Mayor Mike Bloomberg Talks Fashion, Flirts With Diane von Furstenberg


With the clock ticking on his time in office, Mayor Mike Bloomberg is making sure he earns some cool points during his final term.

He kissed Lady Gaga. He chilled with the cast of Gossip Girl.

Now, he’s talking fashion.

Similar to his love of the teeny bopper television hit, Bloomberg’s love of fashion today was not lacking in a good economic-development-related backstory!

Alongside fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Bloomberg spoke at the fashion incubator of the Council of Fashion Designers of America this morning in Midtown to announces new initiatives to support the city’s fashion industry. SIX new initiatives, to be exact.

But not before some obligatory fashion jokes.

“It’s fashion week!” he said at the start of his speech, adding that he was wearing a “different one of my all-the-same-color suits today, so that you would know.” (A quote earning him a few chuckles!)

Before we tell you about these new initiatives (and the millions and millions of dollars they will bring to the city!), let’s briefly fast-forward to the moment in the press conference when Bloomberg decided to be flirty with von Furstenberg, the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, who wore sunglasses for parts of the indoor news conference at one point said she is definitely not meant to be a politician.

“I want to thank… the CFDA for hosting us… their fantastic president, one of the women who I think is the most glamorous in the city — Diana [Bloomberg’s girlfriend] excepted… Diane von Furstenburg has been an incredible champion of our city’s fashion industry. She is a designer. She is a businesswoman. She is a style-setter, and I’m happy to say she is a very close personal friend. And if it wasn’t for her husband, I’d be calling all the time… If it wasn’t for her husband and Diana.”

No need to be jealous, Diana.

Anyway, now that we got that out of our system, let’s get to the, uh, news here.

Fashion Week this year, Bloomberg announced, will generate $865 million for the city.

“We are the fashion capital of the world,” he said, noting that the Big Apple was home to more fashion companies than Paris. “The hundreds of thousands of jobs it attracts, many from out of town, generate a lot of extra business for our hotels, restaurants, and stores — at a time when they really need it.”

The fashion industry employs 173,000 people, he added. “We think that small businesses are the backbone of our city,” he said, noting that he thinks fashion will help drive the city’s economic recovery.

Bloomberg announced six new initiatives related to fashion. “Design Entrepreneurs NYC” is an intensive mini-MBA course for up to 35 emerging designers that the city has created in partnership with the Fashion Institute of Technology (Applications are being accepted through March 31st and it will start this summer). The program is aimed at helping designers learn how to run a fashion label. “Fashion Draft NYC” is another initiative that kicks off this week, bringing 25 college seniors from across the nation to New York City to do a weekend of interviews for management-track positions at fashion companies (jobs, jobs, jobs!). There’s also Project Pop-up — a competition to promote innovative retail. Bloomberg announced a new mentoring program and a new fund, both designed to help emerging fashion folks. So, lots of stuff.

When it was von Furstenberg’s turn to speak, she took the opportunity to reciprocate the mayor’s kind words for her.

“New Yorkers are very lucky to have Mayor Bloomberg as the mayor,” she said. “And the fashion industry is particularly very lucky to have him. He has been so supportive of our industry… Today we are here to thank him.”

After the news conference, Runnin’ Scared chatted briefly with Rep. Carolyn Maloney to ask her why this was an economic development effort she wanted to come and support.

“Fashion is not only important and exciting and glamorous and fun. But it also is a big employer,” she told us. “What I found fascinating is that we have more fashion businesses here in New York than they have in Paris. We are the capital of fashion! Let’s build on it. Let’s employ more.”

“I think it’s a unique opportunity and I think we should have our own brand: Made in New York!” she said.

The news conference ended on a somber note when a reporter asked Bloomberg about accusations that a school at aide at P.S. 87 molested a student. (There was apparently a heated meeting at the school this morning between parents and chancellor Dennis Walcott.) Last month, an aide in a Brooklyn school was arrested for child pornography charges.

“These things are distressing for anyone who is a parent or a caregiver or just a compassionate human being. And our Department of Education really is working to ensure that both the communities have the support that they need at this time. Walcott is understanding of what’s needed. What we have to do is make sure now that the law enforcement officials continue their work and we’re cooperating with these ongoing matters. We do background checks, but things happen afterwards,” he said.