ANNA CHAE

ANNA CHAE

So how would you describe the CFDA as a company?

In one word: efficient. In two words: mind-blowing, just because we do so much and people don’t realize how small the organization is. Another great thing is that a lot of people don’t know everything that we cover. We almost always have something up our sleeve. That’s particularly what I like about the CFDA. In addition to our involvement in New York Fashion Week: Women’s and Men’s, we have the CFDA Scholarship Program, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, CFDA {Fashion Incubator}, we service our Membership year-around, and so much more! There are all these different opportunities to engage with talent, and we’re really able to provide various types of hybrid opportunities.

 

So what’s your role?

Currently, I am the Program Associate of Education and Professional Development. I specifically work with Sara, our Director, on the CFDA Scholarship Program, which encompasses the CFDA Scholarship Award, Liz Claiborne Design Scholarship Award, Geoffrey Beene Design Scholarship Award, Kenneth Cole Footwear Innovation Award, CFDA+ and Elaine Gold Launch Pad.

We have a lot of programs because we don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. We’re always striving to find the gray area where needs haven’t been met yet.

 

So how does the CFDA balance innovation with staying true to its heritage?

The best example of that is how, in 2017, we relaunched the CFDA Scholarship Program. That was our first Educational Initiative. In the past, we had 4 scholarships with similar approaches for briefings. Now, we are taking a whole new approach that we are really excited about. For the CFDA Scholarship Awards specifically, we are now considering all specializations, whereas it was just apparel in the past.

It'll be interesting to see how the selection committee members rule out a womenwear collection vs. a jewelry one, because they’re completely different categories.

We’re also incorporating sustainability to give designers a foundation in their business because the curiosity is there.

 

Why is sustainability important to the CFDA?

You can’t really think about designing for the future if we don’t have an environment to host those opportunities. Our industry is only one part of a whole.  It is great that Sara, our Director, and Violeta, our Program Manager, are very well-versed in sustainability. We started integrating sustainability into our work, especially with younger designers, so that it’ll become a strand of their DNA from the get-go.

 

Can you talk a little bit about the Geoffrey Beene Design Scholarship Award?

Yeah, we actually moved that into the Graduate space which is very new to us too! The applicants are going to be doing a lot of prototyping. The finalist gets a $1,000 stipend to create a  garment. The creative brief and selection process are very different and we are doing a lot more to engage the applicants and the Selection Committee We’re flying in our finalists. We work with 19 schools across the US, and we’re excited to be meeting these applicants in person. They’ll be presenting to the committee.

 

How would you describe the CFDA’s role within the American Fashion industry?

At our core, we aim to strengthen the impact of American Fashion in the Global Economy. I consider us a facilitator in the fashion community. We are a nonprofit so everything that we do is for the people we service.

 

Can you give an overview of the CFDA’s philanthropic work?

Philanthropy is important to our designers, and it is important for us to be involved in that side of the industry. Three key focuses in our philanthropy space are Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, HIV/AIDS and Disaster Relief.

 

From your two years with the CFDA, what has been your biggest takeaway?

Flat out, we do not have enough jobs in the fashion industry and it’s quite sad. There are so many amazing people and it’s unfortunate that we’re losing so much talent because there aren’t enough opportunities. When I first started at the CFDA, I remember reading a document that said there are only about 1,700 fashion industry jobs, which is nothing.

 

Can you specify?

It makes us really think about how we can grow our industry but also sustain our economy.

 

How does your role integrate into the bigger picture of what the CFDA does?

A few years ago, we did a study with The Boston Consulting Group to identify what the  CFDA should be focusing on, one of those pillars being education. The goal is to support younger talent, hoping that they one day start a brand and become a CFDA member, or use that education as a stepping-stone to something else. The CFDA aims to be there for a designer at every point in their lifeline, so I work at the beginning of that lifeline with the younger designers, and then my colleagues carry them through along the rest of their careers.

 

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Talking with all of the younger designers for sure. They’re all so unique, they all have different stories and backgrounds.

It's crazy how they achieve success with the kinds of obstacles that they face, so even just listening to them is so helpful, because we can identify where they need more support.

 

Are there any needs that surprised you or...

When people started tossing around the word sustainability, we started paying more attention to how it correlated with the needs of younger designers. People say sustainable, but what does that even mean? How do people want to be more sustainable?

When we laced sustainability through the foundation of our programs, we could work to help that “need.” That one word has so many pathways from making a product, running a business to self and image. In one of those efforts, was the recreation of the CFDA + Lexus Fashion* Initiative, which is our largest sustainable initiative to date.

 

Why is it important for fashion to support new and incoming talent?

If we all stayed the same and didn’t foster new talent then we might not ever grow, and we’d be stuck in the place. The world with all its industries changes so much. We rely on a constant stream of new ideas!

Since we foster new talent, we’re in a place now where all of the industries are intertwined, so we have the opportunity to collaborate with other industries to create something completely new by hybridizing.

 

What’s the most challenging aspect for supporting new designers?

Well, I wish I could support them all because there are so many of them. Imran from Business of Fashion opened up our CFDA Fashion Education Summit in 2016, and he was saying how there’s never one solution that fits all, and that’s the way it is with the industry because it is always changing. We constantly have to listen, the research is never finished. We need to be agile, attentive, and always on top our game to stay as helpful as possible.

 

What does this CFDA look for in young designers?

Talent, that’s it.

 

Does it matter if the designers have a strong sense of business?

I guess it depends on the program. For scholarships, it’s really based on excellence and who can execute the brief to the highest standards. Our new Elaine Gold Launch Pad involves a business component. We’ll look for that business perspective, but at the same time, we’re searching for designers who want to make a greater change.  These talents will want to grow with us and have an impact on the industry.

 

And from there they can find a business partner to deal with that side of the industry.

If that is what they want…but exactly! Let's say you're graduating for Fashion Design, it is a bit unfair to be like "Oh well you need to be an expert in business too." I say this especially because fashion design is such a hardcore major in itself. Of course, it can be a plus to know that side of the industry, but I don't think that's always mandatory. On the other hand, we always try to implement the business aspect of the industry into our programs now to give the designers a foundation. We wouldn’t want our designers to be taken advantage of.

 

How has the influx of digital media affected the CFDA’s role within the fashion industry?

It’s been helpful because it allowed us to shine the spotlight on our membership and programs in new ways. Through CFDA.com, we can highlight and keep the community updated. We aim to make the industry aware of everything happening. We’re trying to connect all the dots and keep the community in the loop.

 

What has been the biggest success story during your time at the CFDA?

I think it depends on how you define success, but for me, success is in the little things. We always reach out to 50 or so people, but if 1 works out, it makes my day.

For instance, I was talking to my friend Russell Howe at Saks, and he mentioned a designer showcase there. I told him about our CFDA+program that highlights recently-graduated talent globally.. I sent out an email blast to everyone in the program, and 1 designer ended up making it into Saks with an exclusive. That made my day.

 
 
 
 SABRINA SANTIAGO

SABRINA SANTIAGO

What was your role?

My responsibilities included assisting with posting to various social media handles, helping with social media during fashion week and working closely with the Director of Editorial and Communications, Communications Coordinator as well as the Digital Media Manager.

 

Why did you choose this position?

I’ve always been interested in the CFDA as a company and the work they do such as the CFDA awards and the CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund. I also hadn’t done a PR or Social Media position before so it was a good combination for me at that time.

 

What did you learn from it?

The internship allowed me to dabble in a bunch of areas. I helped with the CFDA tumblr, which I loved doing, and this task allowed me to work on my photoshop skills and curate content. I also helped in posting on all of the social media outlets in general, and for that I got to work backstage during NYFW and NYFW: Men’s to take photos. This was the first internship that gave me the ability to use my photography background which I really enjoyed. I learned how huge events such as NYFW: Men’s are executed from start to finish, and understood just how much thought goes into social media, and how much of an impact it has on fashion today.

 

What was the company culture?

The CFDA team is very small and everyone has an extremely large roll in the company. I was the only intern for the communications department so everything was extremely hands on and there was no such thing as “busy work”.