the Council of Fashion Designers of America

The Council of Fashion Designers of America, or CFDA for short, is a not-for-profit trade association for American based fashion and accessory designers. And if you're finding yourself still asking "But what is it?" don't feel silly. I had to do quite a bit of research myself to figure it out.

Founded in 1962 by Eleanor Lambert, a prominent fashion publicist of the time, the CFDA is intended to be an organization committed to furthering American fashion and providing support for budding and well established designers. It aims to educate both industry insiders and non-fashion folk regarding the business side of fashion and what it takes to succeed (and stay successful) in such a demanding field.

Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen accepting their award for Womenswear Designer(s) of the Year for their line The Row. The twin duo also won for womenswear in 2012 and accessories in 2014. image via Bustle.com

The organization offers a number of scholarships for high school, college, and postgrad students; hosts the CFDA Fashion Awards every year; and runs the CFDA/Vogue Fasion Fund competition in which young designers compete for a hefty cash prize and invaluable mentoring from an industry veteran of their choosing. Previous winners of the competition include Aurora James for Brother Vellies, Paul Andrew, Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne for Public School, Joseph Altuzarra for Altuzarra, and Alexander Wang.

the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund 2015 finalists with some board members. image via Fashionista.com

In addition to the organization's educational endeavors, the CFDA has also held a number of charitable events supporting research and treatment for HIV/AIDS, sending relief to Haiti, Japan, and areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. In 1994 Ralph Lauren launched the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer program, which has since become a yearly event pulling in nearly $55 million to put towards breast cancer charities world wide.

So as you can see, the CFDA is no joke. It's influence reaches far beyond the borders of the U.S. and to be on it's Board of Directors is considered a huge honor. Diane von Furstenberg is the current CFDA President with her board consisting of fashion heavy hitters like Michael Kors, Vera Wang, Anna Wintour, Jenna Lyons, Tracy Reese, Tommy Hilfiger, and Ralph Lauren.

Fast Facts:
- They have over 430,000 followers on twitter
- At the 2013 CFDA Fashion Awards Hillary Clinton presented Oscar de la Renta with the Founder's Award, the highest honor of the night
- The CFDA has collaborated with a number of designers on fashion and accessories lines at a variety of price points. Previous collaborators include Target, Gap, J.Crew, and Kohl's
- The organization has published nine books
 

Aurora James of Brother Vellies

The first CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund finalist to be introduced to you is Aurora James and her line Brother Vellies.

James started her line, Brother Vellies, in 2013 with the goal of creating gorgeous shoes while providing sustainable jobs for people in Kenya, Namibia, and South Africa. The name of the brand comes from the traditional veldskoen, or vela, desert boots worn throughout many parts of Africa. In an interview with WhoWhatWear.com, the Canadian designer said it was only natural for her to create an eco-friendly brand because of her upbringing and her mother's environmental focus. As a landscape architect, James's mother taught her to always consider her effect on nature.

“When I originally applied for the CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge last year, I actually didn’t think I would meet the qualifications, because I don’t make, like, hemp shoes. But then I read about it and realized we not only met the qualifications, we actually blew them out of the water. It made me realize that the bar of environmentalism and sustainability in fashion is actually really, really low, so if you just put in a little effort, you’ll actually be far ahead of the game.
“If you’re conscious of how much waste is being made in the industry, that should propel you then to make more sustainable choices. And at the end of the day, if you’re selling something that’s a designer item, it should come with the whole experience of luxury. Luxury doesn’t involve garbage; it involves beautiful, artisanal things that are meant to be kept for a long time, and that just comes with using better materials.”

All Brother Vellies shoes are handmade by artisans in workshops across the three African countries James works in. She makes frequent trips from New York to visit the artisans and to see the work being done to help bring her line to life. She also ensures that all her raw materials come from sustainable sources. For instance, the leathers comes from Nile Perch, Springbok, and Rabbit sold by local farmers for meat or Kudo leather which is an animal byproduct resulting from a government mandated culling due to overpopulation. James even uses the left over scraps to make kid's shoes for her collection. 

The women's line is priced from $235 to $1,250 and is available to shop now the Brother Vellies website, brothervellies.com. To learn more about her eco freindly efforts visit the Sustainability page. Best of luck Aurora!

Paul Andrew

His name is suddenly everywhere but you have no idea who he is. Don't fret! Until recently, very few individuals had heard of him either. That is, until Paul Andrew beat out 10 other finalists and hundreds of competitors to win the CFDA and Vogue's Fashion Fund Designer of the Year Award for 2014.

image via Style.com

image via Style.com

That's right, this man right here has been chosen as the next big thing in shoe design. British born and American based, 35 year old Paul Andrew started his career working for heavy-hitters like Donna Karan, Alexander McQueen, Narciso Rodriguez, and Calvin Klein, but has since launched his own namesake shoe brand. Andrew is determined to create shoes with the perfect combination of feminine chic and comfort. In an interview with Style.com, Andrew said, "When I launched my collection two and a half years ago, everyone was traipsing around in towering high platforms and my whole idea was to return the eye to elegant and feminine shoes with a single sole that are also comfortable. With [the Fashion Fund] reward money, I plan to do even more testing and make sure these are the most comfortable shoes out there." In an act that shows his real dedication to the pursuit of comfort, Andrew has mentioned Nike CEO Mark Parker as a mentor he'd love to work with. Both Parker and Andrew have dedicated their businesses to the idea of melding great design with comfort. Hopefully there will be a Nike + Paul Andrew collaboration in the not too far future.

For now you can shop Paul Andrew's fabulous shoes at sites like Bergdorf Goodman and learn more about him on his website. And congratulations Mr. Andrew!