Cardi B. with her new Reebok sneaker design, photographed for Footwear News.

Footwear News, this year marking its 75th anniversary, presented its annual Footwear News Achievement Awards on Tuesday night with appearances from Cardi B, Rihanna, John Legend, Priyanka Chopra Jones, Jaden Smith, Christian Louboutin, Gianvito Rossi and others. In its 34-year history, the event has always been staged as a gala-type event, but this year — given the pandemic — it was presented in a virtual format for the first time, inviting all to watch.

Legend, who introduced the event, conceded, “It feels strange to celebrate in these moments that feel uncertain, but we must celebrate those doing the work…and be leavened with joy.” The program explored the intersection of fashion and current world events, including COVID-19, a renewed, urgent plea for racial equality and a shift toward more sustainable practices.

“[This year] has not been perfect, but in its weird, twisted way I hope it shows us how to walk together down a new road,” said Legend. “People’s lives are in danger because of who they are. As artist and tastemakers, we have the opportunity to create spaces where all people are welcome to join with Black, Brown and LGBTQ leaders that have been at vanguard of this movement for so long…” he added later in the program.

Person of the Year winner Aurora James, who was featured in a discussion with Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, addressed the need for fashion to take measurable actions toward fighting racial inequality. James — founder of the accessories brand Brother Vellies — leapt to action this summer by establishing the 15 Percent Pledge, which implores retailers, brands and media publications to dedicate 15 percent of their shelves or output to members of the Black community.

“[This year has] been hard, but I think that I’ve used this time to be more self-reflective. [I’ve been thinking about], ‘How do I want to spend my time on this planet and what do I want people to remember me for?’ Probably not a handbag,” James told Raymond, who is her college friend and former classmate.

In the few months since its founding, the 15 Percent Pledge has already signed on partners like Macy’s Inc., West Elm and Sephora — all which have agreed to audits to ensure that they are upholding the pledge. “I think with George Floyd being murdered, I was so over it. As a business owner, I was just tracking how Black-owned businesses were being decimated — not getting any financing, no PPP [paycheck protection program] money, no VC [venture capital] money. If these retailers actually want to support Black people, this is something they could actually do,” she said of establishing the pledge.

The FNAA also held moments of commemoration for shoe industry greats who passed away this year. Former Zappos chief executive officer Tony Hsieh, who died last month as the result of injuries sustained in a fire, was remembered at the top of the show. Gianvito Rossi also took a moment to remember his father Sergio Rossi, who died earlier this year from COVID-19. Sergio Rossi was inducted into the FN Hall of Fame as part of the night’s awards.

Lighter moments came with appearances from stars like Rihanna, accepting the Collaborator of the Year award (for her brand Fenty’s work with shoe designer Amina Muaddi) in a green feather hat with matching sunglasses and sweater.

André Leon Talley presented the Company of the Year award to Deckers, parent company of Teva, Hoka and Ugg. In his remarks, Talley pledged allegiance to the Ugg Boot. “I even have my own monogrammed Ugg boots, just so I feel unique. No one can take them in case I’m at the gym, but they are a size 18 so it’s not like they are going to fit everyone,” he said.

Christian Louboutin presented the Style Influencer Award to Cardi B, who he described as, “A hell of a woman, one of a kind. She stands and fights for what she believes in. She is a force, she speaks her own language…and is the opposite of politically correct.”

Cardi, in an outré feathered dress, said: “I am happy people like all my looks. I wish I could have given you more looks this year,” alluding to interruptions from COVID-19.

Designers and celebrities who made appearances included Jason Momoa; Virgil Alboh and Iris Apfel. Other winners of the night included the Nike Dunk for Shoe of the Year; Salehe Bembury for Designer of the Year; Birkenstock and Crocs for Brands of the Year; D’Wayne Edwards, who won the Icon Award for Social Impact; The Whitaker Group for Retailer of the Year; Alfredo Piferi for Launch of the Year; Andrea Wazen for Emerging Talent of the Year; Timberland for the Sustainability Leadership Award, and New Balance for Athletic Brand of the Year. Additionally, Footlocker’s ceo Dick Johnson was inducted into the FN Hall of Fame.