The fashion industry overwhelmingly applauded Friday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage.
As one of the most progressive sectors on the issue of gay rights, the reaction from the fashion world comes as little surprise. A wide representation of designers and executives told WWD or swamped social media with a basic message: Such a milestone was a long time coming, and one that they hope signals the start of a period of greater acceptance.
While same-sex marriage, at least by fashion industry standards, lost its controversial edge in recent years, the legal development nevertheless carries great emotional and personal significance to people throughout the business.
Reached in France Friday afternoon, Marc Jacobs said, “It’s about time. I just arrived in Paris and first read about it on Instagram. I saw a lot of people posting things and I started crying immediately. I felt like [at Robert Duffy’s wedding on June 20] it was very beautiful to see this happen in a church, and to see everybody that we all know and care about gather together for this. It makes perfect sense, and it’s moving that it’s accepted. I don’t know if it’s accepted across the board, but we are moving in a direction that seems positive.
“There have been a lot of things lately — Caitlyn [Jenner], Robert’s wedding and this idea of acceptance. I just look forward to the day when people call each other by their name, not by what they did or who they love or what kind of sex they prefer or with whom or what their gender, religion, race or any of that stuff [was]. Oh, I’m going to start preaching and I don’t mean to do that at all.”
Tommy Hilfiger was also all for it. He said, “It is the right decision and long overdue.” Donna Karan agreed, “Love is a freedom for everyone. Everyone deserves to love and be loved. There should be no restriction on it ever.”
Jean Paul Gaultier said, “Bravo to the Americans for getting all the states — even the most conservative — to pass the law. The U.S. continues to be a model for other progressive nations. Let’s not forget that in the Seventies they were the pioneers of the gay liberation movement in San Francisco.”
Pierre Bergé said the Supreme Court ruling “is a triumph for some and a defeat for others — those who convey hatred — and a success for President Obama.”
Shortly after the landmark ruling, Obama said from the White House’s Rose Garden, “Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal. The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times — a never-ending quest to ensure those words ring true for every single American.
“Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens,” he noted. “And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt. This morning the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law. That all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love.”
Obama said the decision will end the “patchwork” system in place as well as the “uncertainty that hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples face from not knowing whether their marriage, legitimate in the eyes of one state, will remain if they decide to move [to] or even visit another. This ruling will strengthen all of our communities by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land.”
Ralph Lauren also emphasized patriotism. “Today more than ever I’m proud to be an American, to live in a country that respects the rights of all to marry whomever they love. The Supreme Court decision gives new meaning to the freedom we cherish.”
The fashion industry, in terms of acceptance of same-sex weddings and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in general, has been vocal and often proactive, as evidenced by the same-sex weddings of many high-profile figures in recent years.
Michaels Kors, Tom Ford, Derek Lam, Simon Doonan, Narciso Rodriguez, Isaac Mizrahi, Glen Senk, Dennis Basso, Arnold Scaasi and, just recently, Robert Duffy have all tied the knot with their same-sex partners.
Kors said, “As a married gay American, I am thrilled to see the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality. Love is love and an undeniable human right. I couldn’t be more proud to be an American.”
Doonan, who married Jonathan Adler in 2008, said Friday, “I am overwhelmed with gratitude and respect for all the people — Edie Windsor and the whole gang — who worked their asses off to make it happen.”
Rodriguez said, “Just a decade ago, the thought of this day was incomprehensible. It’s a day that all Americans — gay and straight — should be very proud to finally witness and I hope it’s another step forward towars equality in every way, for every American.”
Duffy, who married Connor Dodd June 20, said Friday, “Connor and I were celebrating more today than we were our wedding. We were gleeful. We went out and took a long walk. We talked about how much it means to so many people. So many people had to go to another state [to get married], and they didn’t have the same rights in their home state. This has cleared up a lot of the confusion.
“Of course, it was upsetting to read some of [the dissenting opinions] of some of those guys on the Supreme Court. That really bothered me, that people really have that much hate in them, and they were appointed Supreme Court judges,” Duffy said, “[Justice] Kennedy [who wrote the majority opinion], used the word that I love, which is ‘dignity.’ He said something like, ‘people just want dignity in their lives.’ It’s a wonderful moment, and there’s still a lot that needs to be done.”
And Diane von Furstenberg said, “Equality is what we all aim for.”
To highlight how fashion companies and retailers have come out for LGBT rights over the years, Levi’s posted an infographic on its site noting such milestones as Levi’s 1992 decision to offer medical benefits for domestic partners, a first for a Fortune 500 company. Ray-Ban’s 2007 “Never Hide” ad featuring two men holding hands, a 2008 Macy’s ad celebrating California marriage equality and a 2011 Marc Jacobs’ window display touting “New Yorkers for Marriage Equality” campaign were among the 16 references.
Barneys New York has been championing LGBT rights for even longer. “To say I am thrilled about the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage equality would be an understatement,” said Mark Lee, chief executive officer. “Their decision is a victory for me both personally and professionally. From a charity fashion show supporting St. Vincent’s AIDS research with Madonna and Iman at the downtown store in 1986 to Simon Doonan’s window display featuring same-sex couples in the 1990s, Barneys has a long history of supporting LGBT rights. We continue to place enormous emphasis on supporting the LGBT community through work with the Center, New York’s LGBT community center and the National Center for Transgender Equality. We have also partnered closely with the Human Rights Campaign on their continued effort toward the achievement of marriage equality. “On a personal level, I hope maybe now Ed [Filipowski] might agree to get married….after 23 years.” said Lee.
In 2011, Calvin Klein Collection helped the Human Rights Campaign kick off Americans for Marriage Equality USA by hosting a star-studded party in its Madison Avenue store. The company did a repeat performance, so to speak, in support of the cause two years later with a similar VIP event at the same location.
Brands throughout the industry wasted no time praising SCOTUS’ decision. Target, Macy’s, Sears, Kmart, Gap, Square, Visa and MasterCard were among the household names that tweeted rainbow-themed salutations. By Friday afternoon, Zero Gravity launched a #LoveWins iPhone 6 Plus case that also fits iPhones 5 and 5S. And American Apparel reintroduced its $26 #Equalityforward T-shirt and tank top that was produced in collaboration with The Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
Nike president and ceo Mark Parker said, “The Supreme Court JUST DID IT. This is an historic day for equality and a moment to celebrate.”
Gap ceo Art Peck noted, “We know what’s true in business is true in life, that success and strength can only be achieved when everyone is given the same opportunities to participate, contribute and benefit. With the Supreme Court granting the freedom to marry to all we have taken an important step forward toward building a nation of true equality and inclusion.”
Nordstrom Inc. which first publicly supported marriage equality publicly in 2012, issued a statement on behalf of Blake, Pete and Erik Nordstrom. “Nordstrom has had a long-standing approach to being inclusive about the way we serve our customers and take care of our employees. It’s simply how we operate. Today’s decision reaffirms our belief that all our employees are entitled to the rights and protections marriage provides.”
Josie Natori, a devout Catholic, told WWD, “I believe in equality and people being happy. I definitely support this. Frankly, the way I was raised and all of that — I had to, a little bit, adjust in terms of the word ‘marriage,’ but I support it. I believe in equality and I support [the decision]. It’s a matter of respect.”
Dennis Basso said, “The most important thing about all of this is that people came to this country for freedom. It’s great that America is setting this example for the rest of the world.”
But such progress has come with pain through the years. Accessories designer Alexis Bittar said, “It’s tough growing up gay in a society that says you are not worthy. The outcome breeds nothing but self-hate, low self-esteem, addiction and unbelievable struggle. By having full equality, we will only strengthen the overall society as well as the LGBT community and the individuals who live within. This is truly an incredible day.”
Efva Attling said, “Happy tears! Finally, the U.S. is the home of the free and the brave of all loving people. Respect!”
Melissa Joy Manning added, “My wedding collection is rooted in same-sex union. My first wedding bands were made for my friends John & Craven more than 10 years ago in California. That they can finally be married legally, in any state in the U.S., is a victory for them and for every other person who loves for the sake of love.”
And Jennifer Fisher said, “The Supreme Court has finally validated something that should have always been a basic human right.”
“LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!!!” was one of Jeremy Scott’s celebratory Friday morning tweets. And on Instagram this morning, “Love is love” was Anna Wintour’s message with an illustration of a woman stepping through a rainbow-colored “V” from a 1926 Vogue cover. And Eddie Borgo Instagrammed, “There is nothing more progressive than equality.” Pamela Love wrote: “BOOM. Good job America. It’s about time.” Marc Jacobs, Uniqlo and Charlotte Ronson all posted #LoveWins, while the accounts of Zac Posen, Thakoon Panichgul, Brian Atwood and more made references to equality. Coach declared that it “enthusiastically supports the Supreme Court’s historic ruling on marriage equality. All love is equal.”
Alejandro Ingelmo said, “I think it’s amazing to finally have the same rights as any other American does to love their partner and be recognized by the law.”
And Paul Andrew seconded that idea, “I’m encouraged and relieved to live in a country and in an era in which gay rights are being upheld in the highest courts of the land. But while we’ve made significant strides in the U.S., there are many nations where the rights of gay men and women are not recognized at all. This landmark decision gives me hope that one day it will be a universally upheld fact.”
The reaction of fashion insiders aside, the debate continues in other sectors. Some members of the media used Twitter to voice their opposition.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol commented on the decision by declaring “Polygamy, here we come!” John Nolte, a contributor to Breitbart’s site, criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in a series of tweets, writing that same-sex marriage “only emboldens gaystapo…to target your church.” And during Friday morning’s edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum said, “We’re just trying to think about the ramifications, when a precedent is set, what it means down the road, right? So suppose three people say, we want to be a marriage; we’re three people, and we love each other, and we want to be a marriage. What’s to prevent that, under this?”
But the issue has been a vital one for the fashion community for some time. When Obama initially revealed his support for marriage equality a few years ago, Derek Lam and his partner Jan-Hendrik Schlottmann immediately went down to City Hall. “New York State had already legalized gay marriage, so our marriage right was acknowledged. But we have since thought of those who do not have the right to choose to demonstrate their love and commitment through marriage,” Lam said. “We are so pleased that the Supreme Court is paving the way for marriage equality for all. Although it seems an inalienable right under the context of ‘life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’ it is still awe-inspiring that we are here now, in this moment, that much closer to being a ‘better union,’ for all.”
“There are those moments that you remember exactly where you were when something momentous happens,” said Charles DeCaro, creative director of Laspata/DeCaro. “Unfortunately, those recollections are often associated with something catastrophic — the Kennedy assassination, September 11th, the carnage in Newtown, Conneticut, the passing of a loved one. Today was one of those moments. Happily the announcement was anything but cataclysmic. Rather it was life affirming and worthy of celebration and pride and renewed faith in the American dream. I will never forget that moment when the news alert popped up on my computer screen. Never! A true milestone in the annals of American history.”
Reacting to the decision, Senk told WWD, “It’s a great day and a reminder that love conquers all. I am filled with tremendous gratitude to the many people who fought so hard to make this day happen, and to my friends, family, associates — and especially to the fashion industry — for always treating Keith (my now husband and partner of 40 years) and I as if we had equal rights when, in fact, we didn’t.”
Prabal Gurung noted, “I think it’s time for America to make a decision like this. It’s a new day with new changes and a new time for America that was much-needed. The thing is one doesn’t have to feel less than anymore. You no longer have to feel like a second-class citizen. You’re equal — you have the same rights. It’s an incredible moment.” Gurung added, “I just hope that those who didn’t believe in this will at least have the grace to respect the decision. I hope there will be no backlash.”
Badgley Mischka’s James Mischka said, “What a beautiful and historic day for America. Marriage is about love, not gender, and the fact that the Supreme Court has finally recognized that is as thrilling as it is emotional.”
Mark Badgley said, “As a married couple, we are so happy for all same-sex couples across the country that now can enjoy the same rights and freedom that we can. ”
“First and foremost, this is a very great victory for equality and human rights. It’s wonderful,” said Jerry Storch, ceo of the Hudson’s Bay Co. “The law is catching up with common sense. Any business aspects are clearly secondary and speculative, but there could more weddings, and more positive feelings about life in general leading to more consumer spending but that’s largely besides the point.”
Bud Konheim, ceo of Nicole Miller, said, “It works for us because if it’s two lesbians we get to sell two dresses. It doesn’t work for us if it’s guys, since we’re not in the men’s wear business, so I’m a 50-50 enthusiast.”
On a more serious note, he added, “I’m really a conservative and a constitutionalist. I don’t see anything about marriage, sexual orientation or abortion in the Constitution. I’ve studied the Constitution. People who are conservatives and talk about these issues are off-base. It’s not a constitutional issue. It’s none of my business what people do in their bedrooms.”
While Basso threw a 450-person black-tie affair at The Pierre — the first gay wedding in the hotel’s 83-year history — in 2011, others were considerably more private. Kors once said of his nuptials to longtime boyfriend Lance LePere that same year, “We’re probably the only people who got married on the beach, jumped in a Jeep, went to East Hampton, had pizza at Sam’s and went to see ‘The Help.’”
And last year when WWD asked Ford about how he had revealed news of his marriage during a Q&A at the Apple store in London and skipped the formal announcement, “It didn’t occur to me that anyone would be interested.”
As for how well-wishers congratulated him on his marriage as they would congratulate anyone, Ford told WWD last year, “It is odd for someone who was at the tail-end of growing up in a world in which it wasn’t OK. It isn’t odd the last 20 years, maybe even longer.”
Perhaps illustrating Ford’s point about different times and different attitudes, was an encounter way back in 1971 with WWD and Bill Blass. Blass took umbrage when a WWD reporter asked he had a preference in sex — boys or girls. “What kind of question is that in this day and age? What is that supposed to mean…boys or girls? Because I’m 49 years old, am I suspect?” Blass shot back, before adding, “I was once engaged to marry, but I can’t remember her name.”
Doonan noted, “The fashion world is very progressive. It’s just a very accepting place. That’s why I called my last book ‘Asylum.’ Historically, it’s been a great place for people to go to who wouldn’t fit into more conventional environments because they were gay, idiosyncratic or considered otherwise marginal.”
Noting how a predominately Catholic country like Spain supports marriage equality (as does Ireland), Basso said, “If you are living in a cosmopolitan city anywhere in the world, creative people — whether they work in show business, fashion, design, art or music — are always more accepting in general. There are never really problems in those areas about being gay. Of course, that came with time. Sure, there are pockets within the U.S. where people are not happy with the issue, but there are a lot of different things people aren’t happy about.”
Basso added, “I remember in the Eighties, when women could not go to the 21 Club wearing pants. The world has changed for everyone.”
“Encouraged and relieved to live in a country and in an era in which gay rights are being upheld in the highest courts of the land,” said Paul Andrew. “While we’ve made significant strides in the U.S., there are many nations where the rights of gay men and women are not recognized at all. This landmark decision gives me hope that one day it will be a universally upheld fact.”
Businesses of all stripes have increasingly acknowledged the spending power of the gay community around the world.
Partially in response to the prospect of legalization of marriage nationwide, Men’s Wearhouse started renting black and gray suits in its 900-plus locations as well as 600-plus Jos. A. Bank stores and 120-plus Moores Canada stores. (The company also rents tuxes and tan suits in those locations.) As a sign of courtesy to same-sex couples, the company has changed rental forms to read “spouse 1 and spouse 2” instead of “bride and groom.”
Mara Urshel, owner of the Manhattan store Kleinfeld (as seen in TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress”), said same-sex wedding purchases have jumped 25 percent in the past year. Couples are being much more open about their weddings, booking appoinxtments with two bridal consultants in adjoining rooms as opposed to shopping independently and being evasive about their plans. And more gay brides-to-be are bringing their mothers and other relatives.
Jewelry designer Brooke Neidich said, “There is so much we need to change in this world and so many challenges we face as a nation — things that actually warrant fear. Two people who love each other, who want to share their lives together and become a family — how can that be wrong? Marriage has everything to do with hope, with optimism, with commitment and with love. Gender should not enter the discussion.”
Rhode Island School of Design president Rosanne Somerson said, “This is a momentous day — validating equal rights for individuals and families throughout our country.”
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s Taobao unit hosted a same-sex wedding in West Hollywood this month. The marketplace sponsored a contest, dubbed “We Do,” that encouraged same-sex couples to enter for a chance to get married at a group ceremony.
Charlie Gu, a director at China Luxury Advisors, which worked with Alibaba to help organize the event, said there were an estimated 40 million to 70 million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender consumers in China with $300 billion in purchasing power. Ten couples were selected from 400 entrants, marking the first time a company has launched a campaign to gain awareness for same-sex marriage in China.
And Nordstrom president Blake Nordstrom made his company’s pro-marriage stance widely known in 2012, by e-mailing staffers to say that gay and lesbian employees were entitled to the same rights and protections marriage provides under law to other employees.
That right will not have to be asserted by individual companies anymore.
In Friday’s 5-4 decision, the Justices ruled specifically that the 14th Amendment requires states to license marriages between same-sex couples. The justices also ruled that states must recognize same-sex marriages when a marriage is performed out-of-state.
The case that brought the issue before the court, Obergefell v. Hodges, stemmed from a consolidation of cases challenging the constitutionality of state’s bans on same-sex marriages.
The petitioners included 14 same-sex couples and two men whose same-sex partners are deceased, and perhaps summed up best the compelling argument for their right to marriage and equality and justice under the Constitution.
“These cases are about love, from birth to death,” they argued in their joint petition for a writ of certiorari. “The relationships at the heart of each case involve the love spouses share, with each other and with the children they jointly raise, and the love that survives the death of a spouse. This enduring love has prompted this Court to hold that ‘choices about marriage’ belong to the individual and are ‘sheltered by the Fourteenth Amendment against the State’s unwarranted usurpation, disregard or disrespect.’”
They further argued that the state of Ohio [the state’s director of the Department of Health is the defendant named in the petition], treats lawful marriages of lesbians and gay men as “invalid, turning members of these committed families into legal strangers.”
The case before the High Court also represented consolidated legal challenges from three other states — Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored the majority opinion, outlined the historical, philosophical and legal reasoning for the Court’s landmark decision.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family,” Kennedy wrote. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage.”
“Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves,” Kennedy wrote. “Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”