The CFDA Is Championing Diversity After The Drama Surrounding Kara Ross

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.
As New York Fashion Week gears up for its spring 2020 offering, the Council of Fashion Designers of America is calling for designers to cast diverse models. Earlier this week, the CFDA posted a letter on its website written by CEO Steven Kolb. "New York Fashion Week starts on September 6," the succinct letter began. "As you cast your shows, please remember to promote diversity and inclusion, on and off the runway. American fashion can lead the path."
Last March, The Fashion Spot found that across all four fashion weeks, New York was the most diverse. Though, it should be noted that NYFW was only inclusive when it comes to race and age, not in regard to size and gender. Each season, there are only a handful of designers to champion diversity on the runway in size, gender, age and race: Chromat, Christian Siriano, and Eckhaus Latta. Maybe its time for the CFDA to do more than post a 88-word note?
The CFDA, for instance, could partner with a casting agency that specializes in differently-abled models or curve models to provide access to people who may fall outside of the industry's narrow standards. There is always a blame game between designers and casting directors about the lack of runway diversity — and an organized effort to pair designers with agencies with a diverse roster is a great way to create an active call to action.
This note wouldn't be the first missed opportunity for the CFDA to enact real change. In July, former CFDA member and jewelry member Dana Lorenz withdrew her membership after news broke CFDA board member Kara Ross and her husband planned to host a Trump in the Hamptons.
In response, a spokesperson sent Refinery29 the following statement (that was previously sent to WWD):
“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.”
And last summer, after the lack of diversity on the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund panel was called into question, Steven Kolb, the CFDA’s president and CEO, provided us with the following statement:
“The members of the Selection Committee are chosen for their leadership roles in fashion and the invaluable insights and resources they can provide to designers who are looking to make their mark in the industry. The current Selection Committee is equally divided between men and women; three are of Asian descent.”
Kolb added that “over the past three years, three out of the nine winners were designers of color,” and that “the CFDA continues to do outreach across the country engaging regional fashion hubs and fashion weeks, and we are constantly striving for diversity and inclusion in all our programs.” Since then, the CFDA very quietly introduced two new judges, plus-size model Paloma Elsesser and Fashion News Director Chioma Nnadi, announcing the appointments with a post on its website.
It's worth noting that we've noticed two brands are hosting open castings for their spring 2020 shows: Pyer Moss and Jason Rembert's Aliette — though, those designers would have casted a diverse runway, anyway. Hopefully, other American designers will follow suit.

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