A few things stood out: Is it me or is American fashion over itself? Maybe we need a pep talk. How else can one possibly explain Raf Simons winning not one but two Designer of the Year Awards, for Womenswear and Menswear, after literally one show as an American designer for his first season at Calvin Klein? One show. One single show. It was a good show, a great show even, but it was one show. Sure, the dual wins tie back nicely to the fact that Calvin Klein himself was the only other designer to take home both Trovas in the same year (in 1993). But seriously? Everyone always side-whispers that the same names are on the CFDA ballots year after year, but this time the voters put it on the record: Out with the old, in with the new. Or maybe it’s just in with the imports.
There was a big European contingent on the marquee. Pat McGrath took home the Founders Award; Franca Sozzani was honored posthumously with the Fashion Icon Award; Rick Owens, who is American but has lived, worked and shown his collections in Paris for the better part of 20 years, got the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award. You can’t really count Demna Gvasalia, who got the International Award, because that’s the point of that award. To a great extent, the group of predetermined honorees provided the evening’s highlights. McGrath had one of the best lines of the night: “Fashion is an industry where the real insiders are absolutely outsiders.” To her point, Michele Lamy and Rick Owens make for great people-watching under any circumstances. Anna Wintour’s emotional tribute to Sozzani was touching.
To look at it from a different angle, the CFDA Awards proved that old chestnut that fashion is a reflection of the times: American fashion borders are very much open. “How many of you are immigrants?” asked CFDA chair Diane von Furstenberg, to a big show of hands and an enthusiastic round of applause. She noted that immigration is one of the CFDA’s causes, in addition to supporting AIDS and breast cancer research and Planned Parenthood.
Indeed, the other award winners also came from abroad. Stuart Vevers, who won Accessory Designer of the Year for Coach, is English; Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, who took home the Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent for Monse, are from the Dominican Republic and Canada, respectively.
Right now, politics are top-of-mind — the Board of Directors’ Tribute went to Cecile Richards, Gloria Steinem and Janelle Monae, three women working to protect women’s and human rights and looking pretty spectacular doing it, who gave incredible speeches that were tangentially about fashion. Social activism is a hot topic these days, but fashion is not new to it. Take Kenneth Cole, the recipient of the first Swarovski Award for Positive Change, who’s been working to support AIDS research and homelessness, among many other global issues for more than 30 years.
In conclusion, a non sequitur: To my seatmates at table 15, I just realized the menu was printed on the program and you’re in for a shock — the side dish to the salmon wasn’t chili as we all discussed. It was “vegetable moussaka.”