Our Conversation with CaSandra Diggs, Chief Administrative and Financial Officer of the CFDA
posted by Lilliana Sarin and Rachel Burns
This is part of a series of interviews conducted by LIM students with members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Students are enrolled in Fashion Merchandising Professor Andrea Kennedy's Introduction to the Fashion Business class.
Recently, we got the amazing opportunity to meet and speak with CaSandra Diggs, Chief Administrative and Financial Officer of the CFDA. Ms. Diggs was warm and welcoming, gave us her full attention, and provided us with great information about her organization and about her role with the CFDA.
The CFDA was established in 1962 to “Strengthen the global impact of American fashion in the global economy.” For decades, the CFDA has funded designers, helping them develop their ideas and turn their visions into reality.
To start the interview, we asked Diggs about her journey in fashion, and how she obtained her current role. She expressed that she felt her experience was no different than the average college student. Struggling to balance school, work, student loans, and personal life, Diggs began by studying Criminal Justice at John Jay College and then moved on to Baruch Zicklin School of Business to study accounting. On the topic of how to have a rewarding college experience, Diggs advised us: “Enjoy what’s happening when it’s happening—don't become consumed with finishing a task quickly just so you can say you’re done. It is not about the destination, but the journey of getting there.”
We then moved onto her daily life at the CFDA, where she oversees a staff of 24 people. Her work centers around designers and their fashion calendars, as she provides them with tools they need to succeed. Right before our interview, she had just come from a workshop about expanding and diversifying the fashion community. Fashion has been dominated by the standard of tall, thin, perfect looking women, and the goal of her workshop was incorporating different sizes, races, and genders on the runways. For the future of fashion, Diggs sees more diversity and inclusivity.
Diggs humbly explained that the best part of her job is the people she works with and the extraordinary members of the CFDA. Her job is to assist in molding the future of fashion, and with the help of the CFDA’s rising entrepreneurs, she sees all aspects of the fashion community. Meeting with fashion icons such as Ralph Lauren one day, and helping young designers who are just starting off the next, Diggs collaborates with both ends of the spectrum and notices a new creativity being added to the traditional ways of fashion. It inspires Diggs to see people from all different backgrounds working together in fashion.
Out of the hundreds of designers Diggs works with, her favorite is CFDA Chairwoman, Diane von Furstenberg. Through flowy silhouettes and bold patterns, von Furstenberg’s designs connect back to Diggs’ Caribbean roots. She appreciates how von Furstenberg includes more feminine silhouettes throughout her designs, compared to other popular “street styles.”
Diggs is also always involved in new programs and workshops. The CFDA is well known for their scholarship and grant programs. Diggs has the honor to be involved with awards such as the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund (CVFF), which awards prize money to emerging American design talent. One of her favorite brands to receive the CVFF award is Public School, a New York-based brand that captures the city’s aura through simple, structured designs. Recently, the CFDA launched their new Fashion Trust program, which Diggs sees as an important link between top-tier designers and U.S. based designers breaking in the industry. Designers in this program receive financial support, as well as mentoring from members of the CFDA.
To end our interview, we were curious to know where Diggs had been in her career as a college freshman. At the time, she worked as a sales associate at Macy’s, navigating different jobs and internships to see what appealed to her. This first job helped her realize what she truly wanted for her future, and that she could move up from there. She left us with the message of not being afraid to explore opportunities: “The only way to find what you truly like is to actually do it.”
Before saying farewell, Diggs took us around the open, brightly-lit CFDA office space. One reason she chose it as the home of the CFDA was because the floor-to-ceiling windows give natural sunlight to all employees. We even got to meet a couple staff members—Diggs mentioned that a few LIM College alumni are currently employed at the CFDA. We could tell by walking through the office that the CFDA employees are a family and very connected to one another.
Photo credit: bfa.com