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IFDA: Building a Legacy of Leadership and Service

The concept of women playing a greater role in the industry, combined with a commitment to enhance the fashion image of its products, propelled six women in the curtain and drapery industry to meet over lunch in New York City, April 22, 1947. Recruited by Claire (Kohn) Coleman, a trade publication reporter, to discuss the limited impact - and prospects – they had in their respective careers, the women concurred on the value of a forum for the exchange of ideas and information within the home furnishings field.

The six colleagues around that lunch table soon became 13, then 40, and then 60. Committees were formed to draft a constitution and bylaws, to select officers, to define goals, and to plan a membership drive. As word of this fledgling group spread, the interest expanded well beyond the decorative fabrics industry.

The name chosen for the group, National Home Fashions League, reflected its directions. Its most immediate goals were "to increase the prestige and broaden the potentialities of the women in the industry; to bring together women in related fields to exchange ideas; to meet established professional women through lectures, forums and other programming; and to offer opportunities and training for members and others who would like to advance themselves through clinics and scholarships." It was also planned to reach out to the industry and consumers with a fashion message.

In February 1948, the first official board meeting was held and the membership article in the constitution was amended to include executive women in all phases of home furnishings. By January 1949, membership had grown to 237 women. Between 1949 and 1957, additional chapters were established and incorporated, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington D.C., Cleveland, Southern California, Northern California, Florida and New England.

From its inception, imaginative and constructive programs fulfilled its goals. The first major challenge of the new organization was the creation of Home Fashions Time with its slogan, "Enjoy Living at Home". Initiated in 1948 and debuted in 1949, it was a nation-wide promotion adopted by 8000 retailers and endorsed by nineteen industry associations and most major buying offices. Other innovative programs, Career Day, Trailblazer Awards, Design Fellowships, student scholarships and community service projects were early highlights that sought to reinforce the stature of members and the directions of the industry. Some continue to this day in both traditional and new formats.

The New York Chapter Board of Directors served as the Board of Governors of the national organization until it was restructured in 1959 with representatives from each of the nine chapters and a separate board of directors. National projects, both industry and consumer oriented, continued to be handled by the New York Chapter until a new national office was established in Dallas in 1964.

The Educational Foundation was incorporated in 1970 to help direct the educational and philanthropic activities of the organization. Although it has changed its profile through the years, it has never lost sight of its mission.

As the organization grew, gaining more chapters and more members, its leadership recognized the need to make two key changes that would allow the association to achieve its mission and to more truly reflect the diverse interests and careers of its members. In 1986, the association voted to allow men to participate as full members of the association and two years later a new name, the International Furnishings and Design Association, was chosen.

IFDA has made major advancements from that lunch table 55 years ago. Today with 16 chapters and international members-at-large representing all facets of the furnishings and design industry, IFDA is the premier association within the industry, poised to meet the challenges of the new millennium.