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With only three of the 2011 CFDA Fashion Award nominees being over the age of 40, this year’s contenders share a sense of camaraderie not seen in many years.

As soon as Diane von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb revealed the 2011 crew Wednesday night, several competitors congratulated each other enthusiastically. Alexander Wang scored a trifecta with nominations for Womenswear Designer of the Year Award and Accessory Designer of the Year Award, as well as the Swarovski Award for Menwear. Vera Wang, one of the few old-guard designers to turn up, was among the first to embrace him.

This story first appeared in the March 18, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The three-time nominee will square off against Marc Jacobs and Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez for the Womenswear Award and Reed Krakoff and the Proenza Schouler duo again for the Accessory Award. Phillip Lim and Robert Geller are his competition for the Swarovski Award for Menswear.

None of the nominees in attendance acted as though they had a sure thing, but they did openly share their enthusiasm. As von Furstenberg literally swept Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen under her wing for a photo op, the twins beamed. They are in the running for the Swarovski Award for Womenswear for up-and-coming talent along with Joseph Altuzarra and Prabal Gurung. In response to the suggestion that the trick to this new recognition is that they have always taken their fashion biz seriously, Ashley Olsen said, “I think the trick is we never take ourselves too seriously.”

Altuzzara did joint interviews and palled around the party with Eddie Borgo, a contender for the Swarovski Award for Accessory Design. Competition for that category was so tight that four nominees were chosen instead of the standard three. Alejandro Ingelmo, Jason Wu and Pamela Love are the others.

Borgo said of the news, “I am kind of euphoric. In my office, we have been trying to ignore that the nominations were happening. It’s been the thing that nobody really talked about.”

Altuzzara said, “It’s really exciting to be part of this. It’s a fashion prize but many of us are from the same generation so it’s less about competition. A lot of these people are people we hang out with. It’s not aggressive or hostile — it’s really fun.”

Before hugging each other goodbye, he asked Borgo, “Hey, when are we going to have lunch?” and proceeded to make plans.

Even Wu, whose five-year-old fashion business has garnered international recognition thanks in part to First Lady Michelle Obama’s fondness for his clothes, was excited by the nomination. “Now that I’ve been doing this for five years, I feel like a newbie again for being nominated for accessories.”

“It’s really flattering. We are barely out of our second season with accessories. It’s tremendously inspiring and invigorating to apply my aesthetic to something else. We just launched accessories in 30 stores,” he said, before greeting Ingelmo with a congratulatory hug, “Hey, same category.”

This year’s prize for Menswear Designer of the Year will be decided between Michael Bastian, Patrik Ervell and Simon Spurr.

The apparent lovefest could be rooted in the fact that many of the nominees have risen up the ranks together thanks to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and the Fashion Incubator, two opportunities that did not exist for other generations. That was not lost on Karen Peterson, the CFDA’s consultant director of public relations and special events.

The CFDA’s board of directors agreed “overwhelmingly” to honor Lady Gaga — “someone who has created a fashion revolution” with the Fashion Icon Award, von Furstenberg said. Jacobs, who also scored the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, could not make it to the party but von Furstenberg said he told her via e-mail that, “very happy” as he was to hear the news, it was only “half a lifetime award.” Von Furstenberg said, “I told him that I was much older than him and I am still half-kicking.”

Other special awards to be doled out at the June 6 Lincoln Center Alice Tully Hall event include Phoebe Philo of Celine for the International Award; Hilary Alexander for the Media Award, in honor of Eugenia Sheppard; Arthur Elgort for the CFDA Board of Directors’ Special Tribute Award, and InStyle’s Hal Rubenstein for the Founders Award, in honor of Eleanor Lambert.

On his way out of the party, Rubenstein said, “Hard is repairing the Bruckner Expressway. What we do is diligent and time consuming, but we get to work with talented people and are surrounded by a world of beauty. I get excited to go to work every day — that’s what I like to do.”


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