Thursday, July 7, 2011

5 Minutes With Steven Kolb of the CFDA

Photo: Patrick McMullan

As Executive Director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Steven oversees all operations and activities of the American fashion industry's preeminent designer trade association and affiliated charity. Membership consists of more than 350 of America's leading apparel and accessories designers. His responsibilities include all member services, trade association activities, and philanthropic initiatives. He reports to and works directly with Board President Diane von Furstenberg and the board comprised of 27 of America’s foremost designers.

Q1. What was the first record that you bought and how did it change your life?

SK: Patti Smith's Horses. It is poetic, full of angst and a really different sound that I had never heard before. As someone who didn't always feel connected to society I suddenly did.

Q2. You are a keen photographer. Is this something you've always been into or has the development of digital cameras enabled you to delve deeper into the photographic medium?

SK: Digital definitely released my interest in photography. I don't like to think too much about the process or the shot. I took a photography class once and I really sucked at remembering which shutter speed, aperture and all the numbers. I was a disaster in the dark room; too impatient and lots of fingerprints. I take photos on my blackberry and post within seconds to tumblr, facebook or twitter. It is like a visual diary of sorts. I also have a Cannon G10 that DVF gave me. It is the same one she uses. It takes amazing photos.

Q3. Prior to the CFDA you were the senior associate director of DIFFA for many years. How different is that nonprofit world to the world of the CFDA?

SK: At first I though both were really different but they really are similar. DIFFA is an organization that raises funds for HIV and AIDS and CFDA is a trade organization representing American fashion. In both jobs it is about facilitating change and helping others. I never wanted to work corporate America.

Q4. How do you think the online world and e-commerce have effected fashion?

SK: Technology has had a major influence on fashion. Our business today is different than it was yesterday. Social media has really given designers an editorial voice of their own (like your blog) and ecommerce has built deeper distribution channels in a global way. It has also "democratized" fashion by making it more accessible to a broader population. Fashion is now as much part of pop culture as music, film and television.

Q5. You've been involved in some great initiatives since becoming Executive Director of the CFDA including lobbying for design piracy legislation, supporting the 'Save The Garment Center' campaign, and launching Fashion's Night Out. If you had to pick one initiative what would you say you are the most proud of?

SK: I can't really pick one. All the programs and initiatives at CFDA are important and we've been fortunate to have the great support of our member designers who really drive the efforts and agenda of CFDA. But if I had to pick one accomplishment that makes me proud is that we have really grown the CFDA over the last 5 years. Our membership has increased by almost 40% and represents a diverse group of talent. We've become less of an institution and more of a family.

Patti Smith - Horses & Hey Joe

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