A New Beginning: FDRA and FFANY Are Joining Forces

The Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America and the Fashion Footwear Association of New York are joining forces.

The move — which will officially bring FFANY under the FDRA umbrella on Oct. 1 pending the latter’s board approval — follows years of conversation about a union.

The two nonprofit groups revealed the news to FN after meetings with their individual boards in recent days.

“We highly value FFANY, market week and the familial nature of the industry — and we want to continue to foster that,” said Matt Priest, president and CEO of FDRA. “We believe in the mission to bring people together in New York, and it will be interesting to determine as an organization and an industry what that looks like. The most important thing is the consistency that FFANY has brought for the last 40 years.”

Once the deal becomes official at the end of FFANY’s fiscal year, John Heron, its executive director, will become an adviser to FDRA. “I’m passionate about the shoe industry, and I tried to put its interests first,” said Heron. “The organization Matt has is better suited to move FFANY into the next era. I’m happy to continue to help with that transition.”

Heron believes that at least for the near-term, FFANY will maintain its lineup of four shows per year — with the biggest focus on June and December. “There’s a need for robust discussion about the right way to meet and what timing [is effective],” Heron noted, adding that fashion week dates and discussions around buy-now, wear-now will play a role in planning. “Matt has assembled the right team for these discussions. For 2021, our best bet is to maintain a consistent calendar.”

Priest noted that the marriage will also allow FDRA to strengthen its position as one of the industry’s guiding voices. “We’re going to find new ways to be advocates. This opens up another door,” the executive said.

Washington, D.C.-based FDRA already operates a New York office — and Jasmine Pendergress, the organization’s director of events and marketing, is based in the Big Apple.

Through the end of the year, FFANY members will automatically become fully pledged FDRA members. “We are going to hit the ground running. We have a number of initiatives planned that will make members feel welcome, empowered and engaged,” Priest noted.

While a large portion of FFANY’s membership is also active with FDRA, Priest is looking forward to expanding the organization’s reach, particularly with vendors and retailers in the fashion space.

In terms of trade show logistics, Phyllis Rein, a longtime FFANY employee, will continue to run the Footwear Show NY Expo, the entity she oversees that focuses on the hotel portion.

The Fashion Footwear Charitable Foundation, which operates the annual QVC Presents “FFANY Shoes on Sale” event, will also remain separate for legal purposes, though Heron noted that industry members drive its fundraising efforts. The annual event, which has raised nearly $60 million for breast cancer research through the years, will go ahead this fall, although without the usual in-person New York gala. “QVC has stepped forward and been very adamant they want to continue. Every dollar raised [this year] will go to research,” Heron said, noting that planning the fundraiser will be a major focus for him in the coming months.

Moving forward, the FFANY board will dissolve, but FDRA will rebalance its own board to reflect the expanded organization. “We want to make sure the voice of FFANY is well maintained,” Priest said, adding that FFANY will be operated by a distinct committee within the FDRA organization. “My message to FFANY members is to become engaged, reach out to me directly, help us continue this conversation and drive the industry in a way it wants to be driven. John and I are doing this with the utmost integrity. We’ve been talking about it for a long time. It’s a new beginning.”

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