The Council of Fashion Designers of America is facing criticism over jeweler Kara Ross seat on its board and one outraged designer has canceled her membership in response.
Ross, the wife of billionaire real estate tycoon and investor Stephen Ross, is said to have helped plan her husband’s Hamptons fundraiser this weekend for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. Tickets to the Friday afternoon event — held at Ross’ Southampton estate — reportedly cost up to $250,000 and helped Trump raise some $12 million for his campaign in a single day. Ross’ Hudson Yards development is rumored be the official future home of New York Fashion Week, which is organized by the CFDA.
On Friday afternoon, jewelry designer Dana Lorenz — a 2010 CFDA Award nominee for her label, Fallon — sent a letter formally canceling her membership to the organization. Lorenz says she vehemently opposes many of Trump’s political platforms and that multiple messages to the CFDA expressing concern over Ross’ board seat were “met with a response that felt very much like…’not our problem,’ and to focus my energies elsewhere.”
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Dear Mr. Ford, Mr. Kolb, members and board of the CFDA, Effective immediately, I regretfully but with great certainty, cancel my membership to the Council of Fashion Designers of America. After many years of membership I will no longer participate if a woman that funds the current administration remains on the board. I will no longer be a part of what seems to be allowing a pay for play, money over merit arrangement with someone that clearly wants to advance an agenda that is hurting many businesses large and small with this trade war. I do not feel her views speak for me as a member and I will not allow her to make decisions on my behalf. I thought about this decision well, and although I appreciated support in the beginnings of my career, I no longer feel the membership represents me. I will fondly remember hearing I was nominated for a CFDA Award, I will gratefully remember my time as a CFDA/VOGUE Fashion Fund nominee, and I will always be thankful for your ear, Steven. However, after emailing you about concerns as to the board seat of Mrs. Ross I was met with a response that felt very much like the pacifying public statements from SoulCycle and Equinox. I was told “not our problem” and to focus my energies elsewhere. So I will. The annual membership dues and future high priced tickets to awards will be spent fighting what this administration is destroying, specifically equal rights and climate change. Yesterday, while Mrs. Ross was putting finishing touches on her fundraiser, I was making sure my sobbing housekeeper had her entire family’s documents in order, a woman with 3 years citizenship living in fear. It is not enough to post rainbows on your Instagram feed. Do something. As a side note, the Fashion Fund is irrelevant unless it is entirely made up of sustainable designers. FALLON JEWELRY
“I will no longer be a part of what seems to be allowing a pay for play, money over merit arrangement with someone that clearly wants to advance an agenda that is hurting many businesses large and small with this trade war. I do not feel [Ross’] views speak for me as a member and I will not allow her to make decisions on my behalf,” read Lorenz’s letter, which was addressed to CFDA chief executive officer Steven Kolb, chairman Tom Ford, and members of its board.
Lorenz says that she will reallocate funds spent on the council to philanthropic causes. “The annual membership dues and future high-priced tickets to awards will be spent fighting what this administration is destroying, specifically equal rights and climate change,” the letter continued. “Yesterday, while Mrs. Ross was putting finishing touches on her Trump fundraiser, I was making sure my sobbing housekeeper had her entire family’s documents in order, a woman with three years’ citizenship living in fear. It is not enough to post rainbows on your Instagram feed. Do something,” it continued.
On Wednesday, designer Prabal Gurung announced that he had canceled preliminary talks to host his September fashion week show at Hudson Yards in response to the Rosses’ apparent support of the president. In the days since, the CFDA’s social media accounts have been bombarded by commenters calling for Kara Ross’ resignation from its board.
Luxury fitness chains Equinox and SoulCycle — subsidiaries of Ross’ firm, The Related Companies — also faced backlash this week in the lead-up to his Hamptons fundraiser, leading some to boycott or cancel their memberships.
Lorenz posted her letter to Instagram, where it received support over the weekend from actress Debra Messing, celebrity stylists Elizabeth Stewart and Karla Welch, hair stylist Jen Atkin and the industry watch dog social media account, Diet Prada.
Speaking with WWD on Sunday morning, Lorenz said she has been in contact with multiple designers who are considering similar action but she declined to reveal names. “I wasn’t looking for any kind of response, I just wanted to remove myself,” said Lorenz, whose label is currently sold in more than 150 stores worldwide including Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. The designer noted that she has received multiple threats from Trump supporters since her letter has been made public.
“I wish more people would stop worrying if they are on some sort of guest list or red carpet when it comes to doing what’s right. I think it’s time for everyone to draw a line in the sand. I don’t think you can vote for a tax rate but not also racism and the denial of climate change. I’m not going to look back in time at this moment in history and see myself as a coward,” added Lorenz.
Kolb spoke on the CFDA’s behalf in a statement issued to WWD, which noted: “We are sorry that Dana Lorenz has made the decision to leave the CFDA. As a non-profit 501(c)(6) organization in the United States, the CFDA does not participate in political campaigns and is legally restricted to do so.
“As ever, through its nearly 500 members and countless programs, the CFDA remains steadfastly committed to diversity and inclusion, gender equality, LGBTQ rights, fair immigration policy and sustainability in the fashion industry. The organization does not discriminate by race, gender, religion, or political affiliation.”
The organization declined to comment further on Ross’ seat on its board. Ross herself did not immediately return request for comment.