NEW YORK — The 2016 CFDA Fashion Awards are not coming to a TV near you. Plans to for the first time to televise the awards show, which is scheduled for June 6 at the Hammerstein Ballroom, in a partnership with Harvey Weinstein’s The Weinstein Co., have been canceled.
In a statement released to WWD, the CFDA’s president and chief executive officer Steven Kolb said, “As previously announced, the 2016 CFDA Fashion Awards will be held at the Hammerstein Ballroom for the first time after seven years at Alice Tully Hall. The new venue comes with a dynamic new format featuring performances, live fashion and the return to a seated dinner. With all these changes, we have decided to not move forward with a television broadcast opportunity this year.”
The CFDA declined to comment beyond Kolb’s statement.
But a source said that, in the end, the projected cost was just too high, with the price tag estimated to run well into the millions of dollars. “I think when Diane [von Furstenberg, CFDA chairman] finally saw what the breakdown of what the cost was going to be, she probably decided to cut and run. She is a smart woman and Steven is a smart guy,” the source said.
Part of the higher cost might have been tied to the celebrity presenters the association generally lines up, according to another source. Getting celebrities to present awards in front of an industry group is one thing, but televising that ceremony to a nationwide audience could boost the celebrity’s costs. A spokesperson for the CFDA disputed that notion and stressed that the organization does not pay appearance fees to celebrities, nor had it planned to do so in a televised format. “We are fortunate to work with a high caliber of talent who come together to celebrate the year in American Fashion,” the spokesperson said. “The CFDA historically has not paid talent for their involvement and is maintaining that practice this year.”
Had a major network like CBS or NBC, or a powerhouse like HBO gotten on board, the concept may have sailed successfully. Some members were divided about the need for TV to begin with in this increasingly digital age. Another matter of debate was the push-pull of a celebrity-studded affair versus a more industry-oriented, intimate one. As former CFDA chairman Stan Herman said, “The Met Gala is such a Colosseum event. A lot of people on the board [at the CFDA] wanted a more intimate gathering to bring it back to what it was.”
Having spearheaded the televising of the CFDA Awards in the Nineties, which left half the crowd running for the door before the three- to four-hour event ended, Herman said that was not an undertaking he would be eager to repeat. “I literally wanted to walk into a lake with rocks in my pockets. I was taken down by everyone,” he said. “It was the year we honored Yves Saint Laurent and the poor man sat there until the end. Half the people were gone by then. John Fairchild took me to task after the fact, calling me ‘that pajama designer.’ We didn’t have our act together and I take full responsibility.”
In March, the CFDA said it had formed a partnership with The Weinstein Co. for a television broadcast of the red-carpet arrivals and the annual awards show, considerably upping the stakes for an evening that has traditionally been a private industry event, even if it has become increasingly celebrity-fueled. This year’s host has yet to be revealed, but last year James Corden emceed and the event was attended by Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, among others.
Weinstein wasn’t a surprising choice for the role, considering his long connection with fashion. He is married to Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, and has served as executive producer on “Project Runway” since 2004. He also was previously involved in Halston Heritage and owns the rights to Charles James, though his plans for that brand remain unseen. The CFDA board had approved the decision to broadcast the event live, leaving The Weinstein Co. in charge of all aspects of the production, including the distribution rights, though which network would broadcast the event was never disclosed.
While nothing will be televised, The Weinstein Co.’s Harvey Weinstein and Patrick Reardon are still executive producing the event, and Eclipse Television’s Sergio Alfaro also remains involved in the awards production. KCD continues to handle producing the event and Laird + Partners is still overseeing the annual journal, as well as art direction for the nominee packages.
Sales of tables for the event were said to be selling well as recently as last week, according to a source, who requested anonymity. The choice of the Hammerstein Ballroom, however, was not a winner with some, especially those who learned they would be relegated to the upper-tier. The West 34th Street location is more easily identified by many as the place not far from Penn Station, not exactly the epicenter of high fashion.