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The Big Message From AAFA’s American Image Awards

With in-person events back in full swing, the American Apparel & Footwear Association hit New York on Wednesday for the 45th AAFA American Image Awards, and there was a powerful takeaway: The industry must step up its efforts to be more inclusive.

The event, held at the Plaza in New York, honored Levi’s chief Chip Bergh, Gap Inc., Prabal Gurung, ThirdLove and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Fashion Initiative. It was hosted by People TV personality Segun Oduolowu.

“The 2022 honorees are true visionaries, turning hard-learned lessons into new sources of strength to build a better industry and a better world,” said AAFA President and CEO Steve Lamar. “AAFA thrives on the energy that our honorees bring every day, and taps into the passions of all our members, as we create educational and policy solutions for the industry. We are proud of – and eager to multiply – their impactful contributions around the globe.”

“I love this industry because it has the power to change how we see other, said designer of the year Prabal Gurung, who talked about his struggles as a BIPOC designer in an industry that has been slow to embrace diversity. The Nepalese American designer, who has worked tirelessly to make life better for people in Nepal, opened up about an eye-opening meeting with a White male investor. “You don’t look American, so how can you represent America?” Gurung recalled being told. 

For his spring/summer ’20 collection, his 10th anniversary, the designer sent models down the runway wearing sashes saying, “Who Gets To Be American? and he has been a prominent voice in the Stop Asian Hate movement.

CFDA president CaSandra Diggs also emphasized fashion’s ability to ignite change — and lauded the AAFA for its efforts to support CFDA and its causes.

“As the CFDA commemorates 60 years of fashion this year, we reflect on the industry’s evolution over the past six decades, recognizing the immense impact American fashion has created across the globe including that of which has been created by tonight’s honorees,”she said. “The funds raised this year will support both our educational and social impact initiatives to invest in a more inclusive, just and equitable future for fashion, people and planet.”

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