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While Mayor de Blasio’s daughter Chiara won over the designer crowd at Gracie Mansion’s first fashion week bash Wednesday with her self-made blue lipstick, the city’s new leader proved he too is true blue about the fashion industry.
After announcing three new initiatives to bolster New York manufacturing, de Blasio fielded a few questions about his commitment to the 900–plus fashion businesses in the city. Emphasizing how the garment center has been and continues to be the lifeblood for generations of Americans, de Blasio spoke earnestly about how his own maternal grandmother made her way in this country with her embroidery skills.
Asked what has been most challenging about executing his new initiatives, the mayor said, “I don’t find this particularly challenging because there is tremendous enthusiasm in the industry. And we know that it’s a growth industry for the city. As I mentioned in there, I’m looking very carefully at the future of the city. I think it’s fashion. I think it’s film and TV, it’s tech — it’s areas where we are really stronger than ever. It’s our interest to invest in them and support them. I think the industry’s response is enthusiastic so I think it’s a pretty straightforward equation.”
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As for whether the ongoing issue of diversity on the runways is something that needs to be improved upon, de Blasio said, “Yup. Sure. Look, I think in all sectors of what we do [it needs to be.] This is something that is very, very important to this administration and we’re going to work with everyone productively but I will certainly bring my values to the process. And it’s very important that Diane [von Furstenberg] mentioned tonight what a mandate this has to be for the industry,” referring to how she reminded guests about the importance of using runway models of all different types of ethnicities.
“Look at what we’re doing with New York City government. Fifty-two percent of our employees are women, in terms of African American, Latino and Asian representation in our government, it’s the highest it has ever been for any city government. This is what the world needs. We need to have all our institutions to reflect all our people,” de Blasio said. “So certainly we want to see a diversity of designers represented and models on the runways who want all of this to be inclusive and inviting for everyone in the city and obviously around the world.”
While the mayor said he hopes to catch a few shows but is not yet certain if that will actually happen, he said his wife and daughter will “amply represent” him, which he is “really pumped up about.”
As for his fashion week wish list, he said he has “a special preference for Diane [von Furstenberg] whom he thinks is “just an incredible persona and I love what she’s done for New York,” he said. “I might be able to do that, but I’m open-minded.”
Before addressing the fashion crowd, de Blasio met with an inner circle of sorts, chatting privately with such designers as Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Donna Karan, Andrew Rosen, Nanette Lepore and others. While the mayor said he had met Kors before through a charity initiative and Lepore dressed McCray for his inauguration, he spoke highly of the fashion pack at large. “It really depends on the person but what I’m finding is folks in this industry really want to work with City Hall. They have a lot of energy to do it,” he said. “You see some of the leading lights of this industry gathered together and they really want to be a part of this.
Wednesday’s gathering of 20-plus fashion types may very well be a sign of things to come. “The fact that fashion week has not historically opened with an event at Gracie Mansion is a little indicator that there is more we can do from the city side to support it, to promote and also deepen the involvement of the whole city with fashion week,” de Blasio said.
As for having any fashion emergencies in office thusfar, de Blasio said, “I have a bad habit of stopping at whatever deli or bodega or whatever I see along the way I see that looks interesting and then jumping in the car and being on the phone. So there have been times when that equation turned out really badly. And it was time for at least a new shirt or a new tie. I have not yet needed a whole new suit. I haven’t needed that much but food of all nations plus driving the car plus the telephone probably has not been the smartest thing. A few ties have suffered along the way.”
Afterwards, McCray said while it was important to have the designer of the printed dress she was wearing, Helena Fredriksson at the party, she “really didn’t have much control over it.” The city’s first lady said she chose the frock from a selection of dresses for the evening “and just hoped that the designer” would be there.
As for why she is so committed to fashion, McCray said, “That’s a tough question and that’s an easy question. When we get up every day, clothes are a part of who we are, how we project ourselves to the world and make a statement about what we feel. I consider myself to be an artist and fashion is kind of a reflection of my priorities and my values. That’s why I believe in buying local and supporting the people around me, artists.”
Like her husband, McCray was hoping to hit von Furstenberg’s show as well as Lepore’s. “Our lives are really busy. It’s just hard to find the avenue. But this is just the beginning. I’ll have another year.”
An accomplished poet and writer, McCray wasn’t about to name any favorite poets, which is probably a good rule for fashion too. She said, “I don’t have a favorite. I really don’t. And when you’re in this kind of work, it’s really not good to say your favorites because I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings,” she said.