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WOMENSWEAR DESIGNER OF THE YEAR AND ACCESSORY DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
This story first appeared in the May 28, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Only those living under the proverbial rock would have missed the fact that the past 12 months have been momentous for Alexander Wang.
The designer—who continues to bring a special brand of street attitude to New York fashion—not only landed the coveted job as creative director at Balenciaga in Paris with an impressive debut. He also showed two banner collections for his own label, i.e. spring’s memorable linear, minimal lineup with translucent fish wire, embroidery and eyelet details, and a finale of glow-in-the-dark clothes, followed by fall’s play with rounded proportions and fuzzy textures, some inserted with polarized sunglass lenses.
“We always try to explore new areas that we haven’t touched upon before while maintaining the sensibility of ease and street,” Wang says.
For fall, that proved true for the venue as well. Wang shows at lower Manhattan’s Cunard Building, from which travelers in the past would set off to Europe. It provided a perfect metaphor for his new, regular cross-Atlantic itinerary. —Marc Karimzadeh
LAZARO HERNANDEZ AND JACK MCCOLLOUGH FOR PROENZA SCHOULER
In the decade-plus that Proenza Schouler has been in business, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough have rarely had an off year. They are perennially among the nominees for CFDA awards in one category or another, but now, for the third consecutive year, they have nabbed nominations for both womenswear and accessories designer of the year. And there’s a strong case to be made that the last 12 months have been their strongest yet. The designers produced two knockout collections—spring, a potent combination of cultural relevance and “randomness,” partially inspired by images found on the Internet, partially inspired by the work of Gerhard Richter; and fall, a watershed moment, in which they displayed a keen comfort with subtlety that gave way to a new expression of chic. “There is a softness to color and form,” says Hernandez of fall. “There is an intimacy to it. You have to get closer to actually understand what you’re looking at.” Between the two seasons, their accessories veered from the kinetically colorful and edgy— with bags dotted with Smartie- like studs and aggressive open-toe boots for spring—to the elegant simplicity of black and white kitten heels for fall. Another milestone came last July when Proenza Schouler opened its first freestanding store in the prime of Madison Avenue real estate designed by architect David Adjaye. —Jessica Iredale
WOMENSWEAR DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
The last CFDA trophy Marc Jacobs added to his collection was the 2011 Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award—or the “half Lifetime Achievement Award,” as Sofia Coppola said when she presented it to him.
Two years later, Jacobs has proved that his life’s work is far from complete. Back on the ballot as a Womenswear Designer of the Year nominee, Jacobs used Sixties-tinged black-and-white graphics in brute force for a highly influential look that trickled down to the mass market almost instantly.
Meanwhile, his fall collection was a reflection on comfort and familiarity, something he drew on in his post-Hurricane Sandy ouster from his New York home.
“It’s very simple, very straightforward, beautiful and nice…glamorous, but [with] a kind of sadness and melancholy,” Jacobs remarked at the time of the show. “There’s a romance to it.” —J.I.
ACCESSORY DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
PHILLIP LIM FOR 3.1 PHILLIP LIM
While Phillip Lim offered accessories sporadically earlier in his career, it wasn’t until fall 2011 that he embraced the category wholeheartedly with a stand-alone collection and an instant house hit: the Pashli bag, a structured style with a signature double zip. He followed its success with the functional 31 Hour bag series, and, for fall, added the Ryder group of framed, but slouchier, designs. “I like to design accessories that are pragmatic but don’t compromise aesthetics as a result of function,” Lim says. Lim also designs shoes, sunglasses and small leather goods. The category’s success has been—and will continue to be—instrumental in his business’ growth. “The accessories really complete the overall look for me, so they are integral,” he adds, “and are designed with the same sensibility in mind.” —M.K.
MENSWEAR DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
The year started off with a presidential-level coup for Thom Browne when First Lady Michelle Obama wore his coat and dress designs for her husband’s second inauguration ceremony in January. The Washington seal of approval came as Browne’s business has gained momentum and his theatrical take on runway shows has garnered wide acclaim.
“The way I approached my shows this past year was more conceptual and installation-based,” says Browne of his Paris men’s shows, which included mythological satyrs and giant Slinkys in a garden for spring and an Amish barn set for fall.
Thom Browne is now sold in 123 stores for men and 40 for women, with key retail partners including Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York, Dover Street Market and Colette. This month Browne opened a Tokyo flagship in the fashionable Aoyama district, the company’s second retail unit following its New York store in TriBeCa.
Brown, who won the Menswear Designer of the Year award in 2006, notes, “It’s nice to be nominated with Michael [Bastian] and the Duckie Brown guys, as it seems like the four of us have grown up together.” —David Lipke
Don’t call Michael Bastian a preppy designer. It’s a longtime appellation he aimed to explode this past year, developing his aesthetic with a sexed-up spring show that referenced Fire Island hedonism and Donna Summer dissolution—and then injecting a darker twist with a fall collection that incorporated elements of Goth and grunge. “Frankly, I’m getting a little bored with preppy. This year we really pushed ourselves and expanded the borders of who the Michael Bastian guy is,” says the designer. “It might be a little risky, but it’s better than staying in the same place.” That bet has paid off with his sixth CFDA nomination, including four previously for Menswear Designer of the Year—winning the honor in 2011—and one for the men’s emerging designer award. Bastian, who also designs a co-branded line with Gant, launched a capsule polo shirt range with Uniqlo this spring. Come fall, he’ll open his first pop-up store in New York with arts organization BOFFO. Hinting at his upcoming spring 2014 runway show, Bastian says he’s ready to further expand the label’s horizons with some international flair beyond its New England roots. —D.L.
STEVEN COX AND DANIEL SILVER FOR DUCKIE BROWN
Designed by Steven Cox and Daniel Silver, Duckie Brown launched in 2001 and has been a regular at New York Fashion Week since then. The line blends whimsical sportswear with elegant tailoring through a signature series of twists on proportion and bright, playful colors.
For fall, a more sophisticated aesthetic focused on coats, and pieces like an elongated, knee-length black sweatshirt and a cropped raw denim jacket illustrated the designers’ ability to inject elegance while still managing to stay directional. Besides the core line, the duo also designs footwear for Florsheim and the Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown collection.
The designers say, “Revisions of masculinity and a meditation on proportion are the ideas behind the last two Duckie Brown collections…the cornerstones of what Duckie Brown is about.” —Jean E. Palmieri
MAX OSTERWEIS AND ERIN BEATTY FOR SUNO
A label with a conscience. It’s what Max Osterweis set out to do with Suno, the collection named for his mother, in 2008. After witnessing the post-election fallout in Kenya, Osterweis started manufacturing in Nairobi to employ locals to generate domestic opportunities. Designing with Erin Beatty, a Generra and Gap alum, production now also includes India and Peru.
These influences combine for a colorful collection with an eclectic vibe and mismatched prints, like fall’s Russian folk theme with golden paisley and floral handkerchief patterns.
“[The past two] collections found us playing with pattern and texture as we normally do, but with a much greater sense of intention than before,” Osterweis says. Adds Beatty, “We strive to be real in what we design— exploring contradictions, easing toward something that feels grounded but whimsical at once—effortless and thoughtful.” —Marc Karimzadeh
CARLY CUSHNIE AND MICHELLE OCHS FOR CUSHNIE ET OCHS
Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs know how to make a racy dress. The transatlantic duo—Cushnie is a native Brit, Ochs is American; both graduated from Parsons the New School for Design— conveys a sensual aesthetic with a signature silhouette that is sculptural and runs along female curves, which are often accentuated by sexy cutouts.
The way Cushnie sees it, the look embodies “a minimal aesthetic with a classic edge, that is sharp and sexy, highlighting the female form and defining the modern woman.” “Bold, sensual and alluring,” Ochs adds. Among those who have worn the label are Eva Longoria, Elizabeth Hurley, Jessica Alba and First Lady Michelle Obama. —M.K.
SHANE GABIER AND CHRISTOPHER PETERS FOR CREATURES OF THE WIND
Bonafide fashion intellectuals, Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters hail from the academic side of the discipline. Gabier holds a teaching position at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he and Peters met while the latter was a student.
The past year in the life of their quirky label can be looked at as an education in the big leagues of fashion. They staged their first proper runway show for spring, with a collection that pushed their unique vision of eccentricity and nerdy chic in a more commercial direction without sacrificing originality.
Fall, titled “Candy” for its synthetic, superficial appeal in terms of fabric and surface interest, was a further evolution in the duo’s increasingly chic vision for their glamour geeks.
They’ve been embraced by fashion’s inner circle, and the designers, who have kept their distance from the American epicenter of the business by working out of Chicago, are reciprocating: Creatures of the Wind is opening a New York studio to help them split their time between Manhattan and Chicago. —Jessica Iredale
Todd Snyder has a strong pedigree. Before launching his own collection in 2011, the Iowa native spent 18 years at Polo Ralph Lauren and J. Crew. At Crew, he’s credited with introducing tailored clothing; forming collaborations with heritage brands like Timex, Red Wing, Thomas Mason and Alden, and opening the company’s first men’s- only store, the Liquor Store, in New York’s TriBeCa in 2008. Those influences are evident in his own designs, which mix British tailoring with American vintage. In a rugged fall collection, Snyder blended motorcycle-style leather jackets and double-breasted horsehide bombers with shearling collars together with slim-fitting tweed pants and skinny suits in stretch knit that spoke to his sartorial roots. “I really felt like I turned a corner this year,” he says. “I’m taking a lot more risk and getting out of my comfort zone. My collections are still rooted in old-world men’s wear, but I’ve pushed the technical side of things and used more experimental fabrics. It’s edgier, but still wearable.” —Jean E. Palmieri
Even before launching his own label in fall 2011, Belgium-born designer Tim Coppens had developed a serious résumé. He earned a degree from the acclaimed Fashion Academy in Antwerp in 1998, did a stint at Bogner in Munich and then moved to Adidas, where he spearheaded the development of its high-end men’s performance line.
A few years later, he was lured to New York to become design director for Ralph Lauren’s performance line, RLX.
It’s no surprise, then, that Coppens’ designs infuse activewear influences and technical details with classic men’s wear tailoring. In his first runway show for fall, Coppens delivered a youthful, focused effort centered on iconic, athletic street classics like bomber jackets and parkas with voluminous sleeves, sweatshirts embellished with graphic prints and sleek dress pants cinched at the bottom.
“These past two seasons, I established consistency, building a foundation for the brand that is recognizable and wearable while at the same time continuing to push the envelope conceptually,” Coppens said.
“Spring was influenced by World War II fighter pilot uniforms and graphics from the early Detroit techno scene, while fall was more an exploration of street culture and skateboard references from my youth in Belgium, both embodying a spirit of what could be Urban Utopia.” —J.E.P
DAO-YI CHOW AND MAXWELL OSBORNE FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL
Founded in 2008, Public School relaunched last year after a two- year hiatus in which designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne participated in the CFDA Incubator program.
“We wanted to refocus the business and start with a clean slate so we stopped shipping product,” Chow explains.
The tactic led to a reinvigorated vision and business plan, including partnerships with new factories and mills, new financial backing and a new production strategy based in New York. Distribution for the label now includes Bloomingdale’s, Odin, Ron Herman and Harvey Nichols.
The brand’s most recent collections have focused on marrying modern tailoring to active sportswear pieces, all while playing with proportions and layering longer silhouettes with shorter ones. Leather jackets are a constant signature item.
“When you think of a leather jacket and the attitude it captures,” says Osborne, “that’s what Public School is about.” —David Lipke
Los Angeles native Irene Neuwirth was a pioneer in the use of raw stones for her unique jewelry that is characterized by the prominent use of opals, as well as chrysoprase, labradorite and moonstone among others. The bold pieces have gained her a cultlike following that boasts clients including Emma Stone, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Saldana and Charlize Theron since the brand launched in 2000.
“This past year, I put my head down and truly focused on the business,” Neuwirth says. “I’m so proud of the collection and the risks that I’ve taken with my designs. I love seeing how people respond to my work and it’s so validating when I travel for trunk shows and receive feedback from my clients and collectors. The support and brand awareness has just grown organically from there.”
This is Neuwirth’s second consecutive nomination for the Swarovski Award for Accessory Design since becoming a CFDA member in 2009. —Roxanne Robinson
Fashion publicist-turned-jeweler Jennifer Meyer Maguire was introduced to jewelry design through her grandmother, who taught her how to make enamel jewelry. She launched her namesake line in 2005 and quickly became known for nameplate necklaces and initial and wishbone motifs that were meant to be very personal and worn every day.
“Last year was all about pushing myself out of my comfort zone,” says Maguire.
Katie Holmes, Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson were among her early adopters. Recently her pieces include bolder items with a nature theme and stones like black diamonds, turquoise and rubies. Her current collection took inspiration from husband Tobey Maguire’s role in The Great Gatsby with a delicate Deco-style bracelet. This is her first nomination for the Swarovski Award for Accessory Design.
“The last year has been incredible for me and my company, and I directly relate that to my involvement with the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund,” says Maguire, who was a runner-up in 2012. “It gave me new perspective on my business and where I want it to go. The nomination came as a complete surprise—to be so embraced by people I truly look up to on a personal and professional level is quite humbling.” —R.R.
As her name suggests, Pamela Love is jewelry’s ultimate hippy chick. Her down-to-earth personal aesthetic comes across in her jewelry, with themes like astrology and alchemy as well as Native American motifs and medieval iconography.
She has a passion for and is committed to sustainability and localized production in and around New York City, where she is based. Her work has led to several collaborations with J. Crew, Topshop and Opening Ceremony, and has won awards such as the CFDA Lexus Eco Challenge in 2012 and was the Ecco Domani Fashion Fund winner in 2011. This is the third time she has been nominated for the CFDA Swarovski Award for Accessory Design.
“Although it’s always wonderful to win, there is something really rewarding about knowing that I have been nominated by my peers multiple years in a row,” says Love. “It tells me that I’m doing something right. I’m keeping my fingers crossed this year.” —R.R.