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“Get a look at the pies,” Vogue editor Anna Wintour said, clearly delighted by the thought.
Minutes later a plate bearing one serving of the evening’s main course was brought out for an exclusive preview: a chicken pot pie featuring a crust emblazoned with one word — “VOTE” — and a miniature “I’m With Her” flag as a garnish. Monday night’s dinner may have been organized to announce the winner of the annual CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, but make no mistake: Guests attending the event at Spring Studios were overwhelmingly #TeamClinton.
Michael Kors, who gave the night’s keynote speech, sported “Vote” and “I’m With Her” pins on his lapel, while Suite 1521 co-founder Lizzie Tisch wore a sequined T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase associated with the Democratic candidate. “It’s by Ashish,” Tisch explained, adding that she asked London-based designer Ashish Gupta to make the shirt for her to wear to a Clinton fundraiser. “I wore it that day and to one other event, and other people have bought it since. It’s been a big hit.”
Wintour and Kors were joined by CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg, as well as Zac Posen, Alexander Wang, Jason Wu, Hilary Rhoda and others at the cocktail hour, which indeed was dominated by talk of everyone’s voting plan.
Directly after the event, CFDA CEO Steven Kolb planned to drive to the Pennsylvania home he shares with husband Jay Inkpen so they could vote Tuesday in that state, while Vera Wang noted that she had mailed in an absentee ballot. Karlie Kloss, who arrived with designer Prabal Gurung, already voted in her home state of Missouri, while Gurung couldn’t wait to queue up at his Manhattan polling place. “I’m going early; I’d like to be the first in line,” he said, offering an outstanding reason: Gurung became an American citizen three years ago, and this is his first opportunity to vote in a presidential election. “To be able to choose the right candidate, to realize how much this vote matters, also in a bigger, more global, picture, I’m beyond excited,” he said.
Gurung was likewise mindful of the evening’s importance: He was declared the runner-up in the 2010 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, which awards both money and mentorship to help up-and-coming designers launch their businesses. “I am where I am today because of the Fashion Fund,” he said Monday night. “It makes a huge impact not only because of the money but also the mentoring that comes with it. One of the things you realize when you get into this business is that there’s an amazing camaraderie and support system, truly an idea of, ‘We have your back.’ It’s one of the most crucial awards out there for young talent.”
After the speeches and the chicken pot pies, the 2016 winners were announced: Laura Vassar and Kristopher Brock of Brock Collection, a women’s wear line that’s quickly become a favorite among fashion editors, took the top prize of $400,000 and a yearlong mentorship program, while Rihanna go-to designer Adam Selman (he crafted the much-discussed “naked dress” she wore to the 2014 CFDA Awards) and Krewe du Optic, a New Orleans-based eyewear collection, were named runners-up, each earning both the mentorship and a $150,000 prize.
“They all have such specific points of view, and a diversity in the categories themselves,” Kors said of this year’s crop of 10 finalists. “It’s not a sea of women’s wear designers; you have men’s, you have accessories, and even among the women’s wear designers, it’s not all one price point. That kind of diversity is what makes fashion interesting, and it’s what makes New York such an amazing fashion capital.”
Kolb agreed. “I think this year’s group is exceptional,” he said. “The great thing about American fashion is the democracy of it. It’s such an opportunity for someone with an idea, a vision and talent to become part of the industry. It just takes perseverance, hard work and talent, and you can be there, and I think that’s very American.”
As guests strolled into dinner Monday evening, thoughts of another contest were never far from mind— though for one woman, the outcome is a given. “Everybody’s holding their breath,” said Wintour, who has been a highly visible fundraiser for the Democratic nominee, “but I’m 100 percent confident we’re going to see Hillary Clinton in the White House in January.”
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