A week ago, Gen Art, an organization that supports young fashion designers, announced it would close in the wake of the economic downturn. Designers in Chicago and New York say they paid for booth space at Gen Art–sponsored shopping events scheduled for this month and won’t get their money back. One designer who paid $550 for a shared booth space said her check was cashed on April 22. Gen Art sent out an e-mail blast about its closure on May 5.
Chicago designers say Gen Art reps called them repeatedly urging them to participate in the events. Chicago jewelery designer Veronica Martens told WWD that Gen Art cashed her check on April 28.
“They obviously knew when they cashed my check that they were closing the doors on the business, and it makes me sick to think that they stole money from me and my fellow indie designers who are already struggling to make ends meet,” said Martens.
Another designer who e-mailed Gen Art founder Ian Gerard about a refund says she hasn’t heard back. Gerard told WWD they couldn’t cancel the event because if they did, investors would think they were going under and not invest.
That philosophy proved sound when Gen Art skirted earlier financial setbacks, Gerard noted. “If we had done it [canceling events and stopping revenue] the first time we faced economic hardship, we would have gone under back in 2008,” he said. “As soon as we knew that our final deals were not going to materialize, we immediately closed down all receipt of revenues (including ticket sales, membership sales and booth sales),” added Gerard, who said he believed that happened on April 30.
“Everyone involved wanted a different outcome,” he said, adding he and his brother sustained substantial personal losses in the process. “It’s not like we’re walking out with a bag of money.”
He added that he hopes this doesn’t hurt Gen Art’s reputation.