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Hey, Quick Question: Will the Stephen Ross Protests Cause a Fashion Week Scramble?

Hudson Yards. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Related-Oxford

Welcome to our column, “Hey, Quick Question,” where we investigate seemingly random happenings in the fashion and beauty industries. Enjoy!

There’s less than a month to go before the Spring 2020 season of New York Fashion Week is set to begin, but some brands might be scrambling to change their show plans in the eleventh hour as a protest against Stephen Ross, the Trump-supporting owner of Hudson Yards. 

The Shed at Hudson Yards, a transformative arts space which opened in the spring of this year, quickly emerged as one of NYFW’s premiere venue choices; Fashionista has heard that about 10 labels, including Rag Bone, are scheduled to show there come September. (Hudson Yards is represented by powerhouse fashion public relations firm KCD, which produces top shows each season for the likes of Tory Burch, Kate Spade, Prabal Gurung and Brandon Maxwell; none of the aforementioned brands will present at The Shed next month.)  

As you’ve likely heard, Ross — the billionaire real estate developer who is the chairman and majority owner of The Related Companies, which built Hudson Yards — recently held a fundraiser in the Hamptons to support Trump’s reelection campaign, where tickets went for a whopping six figures a pop. His wife is jewelry designer Kara Ross, who reportedly had a hand in the planning of this event, and who currently holds a seat on the board of the CFDA. 

Fashionista has learned that the CFDA, now helmed by CEO Steven Kolb and Chairman Tom Ford, decided not to remove Ross from the board, even following an impassioned op-ed by Phillip Picardi in Business of Fashion calling for industry insiders to take a stand against Ross’s development by avoiding Hudson Yards completely, despite how “inconvenient” doing so may be for them and their employers. 

A couple of designers have already spoken out and taken a stance regarding the objectively sticky situation. In a lengthy Twitter thread last week, Gurung revealed that he would no longer be showing at Hudson Yards this season. “I was previously in conversation with Hudson Yards’ The Vessel as the venue for my brand’s upcoming 10 year show during NYFW. When I heard about [Ross’s] fundraiser, I chose to pull my participation,” he said. “Removing our brand and selves from this is my choice and that is my decision. I am not expecting anyone else to do it, however it was the right thing to do, for ME, and I do want to speak out to create transparency and awareness.”

In addition, Dana Lorenz of Fallon Jewelry announced via an Instagram post over the weekend that she would be canceling her CFDA membership, effective immediately. “After many years of membership I will no longer participate if a woman that funds the current administration remains on the board,” she wrote. “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.”

We can’t help but wonder: Will this upcoming fashion week season be faced with a last-minute scramble from both brands who wish to pull their shows from Hudson Yards and industry insiders who refuse to participate in events so closely tied to supporters of the Trump administration? What’s more: Will the CFDA be inundated with calls to protest Ross’s seat on the board, and will designers continue to pull their memberships? 

The CFDA is already on thin ice — its relevance and its handling of the constantly fluctuating fashion calendar have been criticized in recent years — and this situation isn’t likely to just blow over. You may recall the drama that occurred in 2017 when a handful of editors seated in the vicinity of Tiffany Trump opted to leave the Philipp Plein show when they were denied requests to be relocated; in the days that followed, there was a media blitz surrounding the news with people calling the editors “bullies” and, in certain cases, horrifying racial slurs that should not be reprinted here. The stakes are much higher now, and the industry is watching closely. We will be, too.

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