|Elettra Wiedemann & Behnaz Sarafpour
(Click images for larger views – All photos Lieba Nesis)
The National Design Awards, founded in 2000, were held at Chelsea Piers at a time of uncertainty due to the government shutdown. Nevertheless, over six hundred people attended the event. The awards are funded and given by Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum and are based on excellence, innovation, and enhancement of the quality of life in the design field. Michelle Obama, honorary patron of the 2013 National Design Awards, hosted a White House Luncheon for the award winners.
This years winners included a Lifetime Achievement Award for James Wines, a Design Patron distinction for Janette Sadik-Khan, a Corporate and Institutional Achievement Award to Chris Anderson, and a Fashion Design Award for Behnaz Sarafpour. There was a palpable excitement this year perhaps due to the distinguished awardees and presenters, or maybe attributable to the fact that this years awards were not taken for granted. There were product design teams sent from Facebook, Nike and many other companies. Additionally, Tom Wolfe, Al Gore, and Kurt Andersen, lent substance and prominence to the evening.
|Facebook product design team|
The dinner attendees streamed in for the cocktail hour where drinks were served behind elaborate stations. Maria Guidice, the director of product design at Facebook expressed excitement at having a design platform that services over a billion people. She described her boss, Mark Zuckerberg, as “insightful, creative and a very deep thinker, who is involved in all aspects of product design.” Additionally, she acknowledged that an increasing number of fashion designers are using Facebook to advance their business and Facebook was assisting them in monetizing their creativity to create brand awareness and success. Tom Wolfe, a presenter, said he has been designing his own white suits with his tailor for the past thirty years, and was most partial to Ralph Lauren as a fashion designer. Apparently, Tom recognized that he wanted to write at the ripe age of five and the rest is history.
|Tom Wolfe & Janette Sadik-Khan design Patron winner|
Behnaz Sarafpour, the awardee for fashion design, arrived in one of her own dresses with her friend Elettra Wiedemann. Sarafpour, was born in Tehran, moved to the United States and attended Parsons School of Design when she decided she wanted to become a designer. She introduced her own label of apparel in 2001 and has held positions at Isaac Mizrahi, Narciso Rodriguez and Barneys New York. She is a member of the CFDA and has worked with Target to create moderately priced but high quality items. She stated, “this award means more than anything to me. I design things that are artisanal and expressive. I like to help a woman in an organic way so that it feels right and I don’t put her in a box. I use my inspirations from travel and other experiences to inform my design, and I look forward to continue dressing women in a way that makes them feel special.” Yves Behar, CEO and chief designer at Fuseproject, has designed perfume bottles for Prada, watches for Issey Miyake, and other products with Hussein Chalayan, acknowledged that “fashion with a function” has become more palatable to the masses and technology was being utilized to further this objective. The necessity for the design community to come together for awards shows like these were critical and not done enough in Yves’ view.
|Al Gore Presenter|
As the cocktail hour came to a conclusion I recognized Saul Wurman, who was last years Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, and he said there was an obvious convergence between fashion, technology, and design. When I asked him what effect last years awards had on his career he stated, “none I am on old f—.” On that note we parted as Al Gore came sashaying in last but not least- there to present an award to the curator of TED, Chris Anderson. Gore highly annoyed by all the pictures he was required to pose for usually does not get out of bed for less than twenty million, but there he was in a suit and tie suffering for the good of the masses. As I left, I realized that the symbiosis between fashion and architectural design was becoming increasingly dominant in our highly technologically oriented society and this dinner was just one indicator of that pivotal collaboration.