Tommy Hilfiger and Dee Ocleppo at this year's FGI  Rising Star Awards.

The Fashion Group International saluted Rising Star award winners such as Gabriela Hearst for Retail, Don Morphy’s Daniel Mofor for Menswear and Victoria Hayes for Womenswear on Thursday afternoon.

Before anyone had a winning march across the stage at Cipriani’s 42nd Street, keynote speaker Tommy Hilfiger delivered a past and present look at his 33-year-old business. Starting out with $150 and 20 pairs of secondhand bell-bottom jeans, the designer said friends and family laughed at his hopes of building a brand, “because he practically fell out of high school.”

After graduation, college or design school were out of the question due to his dyslexia. “In those days, they didn’t really have a remedy for it, so I decided that I should start my own business. I earned $150 working nights in high school at a gas station in Elmira, N.Y.,” he said. Now with more than 2,000 stores in the world, in 218 countries, the PVH-owned brand is having “a resurgence as a result of the Nineties trend coming back and see-now-buy-now fashion shows,” Hilfiger said.

The next one, a collaborative effort with Zendaya, (who has been “very hands-on”) will be unlike anything Hilfiger has done before, the designer said during lunch. “She is not only a music star, but also a Hollywood star and she has a taste level and a love for fashion and style that I have. I wanted to bring her in to share my vision with her and to ask her to share her vision with me. So we’re launching it in Paris at the end of February,” Hilfiger said.

Before presenting the Accessories award to Behno’s Shivam Punjya, Dee Ocleppo praised her husband for doing a fabulous job with the keynote. “I’ve heard that story about 10 million times. But I have to say every time I hear it, I’m still incredibly inspired. So to all of you young designers — do not give up. Do not give up,” Ocleppo said.

The Beauty/Fragrance Entrepreneur award winner surely hadn’t. Body Stones by Kate McLeod’s namesake accepted with, “OK, I really was not expecting this. I was still making them in my pajamas over my stove last year in my Williamsburg kitchen.”

She wasn’t the only one having flashbacks. Mofor told the crowd that it was only about two years ago that he worked as a full-time computer engineer at Walmart Inc. Hilldun’s Gary Wassner singled out another fast-tracked company — Afterpay — as this year’s Hilldun Business Innovation Award recipient. (Nine months after getting into the U.S. market, Afterpay has one million consumers here and three million globally.)

Accepting the Retail top honors from Bandier’s Jennifer Bandier, Hearst said “her team’s number-one objective was to create an environment that was sustainable and to explain how things were done in a conscious way. His presenter Kerby Jean-Raymond had teed up advice for all the designers in the audience: “Stick to your convictions, don’t change for anyone else, remember what you came in here for, design like you mean it, design with your heart and nothing can go wrong.”

There were two ties this year. The Fine Jewelry Rising Star went to both Emmanuel Tarpin and Neha Dani Jewelry’s Neha Dani. And the Beauty/Fragrance Corporate award was given to Jo Malone London’s Morgan Fulcher and MAC Cosmetics’ Jaclyn Aguilera. The Home Furnishings/Product Innovation winner was Atelier D’Amis’ Sebastien Leon Agneessens.

In her sixth season, Hayes hopes the women’s wear award will garner more attention for her New York-made collection “so that we can move forward. I love New York City. It is the great love of my life. The minute I moved here, I never wanted to leave. I know the Garment District like the back of my hand and that helps to make my ideas come full circle here,” she said.

Her category’s presenter, Phillip Lim, has his own all-encompassing project — a travel-inspired cookbook with his photographer friend Viviane Sassen due out next month. He said, “At a certain point, everything becomes a purpose, attached to a goal or a sell-through. This was purely us asking, ‘What would we do if we were just starting out as kids?’ It was not based on any particular goal, which is nice.”

Lim cooks every day. He said, “I grew up with a traditional mother who is a superhero. She is an immigrant who raised six kids, worked as a seamstress in a factory and cooked homemade meals for us every day — breakfast and dinner. And she doesn’t know about this project yet. She doesn’t have Internet or a cellphone. She just has her kitchen, her fruit tress, her garden. She’s 79, only talks multivitamins, self-sufficient and walks everywhere.”

Meanwhile, Jean-Raymond is cooking up his own plans. He is in the early stages of setting up a holding company with an eye on Head of State’s Taofeek Abijako. On another front, through an ongoing multiyear deal with Reebok, Jean-Raymond hopes the sneaker giant will acquire a factory in Portugal that he uses. While he has no shortage of offers from potential collaborators, he is not in search of investors. “No one is ever going to invest in me. I’ve already had that problem last year. I’m never going to do that again. I would rather go down, close. But we won’t close,” he said.

One offer he wasn’t about to turn down was an invitation from Hilfiger to visit his archives. “I’d love that,” Jean-Raymond said.

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus