At WSJ. Magazine’s annual Innovator Awards, held Wednesday at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the message seemed to be that though we may be beset with challenges (war, pestilence, inequality) there are people making things (clothes, music, movies, art, food, buildings) that can comfort, inspire and heal. Even if that salve comes in the form of a dress that you can’t buy yet and is likely to retail for many thousands of dollars.
The 12th annual ceremony honored eight pioneers in various categories, each one featured in a cover profile of the magazine’s multicover November issue: Brazilian singer Anitta, Saint Laurent creative director Anthony Vaccarello, architect Jeanne Gang, artist Jenny Holzer, product designer Jony Ive, actors and producers Margot Robbie and Maya Rudolph and World Central Kitchen and its founder José Andrés.
Opening the ceremony, WSJ. Magazine editor in chief Kristina O’Neill mentioned her 10 years at the helm of the style magazine spin-off of the Wall Street Journal.
“The world is a very different place from what it was back in 2012,” she told the crowd of about 250 gathered at MoMA.
It was unclear if she was referencing the beleaguered state of the world, or the vast changes in media, technology and fashion. But she offered up her magazine’s annual “innovators” as a balm for our collective moment.
“The eight people we’re here to celebrate represent the height of innovation that this moment calls for,” she said.
Everyone can play a part. Accepting the music innovator award, Brazilian singer Anitta raised her country’s recent presidential election, during which far-right, climate-change-denying president Jair Bolsonaro was defeated by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (who has vowed to preserve the globally critical Amazon rain forest), as a ray of hope.
“I want to propose to my country that we look with love to our neighbors,” she said.
And it’s telling that several years after the #MeToo movement upended the patriarchy, and as doubts about its lasting impact are being debated, that WSJ editors chose to honor women, not men, in the music and entertainment industries.
Robbie formed her LuckyChap Entertainment shingle in order to prioritize women’s stories, long before #MeToo. And Rudolph has been a pioneering force in an industry (comedy) dominated by men and notoriously inhospitable to women.
“Doing things differently takes guts,” said Robbie, wearing a white Proenza Schouler flare-leg pantsuit with black lace tunic peeking out of the bottom of her jacket. “But it’s worth it.”
Andrés and his World Central Kitchen workers parachute into disaster (and war) zones to offer food and comfort. And really, who else in the room, or the entirety of the food world at the moment, is more deserving of recognition? Andrés wore a Ukraine pin on his lapel and brought Yuliya Stefanyuk, head of World Central Kitchen Program in Ukraine, on stage with him. Stefanyuk’s kitchens in the country were churning out up to 34,000 meals a day.
“If there’s one place in the world that’s fighting today for freedom and democracy, where people — men, women and children, everybody — are dying as we are having dinner right now, that is Ukraine,” he said.
The room erupted in applause and the sound of chairs sliding on the concrete floor, as guests rose from their dinners of braised chicken and tiny heirloom potatoes, to give Andrés and Stefanyuk a standing ovation.
Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova (there to present the art innovator award to Holzer, a neoconceptual feminist artist) wore a long black trenchcoat with “arrest me” emblazoned on the back in gold block letters.
Tolokonnikova, of course, spent more than a year in jail in her native Russia and has been deemed a “foreign agent” by President Vladimir Putin’s un-ironically named Ministry of Justice.
Tolokonnikova was alone in overtly political sartorial statements. But the sea of black — what is it about this WSJ event that inspires an overwhelming majority of guests to don black? — was punctuated by shades of green, rust and brown in the form of Vaccarello’s very impressive entourage of muses in looks from the designer’s spring 2023 collection.
Anja Rubik wore the coffee colored maxidress and leather trench. Mica Argañaraz wore the bright rusty orange column dress with an animal-free fur duster. Charlotte Gainsbourg, Hailey Bieber and Shalom Harlow were in black Saint Laurent. But Amber Valletta and Kate Moss (who presented Vaccarello with his award) wore Vaccarello’s hooded column dresses. Valletta donned a one-armed olive green one, while Moss showed off black panties through her diaphanous moss-green cutout dress.
It was the most Saint Laurent in one place outside of a runway — and a movable billboard for a fashion innovator at the peak of his influence.