How the Council of Fashion Designers of America got its start – WWD

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The Council of Fashion Designers of America was founded by Eleanor Lambert in 1962, with the goal of bringing designers out of the backrooms of Seventh Avenue and into the spotlight. The mission was to help put American fashion on the map.

Lambert, a native of Crawfordsville, Ind., studied sculpture and did fashion sketching and fashion reporting, which led her to New York and a career that included roles such as press director of the Whitney Museum. of American Art and Press Director of the New York Institute of Clothing.

In 1942, Lambert led the first Designers’ Press Week, a suggested time for collections to be complete so designers could cater to a targeted set of buyers from across the United States, and the first Coty Awards, a precursor to the CFDA Awards. By the 1960s, more than 200 buyers attended the seasonal collections in New York, which were beginning to rival the level of attendance at the shows in Paris. Designers like Bill Blass and Geoffrey Beene had come out of the back rooms, but there was still a pervasive sense that Seventh Avenue was controlled by businessmen and manufacturers, who dominated industry trade groups and l union agenda.

At that time, the senses. Claiborne Pell and Jacob Javits had approached Lambert to assist in their development of a National Arts Council, which would promote painting, music, dance, and fashion in the United States. But for fashion to be considered an acceptable form of American art, they required the involvement of a non-profit organization, rather than a commercial industry or corporation.

Lambert rallied a group of designers – including Blass, Norman Norell, Jane Derby, Luis Estevez, Rudi Gernreich, Donald Brooks, Arnold Scaasi, Sydney Wragge and Ben Zuckerman – to form the CFDA. According its charter, which was filed on December 6, 1962, its mission was to “enhance the position of fashion design as a recognized branch of American art and culture” and “to advance its artistic and professional standards” . Within a month, other creators joined him.

“All I did was start,” Lambert recalled in an interview with WWD in 2000. “I’ve always said that bringing people together as a community helps strengthen their identity as a whole. . We were a group of people with equal qualifications and equal ideas moving forward. There is a difference between business people and artists. I was representing a coat maker at the time who was upset that he wasn’t included in one of our meetings, and I asked him, ‘Well, do you have a designer? I’ve never met him,” to which he replied, “He’s in the back room. That’s where he should be, right? »

The change in perception was almost instantaneous. The largest trade group before the CFDA was the New York Couture Group and had only recognized manufacturers as members. Many of them were content with the habit of traveling to Paris each season to buy dresses from couture to make line-for-line copies, but Lambert convinced a large contingent to break away and join the CFDA.

“The main thing was to keep creative designers away, and ‘creative’ was a very important word at the time,” Arnold Scaasi once recalled. “When she did that, it really took off.”

Lambert was instrumental in organizing American fashion events around the world, including the 1973 “Battle of Versailles” designer demonstration that put American talent on the global fashion radar. Bill BlassOscar de la Renta, Halston, Stephen Burrows and Anne Klein showed for America, while Pierre Cardin, Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Emanuel Ungaro and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior showed for Paris.

Lambert received the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award in 1988 and the CFDA Industry Tribute Award in 1993. She died in 2003 at the age of 100.

Today, the CFDA has grown significantly and counts more than 500 of America’s top designers of women’s, men’s and accessories apparel among its members.

In addition to hosting the annual CFDA Awards, which recognize the industry’s top talent, the organization owns the fashion calendar and organizes New York Fashion Week: Men’s. The The CFDA offers programs that support professional development and scholarship, including the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, the Geoffrey Been Design Scholarship, and the Liz Claiborne Design Scholarship.

In 2013, the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative was created to nurture, elevate, and preserve clothing production in New York City. Member support is provided by the Strategic Partnerships Group, a leading group of companies providing designers with strategic opportunities.

The CFDA Foundation Inc. is a separate non-profit organization organized to mobilize members to raise funds for charitable causes. Through the foundation, the CFDA created and manages the global Fashion Targets Breast Cancer initiative, raising funds for HIV and AIDS organizations with events such as the previous Fashion’s Night Out and Seventh on Sale and addresses the issue of model health with the CFDA Health initiative.

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