Fashion is no longer just waiting for the government to swoop in and save it.
Seventeen years ago, in the time after Sept. 11, which brought New York Fashion Week to a terrible halt and cast a long, damaging shadow on many young designer businesses, Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America got together and established the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund: an annual competition for new creative talents involving a monetary prize, networking and mentorship.
This week, in the time of the new coronavirus, which has brought life as we know it to a halt, and is already damaging young designer businesses, they are repurposing it. The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund is dead (at least for a year; it may return in 2021). Long live A Common Thread.
A Common Thread is a “fund-raising initiative supporting those in the American fashion community who have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to a news release from Vogue and the CFDA. Through it, cash-strapped designers and manufacturers will be able to apply for funding to help them through the period in which their businesses have been effectively shuttered by government decree.
The grant money previously earmarked for the Fashion Fund recipients (approximately $700,000 for the winner and two runners-up) will presumably form the base purse, and Vogue and the CFDA will also begin a campaign to further build it out, based around short videos debuting March 25 on the digital platforms of both organizations and featuring fashion folk “whose businesses and livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic and its economic impact.”
Not just designers, but seamstresses, patternmakers, manufacturers — all members of the fashion supply chain.
It is a fitting second life for an initiative that began in one crisis but often seemed to have lost its urgency in the last decade. (It’s hard to find 10 worthy new finalists every year to compete.). Though the Fashion Fund crowned such well-known winners and finalists as Proenza Schouler, Joseph Altuzarra, Rag & Bone, Telfar and Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss, just as many have experienced a brief flurry of fame and then largely disappeared: Doo-Ri Chung, Behnaz Sarafpour, Trovata, Rogan, Suno. Even a glamorous prize could not help.
Redirecting the money and good will not at publicizing a small group of potential stars, but at bolstering the back ends of many functioning business may be the most modern possible evolution of the idea. (Applicants don’t even have to be part of the club; being a CFDA member or Fashion Fund participant is not a requirement.)
The news follows an announcement on Instagram by Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss that he would be “setting aside $50,000 for minority and women owned small creative businesses currently in distress.”
It is unclear at the moment what size grants the Common Thread fund will be able to disperse, or what the criteria for recipients will be — or even who will be on the committee that decides who gets what. But according to insiders, both Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, and Tom Ford, the chairman of the CFDA, felt it was imperative that they act as soon as possible to support their community. They could figure out the specifics later.
Not too much later, though. The first applications will be available April 8.