Tom Ford Steps Down as CFDA Chair

Tom Ford’s three-year tenure as chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) will end on May 31, the organisation announced Monday. CFDA chief executive Steven Kolb will serve as interim chair until the organisation names its next chairperson, with the announcement set to be made this fall. The new chairperson will take the reins at the start of the CFDA’s fiscal calendar in January 2023.

“The CFDA and its Board of Directors thanks Tom Ford for his leadership working on behalf of the American fashion industry during an unprecedented time. Tom initiated several key initiatives, which the CFDA remains firmly committed to,” said Kolb in a statement.

Ford succeeded Diane Von Furstenberg as chairman of the organisation — historically criticised for not providing enough support for its members in an American fashion environment that prized fast growth and monster sales, at times to the detriment of brands — in June 2019, just before the pandemic wreaked havoc on the industry. He aimed to bring a more international thrust to the organisation, and elevate American fashion on the global stage.

“When I came in they needed a mother. Now they need a statesman,” Von Furstenberg told BoF at the time.

Ford is credited with trimming the New York fashion week calendar from a seven-day, eight-night affair to a five-day, five-night format — a bid to sweeten appeal for international press and buyers, as premier American designers increasingly opted to show internationally. He established the American Collections Calendar, which includes American designers regardless of where they choose to show, in Jan. 2021.

Ford’s term ended up mostly coinciding with the Covid-19 crisis, which the CFDA responded to by establishing initiatives such as A Common Thread with Vogue, which distributed $5 million in relief aid to fashion businesses during the pandemic, and its digital show platform Runway360. Following the Black Lives Matter movement, he led the launch of CFDA Impact, a platform which connects diverse talent to opportunities and mentorship in Feb. 2021. Over his tenure, the CFDA’s scholarship fund doubled to $500,000.

“I could not have imagined the extraordinary circumstances that both the industry and the world would have to navigate,” Ford said in a statement. “The pandemic challenged all of us to think about our businesses in new ways – from the design process and production, to how we reach and speak to our customers. We were forced to come up with creative new ways to run our companies.”

Ford was set to be chair for two years, but saw his term extended an extra year. The position is typically held for two to four years, though Von Furstenberg held the position for 13. Previous chairpersons have included Oscar de la Renta (1973-1976), Bill Blass (1980-1981) and Stan Herman (1991-2006).

Ford will remain on the organisation’s board. The board’s current officers, vice chair Tracy Reese, secretary Vera Wang and treasurer Sam Herman, will remain in place for the remainder of the year. The board also unanimously elected Tory Burch, Thom Brown and Aurora James to the board, effective Jun. 1.

“I am honoured to have been able to support the truly incredible talent in the American fashion industry for these past three years, and I look forward to continuing in my role on the CFDA Board,” said Ford.

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