New York City Mayor Eric Adams gave the fashion industry a major vote of confidence Thursday night by hosting a cocktail party at Gracie Mansion to kick off New York Fashion Week. Wearing a true-blue suit with a white shirt and tie, and a small diamond earring in his left ear, he sat down with WWD in the dining room to discuss some of his objectives before the festivities got underway. After an introduction to his partner Tracey Collins, who then waited in the wings, Adams fielded a few questions.
WWD: Why did you feel it was important to host this event?
Eric Adams: To really send a message to the fashion industry in our city. Often we buy their clothing, suit or pair of shoes and see that as an individual interaction. But no, this is a major economic boost for our city. This week alone $600 million will be generated by fashion week. This is an industry with 100,000 employees and more than 32,000 stores and outlets in our city. There is heart. I want to connect the government with fashion to say, “We have your backs” and use Gracie Mansion to host this event.
WWD: What about some people’s idea that fashion is just materialist or frivolous when it is such a major employer?
E.A.: Right, what they should do is walk into one of those retail stores and look at those employees, who are making a living, and a good living. They should look at those garment workers downtown. They are union employees, and those who deliver items to our stores. It is part of our economic ecosystem and a crucial part of it. They should look at when someone has a new job and they go into a store to have someone tell them what the right tie and the right suit is to wear, or for a prom or a wedding. This is very much part of the fabric of our city. To those, who think it’s just frivolous, it’s not. You look right, you feel right and you do the right things in the process.
WWD: Do you have any more plans for billboards in relation to how your appearance affects your presence? (State Sen. Eric Adams first posted “Stop the Sag” billboards in 2010 to discourage young men from wearing droopy jeans and the cofounder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement reintroduced some in the fall of 2020.)
E.A.: Which ones? Stop the Sag? It’s so empowering. We’re going to use different ways of communicating like the billboard I had at the Met Gala. I wore a tuxedo [by the little-known Park Slope-based artist Laolu who used to be a human rights lawyer] that said, “End Gun Violence.” And it had [references] to different subway stations to talk about our subways being safe. We use clothing in ways to communicate a message. I wanted to put an exclamation point on ending gun violence. We’re going to use any mode of communication to get our message out, including the billboards. Did you notice something in the city? Young people are not sagging any more [laughs].
WWD: What about the issue of public safety, with some people wary of returning to work due to different incidents on the subway? Also, for retailers, organized theft is a major issue.
E.A.: Big issue, big issue. You know we get 3.2 million who use our subway each day. We have an average of six crimes on our subway. I knew that we need to remove those six crimes a day on average and the perception of people feeling unsafe. That’s why we zeroed in on our subway station to remove those encampments. You don’t see them any more. We took thousands of people off our subway stations that were dealing with mental health issues. Now they are in wraparound safe havens. It was about the omnipresence of police. We know if we don’t deal with the six crimes a day and the perception of fear, our city could never get up and operating. Our subway system and public transportation system must be safe. We’re zeroing in on that. Retail thefts — it’s unfortunate that in previous administrations that many prosecutors were not going after those types of crimes. I’m telling my police officers and the police commissioner [Keechant Sewell} is saying, “Yes, we will.” We’re not going to stand back, allow people to walk in stores, steal items and hurt businesses. When they steal items from stores through organized theft, they’re hurting that clerk [financially], the cashier and those, who are employed in that establishment.
WWD: Do you think politics is similar to fashion and the financial market to some degree in that so much of it is perception versus reality? It’s how you’re perceived by the public or investors?
E.A.: I don’t even have the answer to that. I’m not sure. I know that, as I always say, it’s important to have people dressed to feel good about themselves. You and I both know we see with our eyes before we make a decision if we are even going to hear people sometimes. I think it is imperative to think about perception. i think how we look [is how] people perceive us — rightfully or wrongfully. So it’s best to lean into how you send the right signal, based on the interaction with people.
WWD: Are there any major initiatives coming up to support manufacturing or design in schools?
E.A.: Yes, we’re building out a manufacturing space in Sunset Park. We’re really putting resources into that area. We are continuing the manufacturing of garments and clothing. Some great partnerships are taking place in the [Brooklyn] Navy Yard in the new lab there that’s using fabrics for different issues. Then we want to make sure that we remove the bureaucracy to have this industry expand and grow and build a pipeline for new designers. One out of three designers live in New York. We have thousands of young children, who are now [interested] in the industry. We want to make sure we have a pipeline to go into all parts of the industry.
WWD: Through mentoring, school systems or education programs?
E.A.: We are reaching out to all of our corporations to have paid internships for our young people. We want to make sure that the fashion industry is very much a part of that.
WWD: Will you be attending any shows at fashion week?
E.A.: Yes, we’re going to attend a couple of shows.
WWD: Can you say which ones?
E.A.: [Laughs] Not yet.
WWD: Whose suit are you wearing?
E.A.: This is a designer Taji [opening the left side of his slate blue blazer and gesturing toward its label].I find that certain suits fit me well [laughs].