By MARY BILLARD - New York Times
New York - In the waning days of the Michael R. Bloomberg administration, there was no shortage of tributes to the outgoing mayor as he finished up a 12-year run in City Hall, including a private dinner given at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Dec. 3 by the designers Oscar de la Renta and Diane von Furstenberg.
About 75 people, including Charlie Rose and Henry Kissinger, gathered first for cocktails in the Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Arms and Armor Court and then in the Vélez Blanco Patio, where, over a Glorious Food-catered dinner of crab cakes and short ribs braised in red wine, Liza Minnelli sang “New York, New York.” (“That was Barry’s idea,” Ms. von Furstenberg said, speaking of her husband, Barry Diller.) The meal ended with the serving of vanilla cookies with chocolate frosting and a split in the middle, designed to resemble a broken heart.
By all accounts, it was a splendid night. “He deserved it,” Ms. von Furstenberg said.
That the New York fashion world felt Mr. Bloomberg deserved a fitting send-off was no surprise. Throughout his mayoralty, he was part of a tight-knit relationship that bordered on romance, even if the mayor wasn’t “a fashion icon himself,” in the words of John Demsey, the group president of Estée Lauder Companies.
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Clockwise: Michael R. Bloomberg with, from left, Anna Wintour, Diane von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb; Tory Burch; Tommy Hilfiger; and from left, Caroline Kennedy, Joel Klein and Giorgio Armani. Thos Robinson/Getty Images (Wintour and Burch); Ruby Washington, via The New York Times (Hilfiger); Peter Foley European Pressphoto Agency (Kennedy).
Mr. Bloomberg came to their fashion shows, spoke at their award ceremonies, showed up at their store openings and walked the red carpet at their galas, often with his companion, Diana Taylor, dressed in gowns by Mr. de la Renta or Ms. Herrera. When the mayor handed Ralph Lauren the key to the city in 2010, he joked to the assembled crowd, “Above all, I am a fashionista.”
Mr. Bloomberg was “the very best mayor this city has ever had,” Mr. de la Renta said in 2012, when Mr. Bloomberg presented him with the Couture Council Award at a lunch at Lincoln Center.
“Our mayor, our father, our caretaker,” the designer Donna Karan gushed at an event in 2012.
“He’s been an incredible partner,” the Vogue editor Anna Wintour told WWD in 2013. “He realizes that fashion is the heartbeat of this city.”
“Over the years, we became very good friends,” said Ms. von Furstenberg, the current president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Mr. Bloomberg “took personal joy in supporting the things that revolved around” New York’s fashion industry, Mr. Demsey said.
And what of his successor, Bill de Blasio?
“Nobody in fashion knows this guy,” said Steven Kolb, the chief executive of the CFDA.
“I have not had an opportunity to meet the new mayor,” Mr. Demsey said.
“I have not,” said Andrew Rosen, the chief executive of Theory, when asked recently if he had met Mr. de Blasio. Nor had Ms. von Furstenberg.
Even Nanette Lepore, the New Yorker who designed the coats and dresses worn by Mr. de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, and the couple’s daughter, Chiara, on inauguration day, said that while she met Mr. de Blasio once last March when he visited her office, she had no personal contact with either the mayor or his wife when organizing those inaugural wardrobes. “I haven’t gotten the pleasure of meeting either of them yet,” Ms. Lepore said, referring to Ms. McCray and Chiara. She said that an array of outfit choices were sent over to them “in four garment bags.”
Clearly, there is work to be done. “I am sure we will seduce the new mayor, too,” Ms. von Furstenberg said.
The fashion world’s seduction campaign will begin very shortly. On Thursday, the first official day of New York Fashion Week, Mr. de Blasio is expected to be present when the CFDA announces grant winners to local manufacturing businesses, a cause important to many New York-based designers. Mr. Kolb said that he and Ms. von Furstenberg would also be meeting with the mayor soon. (A spokesman for the mayor’s office said that Mr. de Blasio met with Ms. Wintour on Tuesday.)
“We want to meet with other leaders of the industry and kind of start this relationship,” said Gabrielle Fialkoff, the chairwoman for Mr. de Blasio’s inauguration committee, who has been the CFDA’s point woman with the new administration.
“We want to know him,” Mr. Kolb said. “And we want to talk about our business with him and we want to hear from him on what he thinks of our business.”
Will Mr. de Blasio attend the industry’s numerous parties, all of which Mr. Bloomberg did happily? He is not expected to go to any shows over Fashion Week, but a spokeswoman said that Ms. McCray may do so.
“The big difference between them is that the previous mayor and Diana Taylor are very social, and the fashion world is very social — there are dinners, parties, everybody meets up twice a year,” Joanna Coles, the editor in chief of Cosmopolitan, said. “They don’t have young children and they’re not tied at home. The difference for de Blasio is he has two teenagers and he probably feels less social.”
The uncertainty with which some members of the fashion community seem to view Mr. de Blasio is perhaps a reflection of the fact that, in the last mayoral election, many of them bet on the wrong horse.
Ms. Wintour, Ms. von Furstenberg, Ms. Coles, Mr. Demsey, Mr. Rosen, Kenneth Cole, Calvin Klein, Norma Kamali and the Barneys chief executive Mark Lee each gave money toward Christine Quinn’s 2013 political campaign, according to New York City Campaign Finance Board records. None of them gave money to Mr. de Blasio.
“I know her, and I did not know the other,” Ms. von Furstenberg explained.
And certainly Ms. Wintour, perhaps the most powerful person in the New York fashion world, made little secret of whom she supported. Last June, when Vogue ran an excerpt from Ms. Quinn’s memoir (an excerpt that didn’t seem to have an impact on the book’s sluggish sales), Ms. Wintour dedicated a good portion of her editor’s letter in that issue praising the former City Council speaker, which was accompanied by a photograph of a regal-looking Ms. Quinn standing in Calvin Klein dress and Manolo Blahnik heels next to one of the marble lions at the New York Public Library. Ms. Wintour wrote that after reading a “quick rundown” of the various candidates, “Christine stood out amid a sea of guys in suits, and not just because of her gender.”
And Mr. de Blasio’s campaign message might not have found a receptive audience among those whose businesses largely thrived during the Bloomberg years.
“I don’t think the ‘tale of two cities’ particularly resonates with fashion,” Ms. Coles said, referring to one of Mr. de Blasio’s campaign platforms. “I don’t think that felt relevant to people in fashion. Not because everybody is dreaming of a mansion on the Upper East Side but because fashion feels broader and wider and more artistic than that.”
But that was then, and Mr. de Blasio is now the mayor.
“I love Christine, I do,” Ms. von Furstenberg said. “But you know, listen: The minute your candidate is no longer, you go for the next one. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Ms. Coles said, “The fashion industry is very pragmatic, and if de Blasio is pacing through Gracie Mansion, then they’ll be wanting to figure out how to involve him in their world.”
Ms. Lepore said that when she met the candidate Mr. de Blasio 11 months ago, he “asked a lot of questions” and “as far as we can tell right now, Bill is on board with wanting to helping to grow the New York City fashion industry.”
And, some say that even the close relationship with Mr. Bloomberg didn’t happen overnight.
“The fashion industry and Mayor Bloomberg did a lot of things together that successfully built that relationship,” Mr. Rosen said. “I think these kind of relationships happen over time.”
Ms. Lepore said that it took her some time to believe that Mr. Bloomberg was committed to protecting the garment district and upholding zoning laws in the area. By the end, she was mostly sold.
“Eventually Bloomberg came to understand that,” she said. “But it was a lot of convincing.”
And, by the end of his tenure, even those who doubted his commitment to fashion could point to a list of solid achievements: his backing of Fashion’s Night Out in 2009; his support of the Culture Shed, which will open up in Hudson Yards in a few years and is likely to be the future home of New York Fashion Week; and his support of CFDA projects like the incubator program for young designers.
These are the sort of projects that the industry hopes Mr. de Blasio will build on.
“The mayor certainly wants to be supportive of the industry and support the creativity and innovation of the fashion industry,” Ms. Fialkoff said.
There are other entry points for Mr. de Blasio. “We have to believe that anybody who has two children like Dante and Chiara has to have a secret fashion bent,” Mr. Demsey said. “Dante is rocking the Jimi Hendrix Experience really, really well, and Chiara seems to have a lot going on as well. They’re pretty fashionable teens, and you don’t get that fashionable unless you have a little fashion taking place at home.”
“I don’t know him, and I know Steven has never met him,” Mr. Rosen said, referring to Mr. Kolb. “But I think the mayor is interested in what’s in the best interest of New York City, and certainly the fashion community is a big part of that. I’m sure things will be just fine.”
Of course, at its core, fashion is about change.
“It may be that he’s not a party animal,” Ms. Coles said. “But I just hope he doesn’t think of fashion as elitist and not worth his time, because the energy and creativity gives New York City so much.”