At a membership meeting on Tuesday, Peter Arnold, executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, presented a scaled-back proposal for this year’s event, reminiscent of the original, intimate awards ceremonies in the Eighties that were held at the New York Public Library.
The event would move this year to Lincoln Center’s State Theater, a smaller venue than Avery Fisher Hall, where the awards have been staged for the past two years to an audience of about 2,000. Before that, the CFDA attempted to turn the annual ceremony into a television special, relocating to an enormous venue on Wall Street. But that event was roundly drubbed due to a lengthy filming process in an overheated space and was not repeated.
The smaller awards ceremony, with fewer special categories, will be pegged to the organization’s 40th anniversary. Last year was the 20th anniversary of the ceremony itself. The CFDA is looking to involve designers who participated in its founding in 1962, like James Galanos and Adolfo.
“We want to remind people of their contribution to American fashion,” Arnold said. “We want to have an event that is appropriate and that ties to our 40th anniversary. There are other issues related to anybody that is having a gala post-Sept. 11 in that the event should be done in a way that is reflective of the times. Last year, the show portion was about 2,000 people. That’s too large an event in terms of the kind of feel we want for it.”
Oscar de la Renta, Diane Von Furstenberg and Michael Kors will act as co-chairs of the awards, Arnold said. Although the date has not been finalized, the CFDA proposed holding the event on June 3.
“We talked to a lot of designers who have been to the awards over the years and one of their fondest recollections was the years when it was held at the library,” said Arnold, noting that the 20th anniversary will still need to be a little bigger than those affairs.
“The difficulty today is that we have a membership of 241 designers, compared to back then, when there was only a fraction of the members,” he said.
Among the other noticeable changes will be an increased focus on designers, rather than celebrities, although Arnold said there will likely continue to be a Hollywood presence at the event. But the number of awards categories will be refined to insure there are not so many special awards, considering many of them have seemed irrelevant to the fashion industry in recent years. Instead, he wants the event to celebrate the roots of the CFDA.
Eleanor Lambert rallied a group of designers to form the association after appearing before a special Senate subcommittee on the arts in 1962 relating the establishment of an arts council that eventually became the National Endowment for the Arts. The CFDA’s mission was to further the position of fashion as a recognized branch of American art and culture.