans and proud for this individual to be their president. In general, from a leadership perspective, the president of the United States is the president representing all Americans, not just those who voted for them.” — William P. Lauder, executive chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.
“I think, for me, the top priority is really focusing on the environment and how we define progress and I think the thing future generations will judge our generation most by is how we’re reading the road signs.” — Ethan Hawke, actor
“Building bridges and bringing the country back together.” — Tory Burch, chairman and co-ceo of Tory Burch
“To protect our country.” — Tommy Hilfiger
“To restore civility in the land through acceptance and compassion for all people (with or without pantsuits).” — Kenneth Cole
“Unifying the country.” — Joseph Altuzarra
“We need to focus on bringing the country back together. There’s simply too much at stake. The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters in the world. We know we need to collaborate. After all, if we don’t take care of the environment now, there will be no environment to work in.” — Eileen Fisher, founder and chairwoman of Eileen Fisher Inc.
“…Her first priority is to unite the country…” — Thom Browne
“The next president’s top priority should be to expand education as an educated citizenry is necessary in formulating informed decisions. Topics should include history, economics, politics and philosophy. Otherwise, as Plato said, a noneducated citizenry devolves into rule by the mob. The Industrial Revolution is over, and it is not coming back. The future is technology. People are needed to fill these new and forward positions.” — Patricia Field
“In the first 100 days, our new president should focus on two vital topics — encourage free and fair trade, benefiting exports as well as imports. And address our tax system, which discourages repatriation of off-shore cash and is overly complex.” — Tim Boyle, ceo of Columbia Sportswear Co.
“The next president’s top priority should be to invest in creating jobs for Americans in industries that help build the country.” — Monique Lhuillier
“The biggest issue is the need for less government — the Department of Labor has new overtime rules and you can’t have unpaid interns any more. The big priority is to get government out of business and health care. It’s just added all kinds of costs to us that we didn’t have before.” — Bud Konheim, ceo of Nicole Miller
“There are two issues that I wish to see our next president address — education and appointing a Supreme Court justice.…Education is the way to a future of opportunity for our current and next generation…We need to continue to progress, not turn back laws that will destroy the rights of women and minorities in our country.” — Prabal Gurung
“Environmentalism. That whole Trans-Pacific Partnership is crazy because it does not defend the environment. It’s all about big corporations closing themselves off in these rooms and making laws. Everything else falls after that. If you don’t have an earth that’s healthy — our food, water, and air are polluted — everything becomes obsolete compared to having a healthy planet.” — Jussara Lee
“Infrastructure! Our country needs to invest in modernizing its aging infrastructure. You visit Europe or Asia and you have fast trains, superefficient airports, and people have good jobs building for the future. In U.S. cities our water pipes are leaking, our streets are crumbling, our waterfront is not reinforced to withstand flooding. Investing in our infrastructure should be the priority that both political parties can embrace, working in partnership with the private sector to finance a major national initiative.” — Deirdre Quinn, ceo of Lafayette 148
“The top priority for our new president should be to usher in a new ‘Age of Aquarius,’ where peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars….” — Nanette Lepore
“This is a troubling time, when our country is very polarized. The first priority of the next president should be to bring Americans back together. From politicians to ordinary citizens, we all need to relearn how to honor our individual values while respecting the opinions of others. Without this, it will be nearly impossible for the president to accomplish any goal.” — Michelle Smith, creative director and cofounder of Milly
“I think the top priority for the new president of the U.S. needs to be reassuring the people that homeland security will be a top focus.” — Dennis Basso
“Working with Congress — just to pass legislation so they don’t have to use executive orders all the time, which are constantly challenged.” — Peter J. Solomon, chairman of Peter J. Solomon Co.
“The first thing our new president needs to do is reach across party lines and begin the process of healing our bitterly divided country. To reignite our country’s sense of optimism and security despite our differences.” — Kate Valentine Spade, designer and founder of Frances Valentine
“The new president’s priority should be, if it’s Hillary Clinton, that it should never get this far again, that level of disillusion in America, that people feel they had to vote for Donald Trump in such numbers. If it’s Donald Trump, then he’s got to absolutely become someone he’s never been before and I don’t know how he’s gonna do that, especially with his advisers and the people around him and his boastful habits. He frightens people in Europe very badly because of the issue of NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization]. If we don’t have NATO as a strong force in Europe, with what’s going on with Russia at the moment and the
possibility for war in the Baltic states, if Russia takes back the Baltic states, and he has said he will not defend them. It’s unthinkable that an American president would speak like that after the Second World War and everything it’s been through over NATO, which is what has protected Europe to a large extent. It’s so that, the idea that somebody and that he was not, I mean, I know all the stuff about women has come up, I know all his bad temper, but the issue over the Baltic states, over Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, they’re very vulnerable places, very easy to take. That could become a source of major conflagration. You must remember the wars in Europe always began over places that people could hardly name. Sarajevo started the First World War, the Second World War over issues to do with Czechoslovakia and Poland, but this is really serious and it’s worrying everyone in Europe hugely. He’s been viewed with horror in Europe.” — Colm Toibin, author
“Profound economic inequality in the country. Pretty obviously.” — Zadie Smith, author
“First, commence a massive infrastructure initiative — a 2017 ‘Marshall Plan,’ while also putting in place a much more contemporary and relevant Depression-era, WPA-type program. There needs to be retraining and relocation assistance (to where the jobs are) — to rebuild while impactfully addressing the working class’ plight. Secondly, [we need] to forge a strong, healthy, cooperative and non-adversarial relationship with China. This will ensure decades of peace while also keeping others like the Russians in check.” — Stephen Gordon, founder of Guideboat
“I’m trying to put a lot of trust in people. What should be the first order of business? I have no idea what the first order of business should be. That could go so many different ways. I don’t even know what I’m going to do when the results come in. It’s scary.” — Maxwell Osborne, Public School, DKNY
“If the other guy wins, I don’t really care what his first order of business is because I’ll be packing my bags and moving to Canada. But if Hillary wins, her priority is to just keep doing what she’s doing. Clear the air in terms of her e-mail servers and all those things — she should just try to get that behind her and say, ‘This is a new start,’ and be thankful that she won.” — Dao-Yi Chow, Public School, DKNY
“There’s no point in having policy priorities as long as government remains dysfunctional. The top priority has to be fixing our broken system. Sustainable change can’t be made on a purely partisan basis, so a good place to start is by bringing together key players from both parties to figure out a join approach to making progress, which will require compromise on both sides.” — Alan Murray, chief content officer of Time Inc. and editor in chief of Fortune.
“I’m not American, but they should find a way to get both parties on board with whomever is president.” — Fernando Garcia, Monse, Oscar de la Renta
“I feel like we don’t know the answer to that, but whatever is the highest priority on that secret list that needs to be done. Just so things won’t go crazy, our markets won’t go nuts and they make sure whatever decisions they make, they think about the betterment of American — middle America, high-class America.” — Kelly Rowland
“I would love something with guns to happen. I really don’t like gun violence.” — Scott Studenberg, Baja East
“Top priority is to run the country that’s already great.” — Jason Wu
“Top priority should be to unify the country and have all of us think of ourselves as Americans.” — Neil Blumenthal, Warby Parker
“I’m so anxious about tomorrow. [The priority should be] to think about the country.” — Diane von Furstenberg
“America likes a good fight, but what we love even more is a good solution. The fight releases our angst. The solution helps us grow. Unfortunately, while our industry can usually skirt the news during an election cycle, we were thrust into the limelight when both political parties expressed highly negative comments on trade, on NAFTA [North , and on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Now that the election is over, we lick our wounds, bury the bad things that were said, pick up the pieces, and evolve to a place that simply works better for our industry and for America. Trade isn’t going to go away. What, hopefully, will remain is a better understanding of our heartland, and a much-needed step-up to educate lawmakers on improved monitoring, and even better enforcement of trade legislation.” — Rick Helfenbein, president and ceo of the American Apparel & Footwear Association
“Never in my life have I seen anything like the vitriol and anger and strife this election has generated. The first act of whomever takes office should be to bring this country together again. When you go to vote you see the ballots in all these different languages. That’s who we are as a county, a melting pot. The first act of business should be to bring this country together again in a loving and beautiful way.” — Gela Nash Taylor, Pam & Gela
“Well said. It’s time to tone it down and focus on what needs to be done. This election has made everyone feel horrible. When we started Juicy we were proud that everything was Made in the Glamorous USA and everything we make now is Made in the Glamorous USA. I’ll all for manufacturing in this country, but I’m also a humanitarian and a woman. I’m wearing a P&G shirt today that says ‘Feminine Gangsta.’ That’s how I feel.” — Pamela Skaist-Levy, Pam & Gela
“She should just start governing, the way she is fully ready to do. Enough campaigning. Enough having to respond to every smear no matter how unfounded. Enough. Just let her be our president!” — Cindi Leive, editor in chief of Glamour
“Our next president is a woman — so she can multitask! I therefore offer Madam President several priorities: Address inequality and economic insecurity; think courageously about how to bridge differences; champion vibrant and respectful political and cultural debate, and challenge the corporate media to learn from what I call ‘media malpractice 2016’ — and give us less conflict and titillation, and more reporting on issues that matter.” — Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation
“The uncompetitive business tax code…is something that [should] and will likely be on the early agenda, no matter who wins. It really should be more of a priority than it is.” – David French, senior vice president for government relations at the National Retail Federation
“The most important priority after this election is uniting this country.” — John Varvatos
“World peace.” — Todd Snyder
“The next president should prioritize growing the economy faster. This is one issue everyone can unify behind and reduce the polarization of views that are damaging this amazing country.” — Bob Mitchell, co-ceo, Mitchells Family of Stores
“Clearly the first priority must be to address the divisiveness that has preoccupied our national discussion over the last year not only with soaring oratory, but with actions and reflection that this is a divided country that needs healing and thoughtful change.” — John Howard, ceo of Irving Place Capital
“Lead with humility and transparency — listen to opposing views and define a common agenda all can embrace. National politics are broken in this country….We can only hope that our next president is inspired to transcend the politico-media complex and bring our country together to solve the real challenges of our time.” — Matt Kaness, ceo of ModCloth
“Immediately declassify all Bigfoot files.” — Chris Lindland, ceo of Betabrand and founder of Silicon Valley Fashion Week
“Three words: paid family leave! It’s (way) past time that the U.S. catches up with every other developed country.” — Sali Christesen and Eleanor Turner, founders of Argent
“The first priority of the next president should be to unite the country and heal the wounds from the long election cycle. She should let the citizens know that she is for all the people and not just a few. She should reach out to both Republicans, independents and Democrats with an offer to work together.” — Sonja Perkins, founder and general partner of The Perkins Fund
“Go on a listening tour with the goal of uniting the country.” — Julie Wainwright, ceo of The Real Real
“The next president’s highest priority, whichever of the two wins, will be to bring the country together again. It will be a most difficult task, but necessary to keep our democracy together. The fighting must end and the parties must work together on the economy, rebuilding our infrastructure, tax reform, foreign cash repatriation, health care reforms and many other topics where there is tremendous division.” — Gilbert Harrison, chairman of Financo