NEW YORK — If there are any complaints about this year’s Council of Fashion Designer of America Fashion Awards, at least no one will be able to say they were seated at a bad table.
As part of the organization’s efforts to make improvements on the industry’s annual celebration, while also entertaining a notoriously tough crowd of designers and cynical fashion journalists, the CFDA has come up with a new dining concept that will put its estimated 420 guests on equal footing when it comes to finding their place cards. Instead of moving the party, inside the New York Public Library on June 2, from cocktails in Astor Hall to dinner and awards in the Celeste Bartos Forum as they did last year, the event planners have envisioned an unprecedented communal table that will stretch the entire two-block length of the building, filling the Great Gallery from 40th to 42nd Street with two fashionable front rows, where the runway comes with appetizer and main course.
KCD, which is producing the event for the first time this year, came up with the idea as a solution to some of the problems that arose when the CFDA drastically scaled back the awards after Sept. 11, 2001 and moved them to a smaller venue. (Shuttling guests from Astor Hall to Celeste Bartos took so long that the ensuing ceremony seemed to take even longer.)
"Most of all, we want to make this event fun and relevant to the industry," said Ed Filipowski, a president of KCD, who said that in addition to the evening’s host, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Style Icon award winner Nicole Kidman, the event is expected to draw several celebrities of equal stature and interest to the fashion industry.
Under a plan designed by the agency, working with Robert Isabell, the dinner and awards ceremonies will now be separate. The idea is to break up the night: First, the red carpet arrivals and cocktail hour will kick off at 6 p.m. in Astor Hall, which is the library’s main lobby facing Fifth Avenue, and will also be expanded to the neighboring twin landings to alleviate crowding.
Then at 7 p.m., a series of dramatic curtains framing the Great Gallery, trimmed in green crystals in the shape of vines being built by the evening’s underwriter, Swarovski, will pull back to reveal the extended table creation.The table will include several breaks to allow for waiter service and will be covered with a cool gray cloth, dotted all along by a variety of green flora — lemon tree leaves, seasonal ferns, camellia bushes and mosses that reflect the green crystal vines trimming the persimmon orange curtains. That color will be mirrored in the cloth-backed chairs. The thought was to evoke the early days of summer, said Julie Mannion, another KCD president, and to create a dining environment that "feels modern, with both formal and informal elements." The menu is being created by Hank Tomashevski.
At 9 p.m., guests will be called into Celeste Bartos on the northern end of the hall to discover a space that is transformed into a supper club for the awards ceremony, where the typical corny soundtrack will be replaced by live music by the Ben Waltzer quartet, whose recent fashion credits include performing backup for Isaac Mizrahi’s nightclub act. The space will be divided by banquets that correspond to the seating arrangements of the Great Gallery, with champagne and dessert service at each station and additional seating for tickets available for the awards ceremony only.
Peter Arnold, executive director of the CFDA, said ticket sales have already been brisk. The group had planned to offer only three packages of 10 seats for $50,000 each, but has already sold 10 tables that way.
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