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NEW YORK — “If you are in this business, at some point you are going to have to eat something, and that thing is called humble pie,” new CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg told the crowd at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund awards dinner Thursday. Not that humility was the dish of the day. The young designers gathered nervously and mingled with the mighty at Skylight Studios, which was outfitted in a veritable forest of olive branches (both literal and figurative) for the occasion. And they were met with no shortage of unsolicited yet friendly advice.

Marc Jacobs described the fits and starts of his career — being a Charivari stock boy, getting “so fired” after the Perry Ellis grunge episode, buying a garage on what was a then-deserted Mercer Street, and enduring “a nightmarish first year at Louis Vuitton,” among others. Earlier, during cocktails, Valentino talked about his salad days. “I worked alone for decades. Even though I have assistants now, I still do everything,” said the designer, who upon entering the party was warmly embraced by the evening’s hostess, Anna Wintour. The Wintour warmth extended into the rest of the night as von Furstenberg paid homage to the Vogue editor. “Before I say anything, I think I should say everyone is intimidated by Anna Wintour. But once you know Anna, you know she is very warm, very loving and she cares.”

Nevertheless, the youngsters spent the cocktail hour trying to quiet their nerves. “I’m on my third glass of Champagne,” admitted nominee Thakoon Panichgul.

There was clearly much at stake, as certain members of the glam crowd made their loyalties known. Lisa Airan arrived in a poufy Rodarte frock, while Cecilia Dean swanned around in one of the designers’ more languid creations. And the evening’s biggest star, Penélope Cruz, wore her preferences on her sleeve — literally, as she was decked out in a one-shoulder Marchesa dress. The actress may have had plenty of practice in front of audiences, but she promised she was no pro when it came to public speaking. “I always get nervous — I just hope I don’t screw up.” She handled it with aplomb as she presented the night’s winner, Doo-Ri Chung, with the top award. No one was more surprised than Chung herself. But getting one of the prizes, a key to a Lexus, really floored her. “I just wish I had a license,” she said. “But I’m sure someone will use it.”

This story first appeared in the November 20, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The night before, while Marni designer Consuelo Castiglioni was being feted uptown at Bergdorf Goodman, models, designers and PYTs streamed into the Gramercy Park Hotel for a fete in honor of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, stars of the latest (and first ever) split cover of Teen Vogue. But it was Ashley’s newly brunette do that had everyone talking. “I got bored,” she shrugged. Next week, however, the diminutive pair will be busy as they head home for the holidays, where apparently they will have a large hand in the annual feast. “I’ve mastered Thanksgiving,” stated Ashley of her cooking skills. “I make the side dishes!” piped in Mary-Kate, who eschewed the Champagne in favor of a cappuccino.

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