Anna Wintour and CFDA fete NYFW at Gracie Mansion with Mayor Eric Adams
The new New York City mayor recognized the importance of the fashion industry at the start of NYFW in an inaugural speech at Gracie Mansion on Thursday night.
"New York is as cool as can be right now in Gracie Mansion with these wonderful folks with swagger," said Mayor Adams in the city's official mayoral home.
Indeed there was plenty of swagger as the NYFW kick-off event hosted by Anna Wintour and the CFDA drew in New York's most influential designers, personalities, retailers, CEOs, and members of the press who make up the American fashion industry.
"You are signatures of who we are as a city, and I cannot thank you enough; you grace Gracie Mansion with your presence," Hizzoner continued with the accolades. "You see your business as just fashion. I see something else. I see that wedding dress you designed as that person starts her life. I see that tie that someone wears that you designed so correctly they were able to nail the interview because they felt good about themselves; I see it when we go out to see women who are victims of domestic violence to make sure they have clothing to get dressed in. Or when we go to a homeless shelter, we have people who do not have clothing to make it from day to day and are embarrassed to go to school because they don't have a change of clothes. Some of you donate and dedicate clothes for them," he offered by commending the audience.
The Mayor has already earned himself a reputation as a sharp dresser who loves fashion (he attended the Michael Kors show in February) and shared a story of helping a young man buy some extra ties. He understands the importance of feeling good by looking good.
He also understands the importance of messaging via clothing and how designers' creativity aids this. "When I want to place emphasis on ending gun violence, a designer comes to me to design my tuxedo with "End Gun Violence" on the back of it drawn over the entire subway system to show we must be safe in our city," he emphasized.
Next, he thanked Anna Wintour for her tireless championing of New York fashion and the city itself. "No person personifies the spirit and energy more than Anna, the Angel that Wears Prada," he gushed, adding, "Her love for this city is remarkable. Her dedication, commitment, and how she talks about what this city will become."
Mayor Adams is also keenly aware that fashion is a serious business. "This week, we will move about and know you are a 600-million-dollar juggernaut just in this week alone. That is twice the amount we make than if we had the Superbowl here. You bring the economy to the city with 100,000 employees, 100 million dollars' tax revenue; you bring the character, the posture, and the stance of this city; you are the exclamation point of NY," he concluded, adding, "New York is back! We are live; we will bring the artistic energy and the diversity we are known for. We will make this a signature event every year that I am Mayor," he said to a roaring round of applause.
Anna Wintour's dedication was evident as the British Dame proudly wore her medal bestowed by the late Queen Elizabeth II. Even the death of the beloved monarch of 70 years could not keep Ms. Wintour from her duties as American fashion's head cheerleader.
A recent cause to make the industry more equitable and diverse was evident in the room. The Condé Nast artistic director and global editorial director of Vogue noted, "there's always more to do, but if you look around the room tonight, I think it's clear New York has a very diverse fashion community."
Steven Kolb, CFDA CEO, was also quite pleased with the new administration's handling of the fashion industry. "I love that he opened Gracie Mansion. Mayor Di Blasio did this eight years ago, but this is different. He supported manufacturing initiatives and economic development; he saw it and elevated and collaborated on it. Mayor Adams sees that too, but he also sees the creativity. He understands the seriousness of fashion but also the magic of it," he said as guests continued to mingle through various rooms or take in the fresh September air on the veranda.
Designer Wes Gordon had kicked off the Mayor's speech with a New York dream angle. He recounted how he dreamt of New York as a child growing up in Atlanta, sketching dresses on his math homework and standing there introducing the Mayor of New York as "surreal."
"Being a fashion designer was a dream career and New York a dream home.
It's a magical place. To me, it meant 7th Ave., Barney's, Vogue, Saks, Bryant Park, Bergdorf Goodman; it was a cinematic version of fashion outsider dreams," he said.
He told of his humble beginnings, having borrowed money to start a business and deflating an air mattress just to have space to design a collection in a small live-work space where he rode the subway between lower Manhattan and the Garment District in search of fabric, trim and sample makers. He was armed with a dream to become the next "Ralph, Tom, or Calvin."
After pulling together a fashion week presentation on a shoestring during a snowstorm where his catering cost more than anything in the production, Gordon had one of those "magical fashion moments."
"It was a success, and the impossible happened; it was an NYC fashion miracle. The Bergdorf team came, Kirna Zabete came, Harrods came. I had enough orders to do a second season," he recalled, adding, "A few seasons later, I was in the Vogue Fashion Fund, and it was incredible. It made me soul-search as a designer and pushed me to answer questions about my work that I otherwise never would have done."
An earlier surreal moment was when Anna Wintour and then CFDA president Diane Von Furstenberg visited his tiny live-work apartment. "The other residents of the live/work building probably haven't recovered from seeing those two icons in the elevator," he said.
The appointment to succeed Carolina Herrera, the queen of elegance according to Gordon (and many more), was "a dream come true of a dream so big I didn't dare to dream it," he concluded, expressing humility and gratitude to be among such a talented pool of fashion professionals.
The audience of those swagger-filled professionals in the room included Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Thom Browne, Tory Burch, Vera Wang, Stan Herman, Andrew Bolton, Victor Glemaud, Karlie Kloss, Aurora James, Emily Ratajkowski, Cynthia Rowley, Rebecca Minkoff, Stacy Bendet, Lauren Santo Domingo, Derek Blasberg, Willy Chavarria, Dee Ocleppo, Bach Mai and Carly Cushnie among others.
In his signature grey shorts suit, Thom Browne stressed the importance of an event like this.
"I think it's important to see the continued support as a part of the economy and the city's culture for people outside of fashion to see what we are doing. And recognize it like the rest of the cities around the globe."
Tommy Hilfiger, making fashion a family affair with wife Dee Ocleppo and daughter Elizabeth Hilfiger, who designs Foo and Foo, said it was great to get the recognition from the Mayors of New York, noting though it wasn't usually an invitation to Gracie Mansion. He was excited for the upcoming week. "It's very vibrant and full of energy, and it's international. It's not like old times; it's changing and evolving, but for us, it's great coming home," he said. The last runway show took place pre-Covid in London.
Victor Glemaud also had high hopes for the week. "We are open and back. It's going to be a full, robust, fun fashion week which hasn't been since the pandemic." He also expressed the continued support of designers of colors on all levels; retail, wholesale, finance, and marketing continued support. "It can't just be a seasonal thing."
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