The president's connection to a billionaire developer has become a hot button issue. 

By Kimberly Truong
Aug 12, 2019 @ 5:15 pm

Last week, the fittest people you know were saying so long to their memberships at Equinox and SoulCycle after it was reported that Stephen Ross — chairman of the brand that owns both companies — was hosting a fundraiser for Donald Trump. Now, Ross's ties to the president are beginning to cause a divide in the famously progressive fashion industry.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) is in hot water over jeweler Kara Ross (Stephen's wife) seat on the Council's board. According to Women's Wear Daily, Ross is said to have helped plan the re-election fundraiser that her husband hosted for Trump over the weekend at a Hamptons mansion, and tickets for the event reportedly helped Trump raise about $12 million for his campaign in a single day. 

In response, jewelry designer Dana Lorenz of Fallon jewelry, who was nominated a CFDA award in 2010, posted a letter announcing that she would be canceling her CDFA membership on Friday. 

"After many years of membership I will no longer participate if a woman that funds the current administration remains on the board," she wrote in the letter. "I will no longer be a part of what seems to be allowing a pay for play, money over merit arrangement with someone that clearly wants to advance an agenda that is hurting many businesses large and small with this trade war."

Lorenz continued to say that "I do not feel her views speak for me as a member and I will not allow her to make decisions on my behalf."

Lorenz told WWD that she had been in contact with multiple designers who are considering similar action but she declined to name names. She did, however, reveal that she had gotten multiple threats from Trump supporters since her letter has been made public.

“I wasn’t looking for any kind of response, I just wanted to remove myself,” she told WWD. "I wish more people would stop worrying if they are on some sort of guest list or red carpet when it comes to doing what’s right. I think it’s time for everyone to draw a line in the sand. I don’t think you can vote for a tax rate but not also racism and the denial of climate change. I’m not going to look back in time at this moment in history and see myself as a coward."

In a statement to WWD, CFDA chief executive officer Steven Kolb said, “We are sorry that Dana Lorenz has made the decision to leave the CFDA. As a non-profit 501(c)(6) organization in the United States, the CFDA does not participate in political campaigns and is legally restricted to do so."

“As ever, through its nearly 500 members and countless programs, the CFDA remains steadfastly committed to diversity and inclusion, gender equality, LGBTQ rights, fair immigration policy and sustainability in the fashion industry," Kolb continued. "The organization does not discriminate by race, gender, religion, or political affiliation.”

Elsewhere in the fashion industry, designer Prabal Gurung spoke out last week after reports of Stephen Ross's ties to Trump, and canceled preliminary discussions to hold his upcoming New York Fashion Week show at the Hudson Yards Vessel in N.Y.C. (Ross developed the Hudson Yards project).

"I was previously in conversation with Hudson Yards’ The Vessel as the venue for my brand’s upcoming 10 year show during NYFW. When I heard about this fundraiser, I chose to pull my participation," he tweeted. "We hadn’t confirmed anything yet, however we were in direct contact and conversation with the team there and we were keen to partner."

He continued to write in a follow-up tweet that "Removing our brand and selves from this is my choice and that is my decision. I am not expecting anyone else to do it, however it was the right thing to do, for ME, and I do want to speak out to create transparency and awareness."

Given that many Fashion Week events other than Gurung's show are expected to be held at the Vessel, Ross's ties to Trump may prove divisive for many key figures in the fashion industry.

After the uproar surrounding Equinox and SoulCycle last week, Ross, who also has a stake in brands like Momofuku and Resy, defended his decision to host the fundraiser. 

“I always have been an active participant in the democratic process,” he said in a statement to Bloomberg. “I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions.”

He went on to say that he is “and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”

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Reps for Lorenz and Gurung did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

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