Last month’s news that Equinox and SoulCycle owner Stephen Ross would be hosting a Hamptons fundraiser for Donald Trump sent gym-goers into a frenzy, with petitions circulated, memberships canceled and boycotts threatened. But the billionaire’s Trump ties have also impacted New York Fashion Week — thanks in part to his wife’s style connections.
Kara Ross, who married Ross in 2003, is a jewelry designer who, until this month, sat on the board of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). New CFDA chairman Tom Ford confirmed to WWD that Ross was one of four board members (including Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman, the estranged wife of Harvey Weinstein) just moved to non-voting emeritus status in order to make the board “more diverse in age and more diverse in every way.”
Ford also denied that Ross’s departure was punishment for her involvement in the Trump fundraiser, saying the board shake-up has been in the works for months.
“Kara is going to be leaving the board,” he told WWD. “However, this has absolutely nothing to do with her political views or her [husband’s] fundraiser for Trump.
“I mean, this country is about freedom of speech; it’s about freedom of political view,” he continued. “There were so many calls for people within the industry for us to remove her from the board, which is totally wrong. It is not democratic, it is not what this country is about. To have done that would have been the same kind of censorship that our current administration tries to do with the press — tries to manipulate, in a sense, real freedom of speech. We never do that, and that is not at all what this was.”
Along with the calls to have Ross kicked off the CFDA board — a moot point now that her status has changed — the Trump fundraiser fallout saw jewelry designer Dana Lorenz withdraw her CFDA membership altogether in protest. Lorenz, who designs under the Fallon label, posted an open letter calling out CFDA leadership for declining to cut its ties with Ross.
“I was told ‘not our problem’ and to focus my energies elsewhere,” Lorenz wrote. “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.”
Other designers have protested the Rosses’ political leanings by pulling their New York Fashion Week shows from Hudson Yards, the Manhattan real estate development overseen by The Related Companies, of which Stephen Ross is chairman, founder and majority owner.
Though fashion designer Prabal Gurung had considered staging his Sunday runway show at The Vessel at Hudson Yards, news of the Ross-backed fundraiser prompted him to find another venue and issue a blistering statement on Twitter.
“This is no longer about party lines, especially now with all the mass murders at the hands of domestic terrorists and white supremacists,” the Nepalese-American designer, who has previously dressed former first lady Michelle Obama, wrote in a lengthy Twitter thread calling out Ross. “Rather, this is a choice that one needs to make now. This is about choosing between two sides, the right or the wrong sides of the history.”
Gurung’s 10th-anniversary collection also made a political statement, with models wearing red, white and blue “Who Gets To Be American?” sashes in a nod to his immigrant roots and a celebration of the “America I know is still there,” according to his show notes.
Gurung isn’t alone. Rag & Bone’s Friday show was also moved from The Shed, a nonprofit arts center at Hudson Yards. And according to the New York Post, The Shed was also ruled out by designers like Vera Wang and Michael Kors, though the former denied any political motivations.
And then there are the Trumps themselves. Though members of the first family — notably first daughter Tiffany Trump, who was MIA at Taoray Wang’s Saturday show — have been frequent front-row attendees, they’ve steered clear of the catwalk this season. Zang Toi’s Tuesday presentation may change that, however; last season’s America-inspired show drew the triumvirate of Donald Trump Jr., his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle and POTUS’s second wife, Marla Maples.
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