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Fashion Symposium presented by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Council of Fashion Designers of America

Great Hall
$30 ($24/members)
This event has passed
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will be closed Monday, May 13, to prepare for the visit of Antiques Roadshow. We will return to normal hours of operation Wednesday, May 15.

We invite you to join us for a Fashion Symposium in celebration of our exhibition, Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour. Presented in partnership with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), the Symposium brings together leading industry voices such as Stuart Vevers, Tommy Hilfiger, Aurora James, Tracey Reese, and others to celebrate American fashion design, share stories, and offer insight on key industry issues such as sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

a gallery space featuring mannequins dressed in nudie suits and a bright pink wall featuring the exhibition's title,

You’ll get to hear from American fashion experts and explore the intersection of art, industry, and fashion. The afternoon will feature conversations with artists, designers, curators, and other industry professionals, including a conversation with Fashioning America curator Michelle Finamore and design consultant Ruben Toledo. The conversations will explore themes such as empowering a future generation of female entrepreneurs, inclusive design, responsible luxury, the future of fashion, supporting the next generation of Black fashion designers.

Symposium tickets include admission to all talks and presentations.

General admission tickets are $30 ($24 for members). Reserve your spot online or with Guest Services at (479) 657-2335 today.

Presented in partnership with Council of Fashion Designers of America

Can’t make it in person? Join us virtually by tuning in to the livestream on October 26.
The livestream will begin 15-20 minutes before the scheduled start of the event. Please allow for small delays as we work to provide the best virtual experience possible.

About the Speakers

Aurora James Headshot
Aurora James

Aurora James, Creative Director and Founder of luxury accessories brand Brother Vellies and founder of the non-profit advocacy organization Fifteen Percent Pledge, has long worked to make the global economy a more equitable place for historically excluded groups.

Founded in 2013, Brother Vellies began with the mission of keeping traditional African design practices and techniques alive. The brand supports artisan communities around the world, creating timeless pieces that celebrate different cultural histories and honor the individuals that make them through fair labor practices and job creation.

In June 2020, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Aurora founded the Fifteen Percent Pledge, a non-profit advocacy organization that urges companies and individuals to make a long-term commitment to increased diversity and representation across their business practices and buying habits. Since its founding, the Pledge has signed 29 pledge takers including Nordstrom, Vogue, InStyle, and Sephora U.S., and helped over 625 companies launch their products with pledge takers. In 2021, Aurora became the first Black female designer to receive The Founder’s Award in honor of Eleanor Lambert, and was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

Bethann Hardison headshot
Bethann Hardison, photo by Hans Neumann

Advocate, model, muse—with a career spanning over five decades, Bethann Hardison has gone from working in New York City’s Garment District; to becoming one of the first Black models favored by European and New York designers; to creative director and producer; to founding her namesake agency where she guided the careers of some of the most prominent models. In 1988, she founded the Black Girls Coalition, and in 2013, she spearheaded the launch of the Diversity Coalition sparking an industry-wide movement for diversity and inclusion.

In recognition of her decades of advocacy work, Bethann received the CFDA’s Founder’s Award in 2014. In 2018, with the support of the CFDA, she founded The Designer’s Hub to guide and empower Black designers, and in 2019 became an inaugural member of Gucci’s Changemakers Council. Bethann currently serves on the CFDA’s Board of Directors and as Gucci’s Executive Advisor for Global Equity and Cultural Engagement.

Tommy Hilfiger headshot
Tommy Hilfiger

Uplifting and inspiring consumers since 1985, Tommy Hilfiger has pioneered one of the world’s most recognized premium lifestyle brands. With Hilfiger’s vision and leadership as Principal Designer, his eponymous brand celebrates the essence of classic American style with a modern twist. Tommy Hilfiger offers premium quality and value to consumers worldwide under the TOMMY HILFIGER and TOMMY JEANS lifestyles, with a breadth of collections including men’s, women’s and kids’ sportswear, denim, accessories, and footwear.

Hilfiger’s career in fashion began when he was a high school student in 1969—opening his first store, People’s Place, in his hometown of Elmira, New York. A decade later, he moved to Manhattan to pursue a career in fashion design, before launching his namesake brand with a single menswear collection. Since then, global retail sales of TOMMY HILFIGER products have grown to reach approximately $9.3 billion in 2021, powered by more than 16,000 associates worldwide—present in 100 countries and more than 2,000 retail stores, including its largest global flagship store at

Hilfiger has a longstanding passion for philanthropy and making the world a better place for future generations. Through the global TommyCares organization, the brand supports various international initiatives and charities like Save the Children and the World Wildlife Fund. Hilfiger currently sits on the Board of Next for Autism. Through the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge and People’s Place Program, the brand is also making strides in its ambitious vision to create fashion that wastes nothing and welcomes all—which actively focuses on topics such as social and environmental sustainability, diversity, and inclusivity in fashion and beyond.

Diverse achievements in business and fashion have earned Hilfiger numerous distinguished awards including the CFDA’s prestigious Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, British GQ’s Design Legend of the Year in 2020, and BFC’s Outstanding Achievement Award in 2021. Hilfiger’s life and career have been chronicled in his memoir, American Dreamer, published in November 2016 — reflecting his experiences in the fashion industry from the last 35-plus years. Recounting his early childhood and formative years, it explores the setbacks, triumphs, and sheer determination that drove him to build a multi-billion-dollar global brand.

Stuart Vevers headshot

Stuart Vevers is the Creative Director of Coach, leading all creative aspects for the house, including women’s and men’s design, brand imagery and store environments. Since joining Coach in 2013, Vevers has successfully led a process of transformation for the more than 80-year-old American fashion house, re-contextualizing its identity for a new generation.

In 2017, Vevers was awarded the Accessory Designer of the Year award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and the Designer of the Year award by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) for his work at Coach. In 2021, he was awarded Hall of Fame Design Excellence Award by the Accessories Council for Coach’s Rogue bag.

Before joining Coach, Vevers was Creative Director of Loewe, where he radically transformed the brand, revitalizing its men’s, women’s and accessories businesses. Prior to this, he was Creative Director of Mulberry, where in 2006 he was named “Accessory Designer of the Year” at the British Fashion Awards for his work for the house.

A graduate of London’s University of Westminster where he studied Fashion Design, Vevers began his career in New York at Calvin Klein before returning to Europe to lead accessories design roles at Bottega Veneta, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton.

Tracy Reese headshot
Tracy Reese

Tracy Reese is an American designer whose signature rich, daring colors and unique prints are crafted into joyful, feminine clothing for modern women. Tracy Reese’s design philosophy is rooted in a commitment to bringing out the beauty in women of all shapes, sizes and colors.

Tracy Reese launched her namesake fashion brand in 1998 in New York City and over the past twenty plus years, expanded to include sub-brands Plenty, Frock! and Black Label enjoying strong partnerships Barney’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Anthropologie. In 2012, First Lady Michelle Obama wore a custom Tracy Reese dress to address the DNC. Other notable fans of the brand include Sarah Jessica Parker, Tracee Ellis Ross and Oprah Winfrey.

A member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America since 1990, Tracy Reese serves on its Board of Directors. Tracy also serves on the boards of NEST Artisan Guild and College for Creative Studies Fashion Accessories Design Program. She is also an artist, as part of Turnaround Arts, a national program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Tracy Reese continues to evolve and has pivoted her business strategy to a more sustainable, slow-fashion model. Tracy recently moved her design studio to her hometown, Detroit, plugging into the resurgence happening there while actively participating in plans to make Detroit a modern, sustainable garment production hub. Tracy formerly served as president of the board of ISAIC, the Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center, a Detroit based, industry shifting factory and Institute anchored in human-centric manufacturing. Tracy is working to build an artisan studio in Detroit creating economic opportunities for women in under-served communities.

In 2019, Tracy launched Hope for Flowers by Tracy Reese, a responsibly designed and produced collection. Part of HFF’s mission is to create positive social impact by empowering women and young people through arts programming in public schools and collaboration with local artisans in Detroit.

About Council of Fashion Designers of America

The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc (CFDA) is a not-for-profit trade association founded by Eleanor Lambert in 1962. The CFDA has a membership of over 450 of America’s foremost womenswear, menswear, jewelry, and accessory designers. Pillars include Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion through the IMPACT initiative, as well as sustainability in Fashion. The organization provides its members with timely and relevant thought-leadership and business development support. Emerging designers and students are supported through professional development programming and numerous grant and scholarship opportunities. The CFDA Foundation, Inc. is a separate, not-for-profit organized to mobilize the membership to raise funds for charitable causes and engage in civic initiatives that will strengthen the impact of American fashion in the global economy.