THE CFDA AWARDS
NEW YORK — Forget Sharon Stone and Iman. The real stars of the CFDA Awards ceremony Monday night were none other than those erstwhile old showgirls Polly Mellen and Carrie Donovan.
Mellen was the star of Douglas Keeves’s delightful video honoring last-minute no-show Helmut Lang, who won in the international design category. In it, she explained the Lang genius to all sorts of unlikely civilians on the streets of Venice, Calif., at one point likening his influence to that Pied Piper of the animal kingdom, the lemming.
“What is a lemming?” Mellen asked, like a cutting-edge schoolmarm. “It’s a little animal that jumps off the cliff, and all the others jump off the cliff after it.”
Donovan was just as engaging in the video for lifetime achievement winner Arnold Scaasi. She pointed out that Scaasi clients have ranged from Mamie Eisenhower to Anna Wintour and recalled that moment of epiphany when she recognized Scaasi’s knack for bringing out the glamour in a woman — when she saw Barbara Bush at her husband’s Inaugural Ball. “I was on my way to Europe, and the Reagans were leaving the White House — goodbye.”
God bless those Golden Girls, because otherwise, the evening’s entertainment quotient was just about nil. Stan Herman has been running around town saying he’s got a television deal lined up for next year’s awards. If that’s the case, Stan’s got some serious upgrading to do, or the only airtime he’ll be able to land will be public access. Where else could someone as unfunny as Sharon Stone get to try out lines like this: “If Kenneth Cole were in my shoes, why, he’d be a big drag queen, wouldn’t he?”
In addition, a number of the videos and “segment art” pieces were downright chintzy — nothing more than still-life slides of the designers’ wares set to music.
That’s not to say there wasn’t a little unexpected drama. Stationed next to drag queen Hedda Lettuce, PETA posterboy Dan Mathews, done up as a campy devil, staged a sit-in at the door at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. “Wear fur and go to hell!” Mathews admonished party goers before being arrested for disorderly conduct. Ironically, the CFDA — whiz kids that they are — knowingly sold Mathews two tickets, much to the horror of many members.
Later, things turned weirder when Scaasi — about to bask in his big moment after Barbara Bush presented him with his award — was heckled by other protesters bellowing from the balcony: “Hey Arnold! Shame on you for using fur! Shame on you for using fur!” Finally, the designer got the message. “I guess she’s not a Scaasi girl,” he said of the loudest voice in the lot. “Can’t someone shut that woman up?”
All this hubbub didn’t faze Bush a bit — her smile was frozen. But her Secret Service contingent was on full alert, ready to pounce at the slightest provocation.
On the feel-good side, women’s wear designer of the year Donna Karan played the role of goodwill ambassador, thanking family, retailers and editors by name. New York Times fashion critic Amy Spindler, winner of the Eugenia Sheppard award, paid touching tribute to two mentors, Dennis Thim and Tim Hawkins, both since deceased. And in presenting the men’s award, Allen Questrom praised Ralph Lauren as “the man who saved men from leisure suits once and is doing it again.”
But perhaps it was Perry Ellis award winner Daryl Kerrigan who summed up the evening best. The award, for emerging talent, she said, “really, really means a lot to me — almost as much as seeing somebody walking down the Bowery wearing my hipster pants.”