Diane von Furstenberg and the late Liz Claiborne now have a permanent place on Seventh Avenue — stars along the street’s Fashion Walk of Fame.
While both Belgian-born designers were lauded for their contributions to American fashion and their respective plaques were unveiled Tuesday at the Bryant Park Grill, von Furstenberg used the occasion to remind attendees about the importance of saving some semblance of the Garment District. City officials, union advocates, designers and apparel workers have yet to hammer out a plan to reduce the space earmarked for manufacturing, which has dwindled in recent years.
“I didn’t know that Liz was born in Brussels, so you see a tiny little country can do a lot. There were so many immigrants that came to New York and started in this district, so many tailors, so many pattern makers, so many salesmen, so many Willy Lomans. It’s a very, very special part of New York — that district, that world,” von Furstenberg said. “Fashion is a very important section of New York City, but is also important because of so many hopes that came to this country — so many refugees, so many immigrants who came in and had the American dream and realized the American dream.”
Von Furstenberg noted the Garment District is especially important to “young designers who start out and walk the streets to find a factory and accessibility. She also acknowledged that production has fallen off and that “the city is looking at ways to preserve core manufacturing while at the same time working with the landlords.”
“As president of the [Council of Fashion Designers of America] it is the hope that the city, the designers, the landlords, the unions and the factories can come together soon and help this district not to disappear — to secure a plan to keep some manufacturing in the Garment District as it is the foundation on which American fashion was built. Let’s always be together and try to find solutions together,” von Furstenberg said.
Her rallying call did not fall on deaf ears. Patrick Murphy, head of Fashion/Retail Industry Growth Initiatives for New York City’s Economic Development Corp., had proclaimed Wednesday Fashion Walk of Fame Day on behalf of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had to bow out of the presentation. Isabel Toledo, Yeohlee Teng, Dennis Basso, Lord & Taylor’s Lavelle Olexa, Saks Fifth Avenue’s Michael Fink, Macy’s East’s Nicole Fischelis, Helen O’Hagan, Ruth Finley and Marylou Luther were among the few hundred designers, retailers and other industry supporters on hand.
Afterward, Murphy said, “Today’s ceremony exemplifies that New York remains the world’s fashion capital. As we celebrate homegrown success stories like those of Diane von Furstenberg and Liz Claiborne, we are encouraged by Diane’s commitment to the Garment Center and will continue to work with fashion industry stakeholders to ensure the Garment Center remains the vital core of fashion in New York City.”
Liz Claiborne’s husband, Art Ortenberg, shared his gratitude with the crowd for adding her name to the 26 designers that now line the Fashion Walk of Fame. He thanked a bevy of people including her parents, mentors, colleagues, retailers and “particular thanks to all of you who have put her in such prestigious company.”
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