At the risk of biting the hand that awards you, Monday night's 11th annual Accessories Council Excellence Awards left the already weary fashion crowd feeling like it had truly hit the proverbial wall.
For one thing, Cipriani 42nd Street is starting to feel like a home away from home — and not necessarily in a good way. The group was served the same hunk of beef, white and red wines, dessert and even cookies they've been getting at all the events they've attended at the venue over the last few weeks.
As for these awards, they seemed to sum up the maxim that what can go wrong, will. From emcee "two-time Emmy award winner" Deborah Norville having to shush the crowd during her long-winded opening monologue ("I said this event will be one you'll be talking about, but I didn't mean now," she reprimanded them) to the bad disco lighting effects and poor sound system to missed cues throughout the evening, it was one long night.
J. Crew chief executive Mickey Drexler tried to inject a personal touch during his presentation of the Specialty Store of the Year award to Scoop's Stefani Greenfield by blowing up photos of her baby daughter, Theo, complete with relevant accessories. Unfortunately, no one told Drexler he would be 50 feet away from the nearest table and up on a high stage — or that the lights would be so dim the pictures would be barely visible. There then was an awkward three minutes when Drexler, award in hand, literally had to walk down the stairs to find Greenfield so the two of them could come back on stage together and she could accept.
That set the tone. The weird, sprouting videos that were supposed to accompany each award winner didn't work at first, leaving Norville to save the day. Nonplussed, she ad-libbed a tale of a Christmas party at her apartment when the tree fell on her son, leaving only his feet exposed. "I feel like that tonight," she joked. "The tree has fallen and only our feet are sticking out."
Perhaps part of the problem was the evening's incongruity. Take the Fashion Innovator award. A time to honor Rei Kawakubo? Azzedine Alaïa, maybe? No, Mandy Moore. Now her fashion line may be doing well, but giving her an award for "fashion innovator" at this early stage seemed more a play to get another celebrity in the room than honoring true merit. Lucy Liu was due to accept the Hall of Fame award on behalf of Valentino, but surprised by bringing Patricia Field up on stage as well — with Field's hair an even brighter red in honor of the occasion. Are they the best who could be found to represent "The Chic"?Meanwhile, everyone seemed to have a project to plug. Norville promoted her new book, and Elle's Nina Garcia gave the Fashion Influencer award to her "good friend and colleague" Heidi Klum, who then proceeded to give a commercial for "Project Runway" as well as her own jewelry line. She was topped only by Jessica Simpson (in the same Michael Kors dress as Norville), whose rather confused — and not deliberately so — ramblings were about how great Macy's is, especially its service. According to Simpson, Macy's, named Retailer of the Year, has a great shoe department where chairman and ceo Terry Lundgren even happened by recently to help her try on shoes. Wow, what a coincidence.
"Jessica, since you came into my life, my shoe business has been on fire," said Lundgren, adding that the entire accessories category is doing great for the store in the not-so-subtle promotion of "America's department store."
Other presentations were more subdued. In awarding Marc Jacobs with Designer of the Year, Helena Christensen took her turn on the podium to relish in her good friend's shoes, bags, gloves and jewelry.
"Any opportunity to adorn oneself is human, and accessories are an easy way to do it," said Jacobs. "With clothes, you're more committed."
A heartfelt moment came when Nancy Gonzalez accepted her award for Brand of the Year.
"I am here representing my company, my country and the women of Colombia," said Gonzalez. "We're selling not only our product, but our passion and values."
Unfortunately, passion was what the evening could have used more of. And as the crowd rushed toward the exits, there was the final ignominy: They ran out of goodie bags.
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