The Council of Fashion Designers of America has decided to leave its offices in New York’s Garment District for more space farther downtown. The move has some designers questioning the group’s commitment to the Midtown neighborhood, which has seen declining occupancy by actual producers of clothing over the past few decades.
Women’s Wear Daily reports that the CFDA, which acts primarily as a trade association, will move into the eleventh floor of a building at 65 Bleeker Street in SoHo some time this summer, far removed from the neighborhood that used to produce 95 percent of the clothing worn in America. (By 2009, that figure was down to 5 percent.) CFDA CEO Steven Kolb explained that the group needed to make the move because it needed more space — and in the Garment District, the kind of space it needed was hard to come by.
“When you look at the CFDA, we’re not a design house and we’re not a manufacturer. We are a foundation. The proximity to the neighborhood in terms of factories and suppliers is less important to the CFDA. If we were able to find a space in the neighborhood, it would clearly be a very symbolic statement. It would be a tangible testament for all the good work we have done in this neighborhood over the last six years. The work remains and the programmatic piece of what CFDA does for the neighborhood continues, but for us to function and to really grow over the next 10 years, 65 Bleecker presented a better scenario for us.”
Part of the work Kolb is referring to is a CFDA campaign called Save the Garment Center, which sprung up as a way to preserve New York City’s place as a center of fashion production. But leaving the neighborhood is a sign to some designers that preserving the area and its history isn’t a priority for the CFDA.
“We are extremely disappointed by the CFDA’s decision to leave the Garment Center,” said designer Nanette Lepore, who has long been involved in the efforts to preserve the Garment Center. “We only hope this does not signal the end of their previous support for New York City manufacturing and emerging American designers.”
And we don’t think it will, necessarily. Certainly being in the thick of things would make the CFDA a bigger stakeholder in the neighborhood’s continued development, but Kolb is right when he says the organization has other fish to fry. Here’s hoping they won’t put the Garment District on the back burner after the move.