Magazine article Variety

Embracing Equality before It Was Fashionable

Magazine article Variety

Embracing Equality before It Was Fashionable

Article excerpt

The Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage may have sparked debate all over the country, but many in the fashion industry, long a progressive platform for gay rights, embraced such equality years ago.

In 2011, American for Marriage Equality USA was launched at Calvin Klein Collection's Madison Avenue store, and hosted by the Human Rights Campaign. A year later, Nordstrom president Blake Nordstrom emailed staffers to say that gay and lesbian employees are entitled to the same rights and protections marriage provides under law to other employees. In terms of weddings, many couples in the fashion crowd waited for New York or California to legalize same-sex marriages before they made their unions official. Tbm Ford, Michael Kors, Simon Doonan, Narciso Rodriguez, Isaac Mizrahi, Robert Duffy, Glen Senk, Dennis Basso and Arnold Scaasi are among the designers who have since wed their respective partners. While Basso went all-out in 2011 with a 450-person black-tie affair at the Pierre - the first gay wedding in the hotel's more than 80-year history - others were decidedly more low-key.

Last year, when WWD asked Ford about how he had offered news of his marriage during a Q&A at the Apple store in London and skipped the formal announcement, he said, "It didn't occur to me that anyone would be interested." Questioned as to whether it surprised him that to so many people, gay marriage was no more or less an event than straight marriage, the designer replied that it seemed apparent even in the way people noted their congratulations: "I ran into a business meeting, and people said it in a way that anyone would congratulate anyone."

Simon Doonan's wedding to Jonathan Adler in 2008 was more thorny. After making things official in San Francisco's City Hall, the pair found themselves single again, so to speak, with the passage of Proposition 8 two years later. "We just sort of waited it out until it went through the Supreme Court," Doonan says - and with good reason: "When I moved to the U.S. in the '60s, you couldn't get a green card if you were gay."

As a sign of the fashion industry's commitment to the gay community, Barneys New York held one of the first AIDS fundraisers with the opening of its downtown women's store in 1986. Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Peter Alan and a slew of other artists customized denim jackets that were modeled by Madonna, Imán and other VIPs.

In the '90s, Doonan once decked out Barneys Madison Avenue windows with wedding cakes, including one topped with two groom figures and another with two brides. "We didn't think gay marriage was even a possibility then. It was just a fun idea for a gay window," Doonan says. …

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