At a CFDA press conference today, the designer and CFDA chairwoman — who came to the U.S. nearly five decades ago as an immigrant from Belgium — said she’s uniting with others in the fashion industry to call for an overhaul of immigration policies that are “broken and outdated.”
“In the 1970s, I arrived to New York with a suitcase full of little dresses,” von Furstenberg said of her own immigration story. “The soul and beauty of this great nation clung to me then and provided me with the opportunity to build a global fashion business and become the woman I wanted to be.”
Von Furstenberg was one of several speakers — including CFDA president and CEO Steven Kolb, Fwd.us president Todd Schulte, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito — discussing findings of a joint report by the CFDA and lobbying organization Fwd.us at a press conference in New York today.
Citing the report’s findings — not the least of which was a growing concern among fashion executives about their ability to hire and retain foreign workers — executives warned of far-reaching implications of existing immigration policies on the future of creativity and innovation in fashion.
“Like Diane, when talented immigrants come to the United States to work in fashion, they bring new businesses and creative ideas that create jobs for native-born Americans … ” Kolb said. “If the United States wants to lead the world in fashion innovation, we need immigration policies that embrace the talented foreigners who come here to build and grow.”
Sharing similar sentiments, von Furstenberg said she feared that today’s fashion entrepreneurs “no longer have the same opportunity to come to the U.S. and succeed,” as immigration policies grow increasingly stringent.
Case in point: When President Donald Trump signed a controversial executive order on immigration — targeting seven Muslim-majority countries — in January, it garnered heavy criticism from the fashion industry. (Nike CEO Mark Parker and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos were among the executives to publicly speak out against the order. Brands such as Under Armour, Asics and Columbia Sportswear, as well as designers, including Kenneth Cole, Robert Geller and Naeem Khan, also publicly criticized the immigration ban.)
“I have built my brand around the world with the help of many immigrants who share my dream … Immigrants have been the heart of our industry — they have built the largest fashion houses in America,” von Furstenberg said. “ … Just listen to the mosaic of languages in showrooms and backstage at fashion shows: Immigrants are American fashion.”