After launching myriad initiatives to promote fashion and design in the Garment District -- including the Fashion Incubator, which supplies office space and resources to a select group up-and-coming designers in the area -- the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) has announced it's planning to leave the Garment District and move its headquarters downtown.
According to WWD, the organization will take up residence at 65 Bleecker Street sometime this summer, after having spent 15 years at its current location on Broadway near 39th Street. As the organization's CEO, Steven Kolb, told WWD, the move came because the CFDA is "busting out of the seams" in its current space:
“When we went on that hunt, we were sensitive to neighborhoods," he added. "Our intention was to look heavily here, and we considered buildings in the Garment District significantly in our search ... We looked really deep in this neighborhood and when you look at the spaces in this neighborhood, we didn’t find anything suitable sizewise," said Kolb. "There were a few sublets but they were too big and too complicated for us to take. Pricewise, comparatively, the landlord came in on a really good deal for the space we are getting."
Needless to say, the move has ruffled some feathers, especially among those in the fashion community that have been struggling for some time to keep the Garment District a bustling, relatively affordable hub for working designers. Nanette Lepore and Yeohlee Teng both voice concern in the report, and in defense, Kolb was quick to point out that the CFDA was a foundation and not a working design house, so its proximity to factories and manufacturers is less important. (Diane von Furstenberg, the CFDA's president, pointed out that she was actually investing in more space in the Garment District for her business.)
Of course, it's understandable that the CFDA would prioritize a more affordable, functional space over a neighborhood. But, really, those are exactly the arguments that any number of designers and fashion businesses have made in explaining their decisions to leave the Garment District -- including, most recently, Oscar de la Renta and Vera Wang. The neighborhood is wildly expensive and doesn't offer the ideal spaces for big fashion businesses. What's more, one could easily make the argument that, in an age of advanced technology and global business-planning, restricting the fashion industry's footprint to one over-priced neighborhood is pretty ridiculous. In that regard, all of the initiatives that the city and the CFDA have been sponsoring to help fuel the district start to seem a little off-key when the organization itself starts to make the opposition's case.