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Inside the CFDA Awards Nominees Announcement Party

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Diane von Furstenberg, left, and Betsey Johnson

"It’s an amazing thing to realize you’ve been in business for 50 years," says Betsey Johnson, who's set to receive the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award on June 1 at the CFDA Awards.

Among the sure bets at this year’s CFDA Awards, you can expect Betsey Johnson to perform one of her trademark cartwheels.

Those who attended Monday night’s nominee announcements, which took place in the Weather Room atop Rockefeller Center, half-expected the whimsical Johnson to bust out her signature move upon hearing she will be honored with this year’s Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, bestowed by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Instead, Johnson gleefully rushed the podium and gave attendees a preview of her acceptance speech, until CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg playfully ushered her off so she could continue with the nominations.

Read more 2015 CFDA Nominations Announced

"I couldn’t not say something," Johnson said once the nominations were complete. "It’s an amazing thing to realize you’ve been in business for 50 years, but there it is; in 1965, the label said, 'Paraphernalia by Betsey Johnson.' I don’t think I ever knew I wanted [a lifetime-achievement award] until they told me I had won it, and now I’m just blown away.” As for that cartwheel, her longtime curtain call at the end of each runway show? "I won’t need much room; you’d be surprised how little space it requires," Johnson said. (Did we mention she is 72?)

Steven Kolb, CEO of the CFDA, said Johnson — who counts Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Meghan Trainor among her fan base— was a natural choice. "Betsey has been in business for 50 years, and sometimes it’s great to honor someone not only for their creativity but also for their longevity," he said. "It’s not easy to succeed in this business, let alone for five decades. She’s an American legend and very deserving."

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The CFDA Awards, considered the Oscars of the American fashion industry, will take place Monday, June 1, at Alice Tully Hall at New York's Lincoln Center. Few surprises are found within the major nominations (see the full list of nominations and honorees here), with the three top categories featuring several past winners. Among the highlights: Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen captured two nominations this year for their work on The Row, earning nods for both Womenswear Designer of the Year and Accessory Designer of the Year.

Several designers favored among the Hollywood set also earned nominations, including Tom Ford, on the heels of his February 20 fall/winter womenswear presentation in L.A., for Menswear Designer of the Year, as well as Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs for Womenswear Designer of the Year. Jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth (wife of Phil Lord, co-director and writer of The Lego Movie and executive producer of Fox’s The Last Man on Earth) likewise earned a nod for Accessory Designer of the Year. Meanwhile, another red-carpet favorite, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino, will receive this year’s International Award.

See more CFDA Fashion Awards: Red-Carpet Arrivals

The one change to this year’s top-three categories: expanding the nominee list from three to five. "We wanted to make it more inclusive and a broader representation of the great talent found within our industry," Kolb explained. "If the Oscars can have five nominees to a category, that should work for us as well."

Swarovski, which this year is celebrating its 120th anniversary, has served as the major sponsor of the CFDA Awards for 14 years, with the crystal behemoth traditionally handing out its own set of awards for emerging designers. Among those up-and-coming designers who already boast plenty of red-carpet placements: Rosie Assoulin, nominated for the Swarovski Award for Womenswear, and shoe designer Paul Andrew, who captured a nod for the Swarovski Award for Accessory Design.

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If any announcement surprised attendees, it was the Media Award, which this year will go to Instagram. "I think people were caught a little off-guard because they expected a person to be named, rather than a movement," Kolb said. "But the time is right to recognize not only new media, but also one that is so powerful and so impactful and touches everyone’s life, and has redefined our landscape."

Two additional announcements are expected in the next few days, Kolb added: the host of this year’s ceremony and the winner of the Style Icon Award, which last year went to Rihanna, who famously wore a sheer beaded gown by Adam Selman — which many dubbed "the naked dress" — to the 2014 ceremony. "We have someone in mind, now it’s just a matter of finding out if that person is available and can attend to accept the award," Kolb said. Pressed for hints, Kolb wouldn’t budge. “We’ll see,” he said with a smile. 

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