Tonight, the world of accessories will come together at the 19th annual ACE Awards, hosted by the Accessories Council. The annual awards ceremony, held at Cipriani 42nd Street, will award a number of honors to designers, brands, retailers, celebrities and media outlets that have displayed excellence in the accessories industry, and helped to further the awareness and use of accessories.
This year, the Designer of the Year Award will go to John Varvatos, marking the first time a men’s wear brand has received the award. “It’s rewarding for our team and company,” Varvatos said. “It says a lot about what we do. I sometimes feel like men’s wear, especially in the accessories world, is never really acknowledged, so I’m very honored.…The biggest misconception about men’s accessories is that men don’t care about them that much. In the last five to ten years, guys have more shoes in their closets then women do.”
Varvatos cited footwear as a “pinnacle” for the brand. “We weren’t a brand that got into accessories later — it was a big part of our business from the day we launched,” he said. “We really made a mark in boots. When you talk to people around the world, ‘I love your boots’ is one of the first things people say to me. And another thing has been our Converse footwear. I’m super proud of our relationship with those guys, and it’s been a signature product out there for many, many years.”
Likely to be the buzziest award of the evening, Paolo Nieddu, costume designer of “Empire,” will accept the Influencer Award alongside the show’s leading lady, Taraji P. Henson. “The world of ‘Empire’ is a high-style world,” said Nieddu. “Things like bags and jewelry and scarves and lapel pins and pocket squares — those are all important details that help build a character, especially on this show.” Unsurprisingly, Nieddu cited Henson’s character as the most exciting to accessorize. “I went to Judith Leiber before we started and made an actual Cookie purse,” he said. “They made a mirrored compact that looks like a chocolate chip cookie.” Henson named another Judith Leiber bag as an accessory highlight for the character. “When Cookie pulled the tablecloth and dragged the food from family dinner, she made sure not to let her red rose Leiber bag fall — she grabbed it right before she pulled,” Henson said of her favorite accessory-centric moment on the show.
Nadja Swarovski will accept the Legacy Award on behalf of Swarovski. “I think a lot people are surprised that Swarovski is 120 years old,” she said of the honor. “When people visit us in Austria they are absolutely amazed to understand where we come from. Visitors expect an industrial plant and are overwhelmed by the incredibly beautiful and natural environment. The nature and the state of our factory reflects our care and consideration of not only the environment, but also the dignity the family business has for its manufacturing and for taking care of its employees. Our heritage contributes to the association of quality with the Swarovski product, and I think the fact that it is a family business enhances that quality association and trust within the brand.”
Swarovski cited working with Alexander McQueen as one of the highlights of her career. “The minute Lee McQueen used our product, so many designers wanted to emulate him and that also meant using Swarovski Crystal,” she said. “What he did with the product was so creative, it was revolutionary and for that creative collaboration we are incredibly grateful.”
Additional honorees include Ariel Foxman with the Marylou Luther Journalism Award; Claudio Gottardi, president and chief executive officer of Marchon Eyewear, with the Leadership Award; Eddie Borgo with the Evolution Award; Ivanka Trump with the Breakthrough Award; Mitchells with the Specialty Retailer Award; Moda Operandi with the Retail Innovation Award, and Nancy Gonzalez with the Innovation Award.