The Accessories Council, which has emerged this year as one of fashion’s most vocal forces opposing President’s Trump’s trade war with China, hosted an awards ceremony last week to mark achievement in accessories design.
Held Thursday afternoon at The Plaza hotel, the Accessories Council’s first Design Excellence Awards were the result of “a long study of how the beauty industry holds product awards to promote products,” said Accessories Council president Karen Giberson, who said the council’s intention is for the awards to help drive excitement and sales for winning products. She further remarked on the strategy, noting: “Because of the life cycle of fashion we are awarding preemptively today, hoping to create excitement for products released beginning Oct. 1.”
Giberson has spent the last few months in talks with industry leaders and legal experts regarding Trump’s decision to place tariffs on handbags, shoes, jewelry and eyewear. She is now guiding brands looking for manufacturing facilities outside China. “This year, we are hosting two trips to India. Last year, six people applied and this year, there were more than 20 applicants for six spots — we are in such a different place,” she said.
The afternoon saw both established and new brands take home statuettes for forthcoming products. Jimmy Choo Eyewear, designed in license with Safilo, won for optical eyewear and Chloe (designed by Marchon) won for sunglasses. Caleres’ Dr. Scholl’s sustainable Herzog sneaker won for footwear; Ray-Ban (owned by Luxottica) took the Hall of Fame award for its Wayfarer style; new brand Bentz won in the handbags over $1,000 category while Hammitt Los Angeles took the prize for bags under $1,000; Deepa Gurnani won for fashion jewelry and Doryn Wallach jewelry prevailed in the fine category; The NPD Growth Driver award went to Aimee Kestenberg for her brand’s fanny-pack design; The Social Impact award was handed to Kamaria; Soft Accessories went to Echo; Tech and Innovations award was given to Ffora; the award for travel and luggage was handed to Vera Bradley, and Timex won in the watch category.
Bentz, which launches in the next few months, was particularly excited to win in the handbag category. Designed by sisters Kim and Melissa Bentz, the brand is a partner of Swarovski, which made a unique, ice cube-shaped crystal to be used on Bentz bags. Each comes with a lucky coin and 5 percent of sales will benefit the Make-a-Wish foundation.
Wallach said winning this award was a moment to celebrate how her new styles are particularly enjoyed by self-purchasing women, which now comprise about half her sales.
Jay Schmidt, division president for Caleres, said Dr. Scholl’s Herzog sneaker — produced of recycled materials — is just the start of how “as a company we will look to spend time doing things better.” While shoes are one of the latest categories hit by tariffs, he said Caleres is already producing 40 percent of its products outside China and aims to reach 50 percent by 2020.
Kestenberg, who launched her namesake accessories brand on QVC, said her brand began sourcing outside China in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. “We saw the signs and wanted to make sure we were ahead and had to diversify quickly,” she said. Her brand is manufactured in countries including Myanmar, Thailand and India.