NEW YORK — The CFDA Fashion Awards are headed back to the New York Public Library with a dramatically scaled back event reminiscent of their original format 20 years ago.

Marking the 40th anniversary of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the event is being planned for an audience of about 500 people, about a quarter the size of last year’s awards. This confirms a WWD report last month.

The decision to scale back the event was largely inspired by the turn in the economy and to be more reflective of the times after Sept. 11. But the move also grew out of a sense of nostalgia among many designers for the awards shows of yore, which were intimate affairs, less trodden by celebrity or marketing-related awards. That was a desire reflected in the attitude of the organization’s new executive director, Peter Arnold, after meeting with its membership.

“This is happening for a variety of reasons,” he said. “Lots of people, designers included, are doing things in a smaller way this year. We didn’t want to spend all of our time and energy on one gala, but rather to use it to mark a year in American fashion by turning our attention to other things we could do to celebrate our 40th anniversary.”

Among the projects that have been discussed at the CFDA are the possibility of a book to commemorate the past four decades of American fashion, a traveling museum exhibit, related television programming and continuing a proposal made by the Fashion Center Business Improvement District to erect a fashion museum in Manhattan.

Several other changes are in store for the event, scheduled for June 3, including the elimination of its former moniker, the American Fashion Awards, which had been created as part of a former sponsorship by General Motors.

Stan Herman, president of the CFDA, said the organization is making an effort to have more of its 240 members represented at the affair to indicate a return of its focus on fashion designers, including a number of those who have retired or faded from the industry scene. Oscar de la Renta, Diane Von Furstenberg and Michael Kors are also serving as co-chairs for the event, the first time the CFDA has opted for hosts of the evening.

In addition, the number of awards being presented has been refined, with two new categories introduced and others, like special awards that have been created over the years to spotlight trendy vehicles like MTV, “Miami Vice” and Ray-Ban Sunglasses, will be done away with. Instead of having three Perry Ellis Awards to honor emerging designers in women’s wear, men’s wear and accessories, there will be only one for the industry, while Designer of the Year Awards will continue in each category, but also will be opened up to nominations of American designers working abroad rather than just those who work in the U.S.

The CFDA will continue to present an International Award, the Eugenia Sheppard Award for Fashion Journalism, the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Eleanor Lambert Award. New awards will be accorded to a Creative Visionary, like a photographer, creative director or stylist, and a Fashion Icon, for an individual “whose signature style has had a profound influence on fashion.” Nominations for the awards are expected to be determined next month.

The CFDA Awards were originally staged at the New York Public Library from 1981 to 1985 before moving uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then to Lincoln Center. The seated portion of last year’s show accommodated more than 2,000 guests, with about half of them attending a VIP reception with snacks earlier. This year’s event will mark a return to a more formal seated dinner, Arnold noted, as part of the organization’s bid to improve the image of the awards ceremony.

“This is not a defensive scaling back,” Arnold said. “This is responsive of the thoughts of a lot of people we have talked to, some of whom had become disenchanted with the awards over the years. We want this to be more reflective of the industry, from Eleanor Lambert to the young Zac Posens of the world.”

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