WASHINGTON — The American Apparel & Footwear Association has named Cynthia Rowley as Designer of the Year, and Kelly Osbourne, a cohost of E’s “Fashion Police,” as Fashion Maverick honoree as part of its American Image Awards, which are being revamped to better reflect the entire global industry and popular culture that it promotes.
The move to reshape the annual awards comes as Juanita Duggan, AAFA’s president and chief executive officer, is putting her mark on the trade association, moving its offices closer to the power brokers in Washington and re-branding the group’s image.
Duggan told WWD that the first pillar of AAFA’s re-branding initiative will be the makeover of the Image Awards set for April 27 at 583 Park Avenue in New York. Holt Renfrew will receive the Retailer of the Year, an award that will be accepted by Mark Derbyshire, president of the company. Brown Shoe Co. will receive Company of the Year, which will be accepted by Diane Sullivan, ceo, president and chairman. The fifth category, Person of the Year, will be revealed shortly.
“One thing that I am trying to do with this is to upgrade it to make it a more global-oriented event and to really harness the popular culture aspects of the industry so that we can use that as a platform for everything we do,” Duggan said. There will now be five permanent categories for the awards, as opposed to the ever-changing categories of the past, as well as one permanent charity, she noted.
AAFA’s new permanent charity partner will be Mercy Ships, a global organization dedicated to providing basic health care and life-changing medical services to impoverished people worldwide. In addition, Ruben Toledo has been tapped to redesign the American Image Awards statuette, set to be unveiled at the gala.
“All of this together gives us more consistency,” she said. “It gives us better branding and it makes us more competitive. It’s just a serious upgrade.”
Duggan, who took over the helm of AAFA in June, has more than 25 years of experience on Capitol Hill and in the White House.
Her longer-term strategy includes increasing AAFA’s brand awareness, which begins with moving its office from “across the river” in Arlington, Va., closer to the action in Washington. The current building that houses AAFA is being torn down and Duggan has her sights set on the power center in Washington.
“I was hired to increase the brand and to increase the visibility and grow our voice on Capitol Hill,” Duggan said. “We’re going to move downtown, somewhere in the District, and we’re going to create a very iconic, very brand-oriented environment for our offices.”
She said the new space will be “museum quality” for exhibiting important aspects of the industry.
“I think that aspects of the industry that we really want to communicate here is that this is a $350 billion industry,” Duggan said. “We are not projecting a $350 billion influence here. The industry is bigger than cars, bigger than telecoms and bigger than tech. Everybody needs it. So it should have a brand awareness here in Washington that matches it.”