The CFDA: Where nonprofit meets fashion

Steven Kolb

Steven Kolb (Credit: Steven Kolb (Getty))

New Jersey-raised Steven Kolb is not your typical fashion arbiter. In fact, Kolb’s background is in philanthropy, but his present position is chief executive officer of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Kolb oversees all operations and activities for the American fashion industry’s designer trade association and its affiliated charity. The CFDA consists of more than 400 leading designers, and Kolb is at the helm. The annual CFDA Fashion Awards will take place Monday at Lincoln Center.

Q: What do you do at the CFDA?
My responsibilities include managing all member services, trade association activities and philanthropic initiatives. I work with President Diane von Furstenberg and the board of directors. I’m responsible for nurturing the next generation of American designers.

Q: What is the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund?
It’s an endowment which provides financial assistance and mentoring to the most promising American designers, to take them to the next level. This year, the winner and runner-up have each created a limited-edition capsule collection exclusively for J.Crew.

Q: How did you get involved in fashion?
I have a master’s in public administration from NYU, and my background is not-for-profit, specifically cancer, HIV and AIDS. I never expected to work at CFDA. But when they asked me to be the CEO, I recognized it’s not a fashion house, it’s a nonprofit that represents emerging designers and fosters talent.

Q: Who is a part of the CFDA?
: It’s an organization made up of America’s top designers: a fraternity for fashion. There are big-name designers like Alexander Wang, Thakoon and Phillip Lim, and experienced small-business owners. We are 400-plus strong.

Q: Where do you shop?
Any of our CFDA members. I only wear American designers. It’s an important part of who I am. Rag & Bone, J.Crew and Band of Outsiders.

Q: Who makes your glasses?
Selima Optique. I have 40 pairs of her glasses. I also like Illesteva and Warby Parker.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about New York?
I love the Citi Bike share program. It used to be about walking around New York; now, it’s the bike.

Q: Any advice?
Do the best you can, and don’t worry about other people. Try hard.

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