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NEW YORK — “Whatever you love about what you do, keep doing it. Don’t lose sight of what it is that you love.”

That was the key nugget of advice from Isabel Toledo who, along with her husband, Ruben, delivered the keynote remarks at Thursday’s Fashion Group International Rising Star Awards. The crowd included the numerous finalists as well as presenters such as Ralph Rucci, Thom Browne, Monica Rich Kosann and Christopher Coleman.

This story first appeared in the January 27, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Several other designers came out to Cipriani 42nd Street to show their support for the emerging talents, including Catherine Malandrino and Tommy Hilfiger, whose daughter Alexandria was a finalist for the Nahm label she designs with Nary Manivong.

In women’s ready-to-wear, the award was a tie between Misha Nonoo of Nonoo and Wes Gordon. “To get up in front of a room full of people that I admire and am in such complete awe of was, although terrifying, such a huge honor and I am so grateful,” Gordon said shortly after receiving the award. “Also, it was pretty nice to have a two-and-a-half-hour lunch so close to fashion week, when I probably would have normally been eating something standing up over my desk in the two minutes between fittings.”

Simon Spurr picked up the trophy for men’s wear. The accessories award went to Blythe Harris of Stella & Dot, while Wendy Brandes took home the award for fine jewelry. In the fragrance category, the corporate nod went to Celine Barel of International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. and David and Kavi Moltz of D.S. & Durga took the honors in the entrepreneur segment. The trophy for retail was given to Vasken Demirjian of Vasken Demirjian Salon. It was up to Joe Manus of Shiner International, who won the award in home-interior design, to deliver one of the more heartfelt moments of the lengthy luncheon. “I am just relieved,” he offered. “You can have no money, you can have no formal training, and the next day, you’re here, getting this.”

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