New CFDA President Takes the Reins in a Pivotal Time

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) has announced the promotion of CaSandra Diggs to president of the organization.

Diggs has been with the CFDA since 2001 and most recently held the position of chief administrative and financial officer. As president, she will report to CFDA CEO Steven Kolb and the board of directors. One of her primary goals will be developing strategy and “making decisions that further the CFDA’s purpose to champion, educate, and support its membership and the fashion industry-at-large,” according to a prepared statement from the CFDA.

“CaSandra is an innovative thinker with a strong understanding of organizational and business operations,” Kolb said in the same statement. “Expanding her role will provide the CFDA with more opportunity to meet the needs of the membership in a broad and diverse way. It is a critical time for our industry, and she is the right person with the right ideas to help lead CFDA into the future.”

Diggs said in the same statement, “CFDA remains a vital pillar of the fashion community. I am delighted to join [CFDA chairman] Tom Ford and Steven Kolb as we continue to advance and evolve the CFDA into a modern, forward-thinking organization that is reflective of our times.”

There’s certainly plenty of work to be done. In the COVID-19 era, the fashion industry is in real turmoil, challenged not only by falling revenues but also by a litany of changing consumer attitudes—ones that threaten the livelihood of mass-produced luxury brands.

Educated, affluent fashion consumers—the kind who buy the upscale clothing, jewelry, and accessories brands that comprise the CFDA’s member roster—aren’t the rabid consumers they once were. Increasingly, they’re prioritizing factors such as supply chain transparency, quality/rarity of craftsmanship, and recycling and upcycling. Challenged by these shifting priorities, designer brands that churn out several new collections a year (using new textiles and materials) are losing market share to those that make fewer and finer goods utilizing sustainable and ethical supply chains.

This is happening in fine jewelry too. With so many good corporate citizens active in the market (fair trade and sustainable fine jewelers including Pippa Small, Debra Navarro, and Melissa Joy Manning come to mind), shoppers are taking a hard look at how brands operate, how they treat their employees and partners, and ultimately who they benefit. Their estimation of good vs. bad corporate citizenship can markedly impact sales.

And in this cultural moment where how diverse and inclusive companies are has become a center-stage issue, the CFDA has been criticized for its insularity.

Most of the designer brands nominated for the 2020 CFDA Fashion Awards have been nominated multiple times before, shining a light on how limited the organization’s scope, and perhaps relevance, may be.

New York Times fashion critic “In a time when the system itself is under scrutiny in a multitude of ways—from the way its constant churn of collections and shows devalues creations to its racism—nominating a handful of very familiar names as the very best fashion has to offer simply serves to perpetrate that system.”

This year’s nominees also shut out CFDA member jewelers almost entirely: Jennifer Fisher is nominated for Accessories Designer of the Year and is the only jewelry designer nominated for any CFDA award this year. This, despite jewelry’s rising profile in fashion, and the fact that while clothing sales are officially tanking, jewelry sales are—measured by anecdotal evidence alone—holding steady, and even growing.

Top: New CFDA president CaSandra Diggs (image via @cfda)

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