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The fashion industry’s biggest players have been vocal regarding their opposition to the Trump administration’s immigration policies, speaking out on social media as well as during the runway shows at New York Fashion Week in February.
Now those outspoken industry leaders — many of whom, including Diane von Furstenberg, Prabal Gurung and Joseph Altuzarra, are immigrants themselves — have data to back up their position.
Industry trade group the Council of Fashion Desingers of America and FWD.us, a bipartisan organization made up of tech and business leaders who aim to “promote policies to keep the United States and its citizens competitive in a global economy,” teamed up to create a report that outlines the impact of the existing immigration policy on the American fashion industry.
The two “key concerns” listed in the report are access to and retention of top talent, and the high cost of navigating the existing immigration system — specifically, legal fees associated with filing visa paperwork and other documentation. The findings of the investigation were culled from research by “policy experts,” a survey of CFDA members and roundtable discussions, and conversations among industry leaders.
Standout statistics in the report include: 40 percent of students enrolled in NYC’s Parsons School of Design are international, and 50 percent of designers surveyed hire qualified immigrants to assist in their design processes. Thirty-one percent of designers surveyed agreed that not being able to hire a foreign worker has hurt their business financially.
The report concluded with a few asks of the Trump administration, beginning with the expansion of the HB-1 visas, which are granted to highly skilled workers at a rate of 85,000 per year. Like the tech industry, fashion relies heavily on this visa, as well as the O-1 visa, which is granted to individuals with “extraordinary ability” in the areas of science, art, education, business or athletics. In addition to design talent, these visas are used by fashion models.
“The CFDA’s mission is to strengthen the influence and success of American designers in the global economy,” said CFDA president and CEO Steven Kolb in a statement. “In order to continue the U.S.’ success and influence in the fashion industry, we must recruit the best talent from all over the world. If the United States wants to lead the world in fashion innovation, we need immigration policies that embrace the talented foreigners who come here to build and grow.”
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