NEW YORK — Good design is easy to spot, but tricky to define, and no one knows that better than those who attended Thursday’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards.
Before the festivities were in full swing, a few design heavyweights tackled the question, “What constitutes good design?” “Anything that is not vulgar,” said Massimo Vignelli.
Saks Fifth Avenue chairman and chief executive officer Fred Wilson wasn’t about to single out any favorite nominees, but described good design as “things that are aesthetically pleasing, practical, enduring and emotional.”
With one arm around architect Tod Williams and the other around Vignelli, Richard Meier said, “Good design is having all these people in this room tonight.”
Interestingly, some of the biggest crowd-pleasers were not from the design world. Tom Brokaw — having kayaked in Russia, climbed Mount Rainier and fished in the North Arctic Circle with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard — wasn’t above giving a friendly plug for his pal’s new book, “Let My People Go Surfing,” about how to run a successful business in an unconventional way. Patagonia, which won the corporate achievement award, donates 1 percent of its annual sales to organizations that help protect the environment.
Chouinard said, “We have a belief at Patagonia that a product is perfect when you can’t take anything else away. So I will be brief and thank you.”
Perhaps no one was more pleased to win than fashion honorees Isabel and Ruben Toledo, the husband-and-wife design team behind Toledo Studio. As soon as presenter Simon Doonan mentioned he met the winners when Diana Vreeland ran the Costume Institute in the Eighties, Ruben Toledo leapt up from a table to embrace his wide-eyed wife. “I am the happiest woman in the world right now,” said Isabel Toledo, choking back tears. “Thirty-one years ago, we started doing this, and it gives us life. The designing and fashion and the chaos of it all has always worked so well for us. If there is one design award I’ve always wanted, it was the [National] Design Award.”
Afterward, Reed Krakoff, president and creative director of Coach, the evening’s sponsor, said he was pleased to see the Toledos win. “They’re people who have a pretty small business, which a lot of times precludes people from getting credit.”Another contender in the fashion category, Project Alabama designer Natalie Chenin, said, “For me and for all the ladies in Alabama, this is an honor to have the design world look at what we are doing. For the artisans, especially, this is very empowering.”
Lifetime Achievement Award-winner Eva Zeisel, who created 100,000 designs in her 75-year career, capped off the night. “Let me give you some advice. First of all, have a very good time producing things which you copy from your head,” said the now-visually impaired Zeisel, using her hands to trace the shapely ceramics she is known for. “Are you watching me?”
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)
@Pharrell and his wife Helen Lasichanh were among the stars that came out to celebrate @rimowa’s first pop-up concept shop. The space, which is located on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, draws inspiration from airport luggage carousels and lounge areas – and features the company’s luggage and accessories. If the pop-up is successful it could pave the way for addition temporary shops throughout the world. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA)
@carineroitfeld celebrated @crfashionbook’s first calendar last night with a dinner party at Spring Place in Manhattan. Photographed by @stevenkleinstudio, the calendar takes on a fitness theme and features @joansmalls, @gigihadid, @danielle_herrington_ – pictured here – and more. “[Carine Roitfeld] wanted me to feel sexy and she wanted me to be myself and feel it out on my own and do what I felt was right,” said Herrington, aka Miss October. #wwdeye
@saintrecords and @virgilabloh last night at @americanexpress’ “A Night With Success Makers” event. “I always bring it back to community because without that I wouldn’t have the courage,” said Knowles when asked how she has gotten where she is now. Read more highlights from their conversation on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lizdoupnik)
This Just In: Industry sources have told WWD that Anastasia Soare is rumored to be considering selling her beauty business, @anastasiabeverlyhills. According to those sources, Soare has tapped investment bank Imperial Capital to explore sale options for her eponymous beauty brand –– and with at least $340 million in net sales, this would be a big deal. Put in context of other recent transactions for makeup companies, Soare’s price tag could be in the billions if she were to sell the whole thing. #wwdnews #wwdbeauty (📷: @clint_spaulding)
@assouline’s latest book, “The Spirit of Bentley: Be Extraordinary” captures the adventurous attitudes and opulent lifestyles of @bentleymotors’ most creative owners and enthusiasts throughout the U.K. The 292-page hardcover has a section dedicated to showing its team of skilled artisans and photos of its most colorful owners, from George Bamford to designer @alicetemperley, pictured here by Aline Coquelle. #wwdeye
@google released its report on the most popular search terms this year. For fashion brands, the list was led by @gucci, the luxury brand that stunned the market last October when it pledged to stop using fur. Runner ups were @supremenewyork and @fashionnova, along with more established brands like @louisvuitton, @chanelofficial and @ysl. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)