It was standing room only Wednesday night at Gracie Mansion, where designers cozied up to Mayor Bill de Blasio at a fashion-week kickoff cocktail party.
Hizzoner was the first to joke about his fashion sense, but he merely had to look around the room to learn the ABCs — Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Donna Karan, Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera, Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch, Prabal Gurung, Jack McCollough, Lazaro Hernandez, Humberto Leon, Georgina Chapman, Keren Craig, Norma Kamali and Thakoon Panchigul were all among the faces in the crowd.
From the start, de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, made sure they felt at home, telling them, “This is your house. This is the people’s house, and you are always welcome.”
Wearing a dress by Helena Fredriksson, who was also on hand, McCray clued in the designers to her daughter Chiara’s fashion advice: “Just wear whatever the hell you want. And those are words to live by, right? Especially in New York. After all, we’re known as a city where you can express yourself. That’s one of the reasons I moved to New York back in 1977. I wanted to be surrounded by artists, writers, musicians and, of course, designers. Luckily, you don’t have to travel far in New York to capture bold, creative people — all I had to do was step outside my door.”
Before introducing the mayor, von Furstenberg gave the first family high marks. “Aren’t we all so proud to be living in New York City and to be in this beautiful house and that our mayor and the first lady and first daughter are so hot?” she said.
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Wearing a Brooks Brothers tie that was made in Long Island City, de Blasio spoke passionately about his commitment to the city’s 900-plus fashion companies that employ 180,000 people and create $11 billion in wages. Noting that fashion week alone has nearly a $1 billion economic impact on the city, the mayor highlighted three new initiatives:
• Launching the NYC Capsule Collection next year as an extension of the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative. Through a partnership with the CFDA, city-based designers will be selected to help facilitate their local production to sell to retailers here.
• Expanding “Made in NYC” to the apparel industry, which will benefit from its significant promotional capacity while encouraging widespread awareness of local industry jobs.
• Presenting the first two Fashion Production Fund awards to Karolina Zmarlak and Rosie Assoulin.
“First, the NYC Capsule Collection. In partnership with CFDA, this will celebrate local designers, help produce collections in local factories, sell through local retail partners and help generate buzz around clothes they create. Our second initiative is to help designers brand their products. In that spirit, we have exciting news about three iconic words: Made in NY,” de Blasio said.
“And finally, we’re announcing the first participants in the NYC Fashion Production Fund: a joint venture of EDC and Capital Business Credit. Together, [they solve] a problem that has stymied many emerging designers: receiving an order from a retailer but not having enough capital to produce the clothes,” he said.
Before de Blasio addressed the crowd, Herrera said, “You know Mayor Bloomberg was a big part of us. Let’s hope this mayor is too.”
After meeting the designer for the first time in a pre-event meet-and-greet, Donna Karan said, “I think they’re about the industry. I was impressed with his passion for it, his passion to help support fashion manufacturers. There was a commitment there that was larger than I had expected.”
A fractured foot didn’t stop Maria Cornejo from making her way there. She said, “He’s obviously wanting to show support for the fashion industry so I think we should reciprocate. And they’re a really interesting couple that is doing great things for the city,” she said.
With his show on Sunday, Panchigul said it was tough to step away. “This is an exciting way to kick off New York Fashion Week. But, for me, this is just bringing home where I live and where I work,” he said.
In closing, de Blasio said of fashion, “…to other people, it’s a career, it’s what feeds their families, it’s what taps into their artistic capacity and their hopes, dreams and entrepreneurship and creativity. That’s what this industry means and what is quintessentially New York. You all contribute to that reputation that we hold so dear – New York is a place of great openness and inclusiveness, creativity and energy, no industry epitomizes that more than this room. And we are with you for the long haul to only make it better.”