Kim Kardashian, Supreme, Raf Simons, Donatella Versace and More Receive CFDA Fashion Awards
The winners offered hope for an embattled industry, in that they reflected a changing of the guard, a new era of streetwear and nontraditional retail channels offering a path to success, and a different role for Hollywood in fashion.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America, fashion’s governing body in the U.S., announced its top honors during a star-studded dinner event hosted by Issa Rae at the Brooklyn Museum on Monday night, with Cate Blanchett, Lupita Nyong’o, Trevor Noah, Michael Kors and more as presenters.
Whoopi Goldberg, wearing a royal wedding-worthy fuchsia hat and suit, was at the side of designer Christian Siriano, while Naomi Campbell, winner of the night's Fashion Icon Award, arrived with Raf Simons from Calvin Klein, wearing his firecracker-red pompom fringe dress.
Lee Daniels brought his son, fashion model Liam Daniels, as his date, while Claire Danes (wearing a modern, one-shoulder Narciso Rodriguez dress) arrived on the arm of hubbie Hugh Dancy.
The event honored the best of American design at a time when the fashion industry is struggling with magazine shutterings and layoffs, retail store closures, allegations of abuse leveled against famous photographers and more. But the winners offered some hope, in that they reflected a changing of the guard, a new era of streetwear and nontraditional retail channels offering a path to success, and a different role for Hollywood in fashion.
Menswear Designer of the Year went to the cult, collectible streetwear brand Supreme, which has fans lining up outside stores for logo-ed merch, released in "drops" that are announced online. "I never considered Supreme a fashion brand or myself a fashion designer, but appreciate the recognition nonetheless," said founder James Jebbia while accepting the award.
Womenswear Designer of the Year went to Raf Simons for Calvin Klein, who also took home the award in 2017. As a Belgian in New York, he has created a compelling new identity for the stalwart brand with his riffs (both light and dark) on the American experience. "Even in bad times, this country is very inspiring to me," he said.
Actresses-turned-designers Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen won the Accessory Designer of the Year award for their under-the-radar brand of luxe, while the Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent went to designer Sander Lak for Sies Marjan, whose modern color play mimics that of a fine artist like Dan Flavin.
Several Seventh Avenue veterans were also recognized with special awards, including CFDA chairwoman Diane von Furstenberg herself, who took home the Swarovski Award for Positive Change for her work done on behalf of women, starting with her most iconic design, the wrap dress she launched in 1974 that became the cornerstone of her brand.
The Founder’s Award was presented by Caroline Kennedy to Carolina Herrera, who stepped away from her namesake brand in February after 40-plus years of dressing society mavens and stars alike, appointing Wes Gordon to take over. Gordon dressed several of his own stars Monday night, including Tracee Ellis Ross.
The International Award was presented by Lupita Nyong'o to Donatella Versace, who 20 years ago showed her first collection for the Italian fashion house a year after her brother was killed, and a special CFDA Members’ Salute went to Ralph Lauren, who is celebrating 50 years in business. Narcisco Rodriguez, most famous perhaps for creating Carolyn Bessette Kennedy’s iconic wedding gown, nabbed the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, after celebrating 20 years in the industry in February.
Sustainability and inclusion, both topics top of mind to the evolving fashion business, were put in the spotlight during the event, which included a “red” carpet fashioned out of recycled materials. Rae, creator and star of HBO’s Insecure, was the first African American to emcee the awards, and the first woman to take on the job in nine years. She arrived in a blue jumpsuit by politically minded designer Kerby Jean-Raymond for Pyer Moss, which had a belt inscribed with the message, "Every Nigga Is a Star."
The Media Award went to Edward Enninful, the visionary new editor of British Vogue, who has been a champion of diversity in fashion. He was introduced by none other than Oprah. "He has created visions that are more reflective of our reality," she said in her introduction. "From the first time I met you a few years ago, I could feel your goodness."
In a nod to new media, and her role in democratizing fashion, taste and body shape, an inaugural Influencer Award was given to Kim Kardashian West, who was dressed in a curve-hugging white crop top and shirred skirt by L.A.-turned-Paris designer Rick Owens.
“I’m so humbled by this award," Kardashian told model Candice Huffine during a Facebook Live preshow broadcast. When the beauty mogul with 112 million-and-counting Instagram followers was asked who influences her, she singled out Kanye West. "I’m super inspired by my husband fashion-wise, he helps me with all my looks," said Kardashian. "He’s my best stylist.”
Wonder what she thought of Rae's opening monologue, which was laced with political remarks, none more pointed than this: "I'm as fashionable as Kanye West is black," Rae said. "Only when it's convenient."
Politics are definitely in fashion.