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Hudson Yards in New York. Photo: Ajay Suresh.

Designers Withdraw from New York Fashion Week Show at the Shed over Trump Fundraiser

Stephen Ross—the billionaire real estate giant behind New York’s mega-development Hudson Yards and a board member of the Shed, the contemporary arts center that opened in April—is facing further backlash over a fundraiser for President Trump that was held at his Hamptons home on Friday, August 9. The event, combined with a talk Trump gave at the residence of developer Joe Farrell later that day, raised $12 million for his reelection campaign.

According to Women’s Wear Daily, the latest fallout over the fundraiser, for which Ross sold tickets for up to $250,000, is designer brand Rag & Bone’s announcement that it will no longer participate in a New York Fashion Week event scheduled to take place at the Shed in the spring. It has yet to announce the new location where it will present its 2020 collection.

Ross has addressed the public outcry by declaring that fundraisers are part of the democratic process. “While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about. . . . I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”

Among those criticizing Ross are athlete Kenny Stills, a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins football team, which is owned by Ross; model Chrissy Teigen; Queer Eye host Jonathan Van Ness; actress Sophia Bush; and designers Humberto Leon, Dana Lorenz, and Prabal Gurung. Gurung ended discussions over holding his ten-year show at the Vessel, the beehive-shaped viewing platform and Hudson Yards landmark designed by London-based architect Thomas Heatherwick.

On Twitter, the Nepalese American designer wrote that he did not want any part in reelecting “the racist in the White House.” He also canceled his membership at Equinox, the fitness club owned by Related Companies, of which Ross is chairman. “It is so important in these dangerous times that we follow our convictions and don’t in any way support the president’s racism, xenophobia, and bigotry,” Gurung said.

Related Companies also owns the popular fitness brand SoulCycle as well as the offshoot RSE Ventures, which has invested heavily in the restaurant industry, including the dessert shop Milk Bar, David Chang’s Momofuku, and the coffee shop Bluestone Lane. Chang has since called the situation complicated—while he praised Ross for being a good businessman, Chang said that he is on the wrong side. “I personally am a staunch opponent to President Trump and everything he stands for,” Chang told The Guardian. In protest of the money Ross helped raise for Trump, many of these businesses are being targeted.

In response to calls to boycott the gym, Equinox released a statement which reads in part: “As is consistent with our policies, no company profits are used to fund politicians. . . . We believe in tolerance and equality, and will always stay true to those values.” The company also maintains that Ross is a passive investor and is “not involved in the management of either business.”

Earlier today, Page Six reported that Equinox will donate $1 million to five charities following the controversy: Cycle for Survival, the Heroes Project, the Felix Organization, Move for Minds, and House Lives Matter. The executive chair of the company, Harvey Spevak, clarified in a statement that Ross “does not run the company. I do.” “Our focus has always been about building a community center on our values, not politics.”

He continued: “We live our values every day, which means giving back to the communities that have given us so much. . . . We will continue to listen to your thoughts and ideas, and while we have a lot of work to do, I am confident that together we will come out a stronger community.”