Unity Rules at CFDA New Members Bash

No one needs reminding that the economy is in tatters, so the CFDA’s new members party Wednesday provided reason to present a united front.

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NEW YORK — No one needs reminding that the economy is in tatters, so the CFDA’s new members party Wednesday provided reason to present a united front.

This story first appeared in the October 23, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“This is the Kiwanis Club of our business and it is good to be in it, especially in a time like this,” said David Rees, co-founder of Ten Thousand Things, who was welcoming newbie Lorraine Schwartz to the fold.

Despite the ongoing catch-as-catch-can retail scene, a few of the rookies at the Four Seasons restaurant said they are more interested in seeing what they can give rather than what they can glean from others.

Olsen, who has been inducted with her sister, Ashley, said, “Diane [von Furstenberg] said it best: ‘It really feels like you are part of a family.’”

After a few years on the designer circuit, the pair is committed purely for professional reasons, not publicity ones. Asked if she felt more at ease with the fashion crowd than the Hollywood one, Mary-Kate Olsen said, “I don’t really know the Hollywood scene. This is my day job. This is what I do every day. The clothes speak for themselves. The clothing is all made in the U.S., and there’s a certain integrity to that.”

Having just been brought up to speed about the Save the Garment Center campaign, Olsen, who can routinely be found at her West 39th Street factory, said she was keen to pitch in. “We need it, as well. I hope we can save it,” she said.

Jason Wu said he was also on board. “It’s not so much what I can gain as it is what I can contribute. I produce 90 percent of my collection in New York, and I would love to preserve the garment center,” he said. “The CFDA has been really important in bringing American fashion to the forefront.”

Another inductee, Chris Benz, soon will be making his presence in the neighborhood better known. Next week he will relocate his showroom to 247 West 37th Street, where the space is twice as large as his current one around the corner. While packing was pressing on his mind, none of the more seasoned CFDA-ers had offered any pointers about business. “Not yet, but the night is still young,” he said.

Josie Natori said, “I have been at this for 32 years. If you can pass on something to someone else, you should. It’s our duty to give back. The CFDA is not just about meetings and awards dinners. It’s about helping with business.”

But Vera Wang said she would not be doling out any advice. “I’ll leave that to Diane. I’m not about to give anyone advice. I’m having enough trouble tending to my own knitting.”

In total, 31 additions were celebrated, including Alexander Wang, Christina and Swaim Hutson, Erin Fetherston, Jenna Lyons of J. Crew and Maria Pinto. Some were catching up as if it were Old Home Week. Newcomer Michael Smaldone, the creative officer at Talbots, got a warm welcome from Tina Lutz, with whom he roomed in San Francisco in 1992.

“I had just moved from Paris and it was the first American city I lived in. Michael, I think you taught me how to take money out of the ATM,” she said.

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