NEW YORK — Lightning struck twice for Bruno Grizzo at the 2006 Gen Art Styles event, held Tuesday at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The Brazilian designer picked up two of the evening’s six honors — a first in the history of the eight-year-old competition. “It’s not the first time that a designer has been a finalist in more than one category,” said Mary Gehlhar, Gen Art’s vice president and fashion director, “but it is the first time that someone has won in two. Bruno is amazing, and the best part is that he said the $10,000 will actually pay for his first season’s production.”
The event, hosted by Jessica Capshaw, was attended by about 1,500 guests, including “Project Runway” alum Jay McCarroll and actresses Lisa Edelstein and Lola Glaudini of “House, M.D.” and “Criminal Minds,” respectively. Twenty-four finalists — chosen by a committee from a field of 800 — competed for five different $5,000 Motorola Design Vision Awards in various market categories; five other designers vied for the $10,000 Perrier Bubbling Under Award for Design Concepts. The judges included Richard Lambertson of Lambertson Truex, Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Vollbracht of Bill Blass, John Bartlett, Joseph Abboud, Rebecca Taylor, Nicole Miller, Mary Alice Stephenson and Parsons The New School for Design’s own chairman-cum-reality TV star Tim Gunn. “We reach for diversity,” noted Gehlhar, of the eclectic judging-table lineup.
The designer finalists themselves were equally diverse, ranging from New York Fashion Week regular Helena Fredriksson, of H Fredriksson, to newcomer Grizzo. The latter picked up awards in both women’s eveningwear and ready-to-wear with his simple, chic garments. A soigné silk faille evening coatdress, for example, was belted with a black snakeskin and grosgrain belt.
Still, there were other worthy competitors, too. Fredriksson’s printed silk georgette halter dress with a black wool coat and a gold brocade vest elicited plenty of applause, while Church & State’s Nathaniel Crissman and Rachel Turk delivered two sweetly Mod-ish cream-colored frocks. In the avant-garde category, Yusuke Amatsu took home the prize for his sculptural white cotton dresses made of tuxedo shirt collars and cuffs. Other winners included Nylo by Brian Wang for men’s wear and Zoe Hong, whose idea of “throwing opposites together” under the assigned theme of “Sparkle” garnered her the Perrier Bubbling Under Award. Meanwhile, accessories duo Ryan Wither and Paul Lewin of Tivi won for their distinctively sleek, streamlined stainless steel and zebrawood cuff and clutch.
“We voted for all the winners!” exclaimed von Furstenberg at the end of the night, proud of the choices she and Taylor had made.
“This was a much better show compared to last year,” noted Miller. “There were at least two people that I liked in each category.” Taylor, a Gen Art grad herself, recognized the role the organization plays in helping launch careers. “It’s really amazing,” she said. “I know what these designers are going through, and it’s exciting.”
Or, as new winner Hong pithily put it: “I’d like to give Gen Art mad props for existing for this exact purpose.”