The backlash against Trump re-election fundraiser and New York’s Hudson Yards developer, Stephen Ross, is intensifying as two fashion houses move their upcoming catwalk shows from the development.
The brand Rag & Bone is moving its New York fashion week show from the Shed, an event space within the controversial, multibillion-dollar development.
The brand follows an earlier decision to pull out by designer Prabal Gurung following a protest against real estate developer Stephen Ross for hosting a fundraiser for Donald Trump at his Hamptons beachfront home last week, with tickets going for up to $250,000 each.
In a message posted on Twitter, Gurung said his decision was motivated by a desire to “question these individuals whose motivation seems to be nothing but $$$ and to also challenge our own integrity and choices that we make everyday”.
Several brands are reported to have planned shows at Hudson Yards during fashion week, which starts on 6 September.
Other designers, including Humberto Leon and Dana Lorenz of the jewelry label Fallon, have also expressed outrage toward the fundraiser for the president, which prompted customers of the Ross-owned fitness companies Equinox and SoulCycle to call for a boycott.
In a statement in recent days in wake of the controversy over the fundraiser, the Shed said it is “fully-independent and not owned or controlled by any private profit or for-profit entity”.
Ross, 79, is owner of the Miami Dolphins and estimated to be worth nearly $10bn. According to the Washington Post, tickets for his Trump Victory fundraiser cost $100,000 for lunch and a photo opportunity with the president and $250,000 for a package that includes a roundtable discussion with Trump.
Ross’s wife, the jewelry designer Kara Ross, has also come under criticism, with Dana Lorenz writing to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) head, Tom Ford, to cancel her membership and to complain that messages to the trade body expressing concern over Ross’ board seat were “met with a response that felt very much like … ‘not our problem’, and to focus my energies elsewhere”.
The CFDA responded expressing regret at Lorenz’s decision to resign her membership and noted that, as a not-for-profit, “it does not participate in political campaigns”.
The decision to move the shows from Hudson Yards presents organisers of the biannual round of fashion weeks with the kind of dilemma that is increasingly buffeting arts institutions or those representing creative businesses.
Last month, at least seven artists demanded that their work be removed from the 2019 Whitney Biennial, citing the New York museum’s lack of response to calls for the resignation of board member Warren Kanders over his connections to Safariland, a teargas distribution company.
Protest against the Shed, an arts center that is reportedly set to be the new home of New York fashion week, comes at a moment when the fashion industry is itself coming under attack for a failure to address production-related environmental damage estimated to account for 10% of planet-heating emissions.
Earlier this month, the protest group Extinction Rebellion announced plans to “shut down” London fashion week in September. “In recognition of the existential threat that faces us, we ask the British Fashion Council to be the leaders the world needs now and to cancel London fashion week,” the group wrote in a letter to the British Fashion Council.
“We ask that the industry convene a people’s assembly, declare emergency, face the truth and act now,” the organisation wrote in a post on Instagram, urging followers to boycott fashion for a year.
In New York, protests have yet to evolve to the same level and remain politically, not environmentally, focused.
“Designers and creative people have every right to remove themselves from any association from causes and people they don’t believe in,” the fashion consultant Kim Vernon said. “It’s increasingly important that they follow what they believe.”
Following the initial protest against Ross’ luxury fitness brands, Equinox’s executive chairman, Harvey Spevak, attempted to reassure customers, assuring them that Stephen Ross “does not run the company. I do.”
Spevak apologized on Thursday for the fundraiser’s “impact it has had on our community”.
“Mr Ross is not the majority investor in Equinox,” wrote Spevak, who joined the company in 1999. “He is one of the investors including myself. He does not run the company. I do.” Equinox said it will donate $1m to five charities as way to give back to the “communities that have given us so much”.
In his own letter to SoulCycle and Equinox customers, reported CNN, Ross wrote: “I have always been an active participant in the democratic process ... 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.”