In the late Eighties, Nina Hyde, then the fashion editor of the Washington Post, approached Ralph Lauren after she was diagnosed with cancer. Hyde, who died in 1990, inspired the designer to steer multiple initiatives to raise awareness and fight the disease. In 1994, the designer partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to create Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, for which he designed the bull's-eye logo now commonly associated with the cause.
Eighteen years later, FTBC is active in 11 countries on five continents, and has sold more than $100 million in merchandise and raised more than $50 million for breast cancer charities in 13 countries.
It's one example of how the CFDA has helped galvanize the fashion community behind a cause. The efforts largely fall within the CFDA Foundation Inc., a stand-alone nonprofit that operates alongside the CFDA.
"Our main mission is the Council," says the CFDA's Steven Kolb. "We're here to promote, grow and support the American fashion industry and directly provide values and benefits for our members and the industry overall. Having said that, we are a creative industry and creative people tend to have a lot of interests outside their work that are important to them, and there have been specific issues that have affected our industry, like HIV/AIDS and breast cancer."
Case in point: the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic in the Eighties, which brought the CFDA board together to figure out ways to address the crisis and help those in need.
"At that time, almost every day, someone was dying from AIDS," recalls Lisa Smilor, the CFDA's deputy director of programs and operations. In fact, a generation of creative talent was devastated. Among the designers lost to the disease were Rory Cameron, Willi Smith, Gia Carangi, Angel Estrada, Patrick Kelly, Roger Forsythe, Tina Chow, Franco Moschino and Perry Ellis (although the house never confirmed AIDS as the cause of his death at age 46, four months after his partner, Laughlin Barker, the firm's president, died of AIDS).
"We said, 'This is killing our industry,'" says Smilor. "'We have to do something to help join the fight.' We thought, 'What do we have?' We have our merchandise; we have our personalities, and we can get together and sell at a reduced cost."
As a result, in 1990, the CFDA and Vogue launched 7th on Sale, a giant designer sample sale at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue. The event raised, in its first of several editions, $4.2 million for the New York City AIDS Fund.
"It was huge," Smilor says of the event, which then-CFDA president Carolyne Roehm spearheaded with Vogue's Anna Wintour, Donna Karan and Lauren. "The designers were the salespeople in their booths, and customers interacted with them. It put a face to the designer, and it was a bold event for the CFDA."
Kenneth Cole also played an active role in CFDA's fight against HIV/AIDS, particularly when 7th on Sale returned after a hiatus in 2005. The designer oversaw the logistics for the night, receiving all the goods and warehousing them in his company's Secaucus, N.J., warehouse. There, volunteers from Kenneth Cole Productions unpackedthousands of boxes and got items prepped and ready for the merchandising and visual committee to come in and begin the visual part of it, before trucking them to the Skylight Studios venue.
Besides the money raised, it underscored how designers can put aside their competitive differences for an important cause.
The same can be said of FTBC, which operates internationally in licensing arrangements. It was launched in September 1994 during a reception hosted by then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at the White House. The first campaign sold 400,000 FTBC T-shirts, raising $2 million for the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Health at the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center.
From 1999 to 2003, the CFDA partnered with Saks Fifth Avenue on FTBC. "Since the relationship with Saks, we have not had a long-term retail partner for the program," says CFDA director of business affairs Catherine Bennett. "Two years ago, we signed with The Jones Group for a [Nine West] program called Runway Relief. They are essentially our exclusive retailers for FTBC-branded merchandise in the U.S."
Last year, the CFDA established the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer Fund in The New York Community Trust, and the initiative granted funds to the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention, SHARE: Self-help for Women with Breast or Ovarian Cancer and the Maimonides Medical Center.
This year, the CFDA plans an international campaign to unify the FTBC efforts in participating countries. It features Karolina Kurkova.
The CFDA has also responded to natural disasters and other crises. For instance, the Sept. 11 attacks happened during New York Fashion Week. "By Day One, we knew we had to get supplies for people who needed them," Smilor recounts. "The board had an emergency meeting. Stores were starting to say 'Don't ship.' Everyone was realizing that this would have a serious effect on the economy and on the industry. We wanted to do something that raised money for victims, as well as help make people feel it was OK to shop and support local economies."
Thus, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion for America initiative began with a T-shirt. Vogue featured Gisele Bündchen in the T-shirt on its December 2001 issue, and when Karan and Michael Kors went live on QVC to sell them, the system went down within two minutes. The initiative raised $2 million for the Twin Towers Fund.
Similarly, after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Lauren, Tory Burch, Andrew Rosen and Diane von Furstenberg spearheaded Fashion for Haiti with a T-shirt initiative that raised $1 million for the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. And after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan last year, the Fashion & Friends for Japan online CharityBuzz auction of experiences—like fashion show seats from Marc Jacobs to Calvin Klein, or a stay at von Furstenberg's Bahamas beach house—pulled in $400,000 for the Japan Society's relief efforts.
"Staying focused on HIV/AIDS and cancer is important, and having a consistent level of support, and being responsive to what the membership is interested in," Kolb says. "I'd love to see us do 7th on Sale again. The first few 7th on Sales were just brick-and-mortar, the last two were also online. Technology changes a lot that we can do. We're good. Our charity work is strong and relevant. We made a lot of good decisions and have created some positive change."
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion
Eighty degree temperatures and outdoor installations at the annual Art Basel Miami Beach called for bright, elevated beachwear. See more street style pictures on WWD.com. #theyarewearing #ABMB (📷: @lifeinreverie)
Following September’s emotional tribute to her brother Gianni, Donatella Versace wanted to bring the spring show’s deep sense of intimacy to her @versace_official pre-fall collection. Donatella found inspiration in Versace Palazzo in Milan and from Gianni’s opulent apartment. Archival patterns and new motifs were splashed on silk shirtdresses and fitted jersey frocks. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com. #wwdfashion
Demna Gvasalia continues to shake up the Paris fashion calendar — and experiment with new runway timetables for his @vetements_official brand. WWD has learned that Vetements plans to stage its next coed show for the fall 2018 season on January 19 during Men’s Fashion Week in the French capital. Details about the timing and venue have not been confirmed — stay tuned on WWD.com to catch the latest. #wwdnews (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
@zacposen's go-to holiday gift? Cookies! "I'll usually bake cookies and send them as a gift," said the designer, who recently released his cookbook "Cooking With Zac: Recipes from Rustic to Refined." Get the recipe for his Brown Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies via link in bio 🍪🍪🍪 #wwdeye #cookingwithzac
For @monsemaison’s pre-fall 2018 collection, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim honed in on the brand’s many signatures — men’s wear, which was tweaked and feminized through deconstruction, proportion play and lots of bare shoulders. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
On Friday night, @yohjiyamamotoofficial received the Design for Asia Lifetime Achievement Award in Hong Kong. The 75-year-old designer has been celebrated for many years and is best known for his dark and avant-garde tailoring. “In my long career, in design, architecture, [I’ve been to] so many parties, this is the very first time that I have such a warm feeling, I really appreciate this,” Yamamoto said. #wwdfashion (📷: @dominiquemaitre)