Diane von Furstenberg likens the Council of Fashion Designers of America to a big family.
“And I am the big mama,” said the president of the CFDA, explaining that after she relaunched her business a decade ago, she “felt like an outsider,” until then-president Stan Herman urged her to join the board, where she ultimately succeeded him. “It was nice to belong.”
Von Furstenberg and other designers of the CFDA welcomed the 26 new designer members with a reception Wednesday evening hosted by Vera Wang at her Park Avenue apartment. “It may not be as big as Donna Karan’s loft, but I can fit you all in,” Wang said of her duplex.
Many of the new designers echoed von Furstenberg’s belief in the concept of family.
Ulrich Grimm, accessories designer at Calvin Klein has wanted to belong forever. “I’ve wanted to be in the CFDA since I came to America nearly 18 years ago and my first job was at Anne Klein as a little sketcher in the back room of the accessories studio.”
Children’s designer Nikki Kule’s family actually worked in the fashion industry. “My parents talked about it around the dinner table and I know the industry so well,” she said. “I just thought it would be appropriate to be a member of this organization.”
Monica Rich Kosann was so excited to celebrate her membership; she jumped the gun on arriving. “I was the first person here,” she said, 45 minutes before the start of the party. “It was raining and there was so much traffic. I hired a car and I was down in the lobby at 6:15.”
Shane Baum was very Zen about the path of his career. “Why do you do anything in life?” he asked. “You follow a path and sometimes it leads you to Vera Wang’s house at 7 o’clock on a Wednesday night.”
Designers Karen Erickson and Vicki Beamon thought long and hard before deciding to apply to the CFDA. “We’ve only been doing this for 27 years,” Erickson said. “No one can say we don’t think about things before we jump in.”
Also celebrated were Steven Alan, Lisa Axelson, Lubov Azria, George Esquivel, Robert Geller, Gary Graham, Anthony Keegan, Adam Kimmel, Kimberly McDonald, Rebecca Minkoff, Juan Carlos Obando, Monique Pean, Pamella Roland, Robert Rodriguez, L’Wren Scott and Shelly Steffe. New member Sophie Theallet was the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund winner for 2009.
Three of the new members – Bibhu Mohapatra, Waris Ahluwalia, and Sang A Im-Propp – can already speak of the support of the CFDA, as they are members of the CFDA Fashion Incubator, which provides its members with a discounted work space along with the camaraderie of other young designers.
“We’re all in individual offices, but we see each other and have moments to catch and up and talk,” Ahluwalia said. “There is a water cooler – it’s always empty, but there is one.”
Im-Propp, who was formerly an actress and singer, feels like she’s arrived. “I started from scratch and cannot believe that I’m standing where I am.”
Being part of a group energizes Mohapatra. “It propels me to do what I do best. I’m an immigrant from India – all I have built and all I have is here. People have given me their acceptance and this is the ultimate feeling of great acceptance.”
“I want to be a part of what the New York fashion scene is,” said Theallet. “I want to also be a part of the CFDA because I believe in it. The energy of New York is something you cannot find in other cities. “