CFDA Under the Influence

The 2018 CFDA “Fashion Influencer Honoree”
Photo: Paper Magazine
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The CFDA Fashion Awards, the “Oscars of Fashion,” was held on Monday night at the Brooklyn Museum. The host was 33 years old Issa Rae, the Insecure actress/director/producer/web series creator and fashion force, known for using her voice and humor to tackle social and political topics. On hand the industry’s most prominent and brightest stars. Representing fashion royalty and the old guard were iconic names like Ralph Lauren (there to pick up his Member’s Salute Award), Carolina Herrera, a recipient of the Founder’s Award, Donatella Versace receiving the International Award, and Narciso Rodriguez, the recipient of the 2018 Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award. Narciso’s award is not only well deserved but perfectly timed given all the excess and over-the-top statements being made on many runways these days and a great reminder about the beauty of purity, clean lines, and just plain good old design.

And there were members of fashion’s New Guard, designers like Kerby-Jean Raymond, Aurora James, Sander Lak, Laura and Kristopher Brock, Mike Amiri. And then there is Virgil Abloh, undeniably the man of the moment, who were on hand as a nominee for both Womenswear of the Year and Menswear of the Year. Mixed in will be big stars known for their fabulous sense of style (Cate Blanchett, Claire Danes) and of course, supermodels, who naturally wear the clothes better than anyone. This includes the super-est of them all 47-year-old Naomi Campbell who, after more than three decades in the fashion industry, will be honored with this year’s Fashion Icon Award.

Kim Kardashian
Photo: eonline

It was a night of firsts. The first time the Brooklyn Museum was used as a venue for this event; the first time in 9 years that a woman was the host (Tracey Ullman in 2009); and a first time Fashion Influencer Award created especially for Kim Kardashian. The reality star whose sartorial choices range from the mundane, and pedestrian to the dizzying heights of bad taste, has long been the ‘butt’ of fashion jokes.

Kim Kardashian 

According to Steven Kolb, Tommy Hilfiger originally came up with the idea (maybe he had just taken Ambien lol). He thought it was a great way to get more viewers to tune into the event which had traditionally been far more exclusive and industry driven. He was quoted as saying, “By connecting to someone who has that great of influence it also brings more attention to what we’re doing. There’s great value in acknowledging her, but also for the event itself and the exposure it brings.” I get it; they want her ‘exposure’ to be their exposure. And controversy will ensure more people will tune in so for them; it’s a win-win situation. But any way you slice it, a huge social media following does not a ‘Fashion Influencer’ make.

Kim Kardashian

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t awards meant to be inspirational and aspirational; given for all the right reasons and not just for the notoriety of a questionable sort? If they felt they needed Kim’s presence, couldn’t they have thought of a better ploy or, at the very least, devised a more apropos name for an award? Like “Brand Influencer,” “Dubious Achievement Award in Fashion,” “Best Undressed,” or “Best Under Dressed.”

Yes, you bet I balked when I first heard the news about the award and was in disbelief. The way I see it, a Fashion Influencer or Fashion Icon are one in the same. It’s just splitting hairs to make a case for a difference. Either way,  they are titles that should be reserved for that special someone who has exceptional personal style. Naturally, these extraordinary people don’t come along every day, which is why the CFDA does not automatically give this type of award out every year.

I certainly can’t argue with past Fashion Icon honorees such as Kate Moss (1998), Sarah Jessica Parker (2004), Rihanna (2014), and Pharrell Williams (2015). But quite frankly, I had a problem with Beyoncé when she received this award back in 2016. In looking back, it was very telling in which direction the CFDA wanted to go.

Beyoncé receiving her CFDA Fashion Icon Award in 2016   
Photo courtesy

Beyoncé is undeniably many things (beautiful, talented, charismatic, magnetic, a fantastic performer) but I would hardly call her a fashion icon, nor would I label her style exceptional or inspirational. Her onstage outfits are nothing more than eye-catching costumes which emphasize her body, specifically her legs, and her red carpet appearances have typically been all about showing skin and leaving little to the imagination. And as for her off-duty style, it’s been nothing to write home about (more illustrative of someone with a lot of money who can afford to buy designer clothes and accessories than anything else). She was a ‘surprise’ honoree that night in June, and I will admit that when she accepted her award, she looked better than ever, wearing a perfectly tailored sparkle encrusted pinstriped Givenchy suit with a black wide-brim hat. CFDA President Diane von Furstenberg introduced her as “today’s biggest superstar.”

“So, is this now the criteria for being honored with a unique fashion award from the CFDA? Is it all about finding the biggest star with the most significant following, who is sure to garner a lot of publicity and get millions to tune in? I guess so.” – Marilyn Kirschner

When I think of Kim (if I DO think of Kim at all), it’s hardly about her fashion choices. Notwithstanding the black pantsuit she wore to Washington, I would say that in general, the one consistency is her desire to expose herself and put the spotlight on her body.

Kim Kardashian goes to Washington
Photo courtesy

Sure she went to Washington to discuss prison reform and sentencing with President Trump but let’s be honest, the reality star who initially came to fame because of a porn video she was unwittingly part of, is not known for her social activism but rather her self-absorption, her vanity. She is entirely obsessed (and somewhat unhealthily so) with the physical and superficial. We are at a time when beauty is seen as far more inclusive than ever when women are demanding equality, don’t want to be regarded merely as objects, are fighting against body shaming, and rebelling against those who make them feel they are never going to be pretty or sexy enough. Is Kim a worthy role model; someone we want our daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and friends to aspire to and emulate?

Diane von Furstenberg
Photo: Celebrity Net Worth

Now, if you want a worthy role model, you can’t do much better than Diane von Furstenberg, undeniably a strong, accomplished, mature woman. On Monday, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which she has chaired since 2006, will honor the 71-year-old with the Swarovski Award for Positive Change. Gloria Steinem, another accomplished role model, will be there as her guest and the award will be presented to her by Parkland student and gun control activist Delaney Tarr.

Diane is a tireless philanthropist (she set up the Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation in 1999 with her billionaire husband Barry Diller) and has helped underwrite this city’s High Line Park, the District of Columbia College Access Program and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. She also sponsors the DVF Awards, which support female entrepreneurs and leaders from around the world. And, she is on a mission to make older women relevant and to “declare older women valuable” according to Robin Givhan, who profiled her in an article in Sunday’s The Washington Post, “I became an icon. Now I want to be an oracle: Diane von Furstenberg is ready for her third act”.

Hey, I’m certainly on board with that. Older women are not only still relevant and valuable; we love fashion and are always fashionable. Style is not just for the young. Maybe one way to show that is to give us awards.  Quite frankly, I think Iris Apfel is far more worthy of a fashion honor than Kim Kardashian any day. Talk about a true original. There is nobody else like her.

The 96-year-old is a rule-breaking bona fide style icon that just got her own Barbie Doll. She is an inspiration to the young and the old alike and seems unstoppable. She continues to design a jewelry and clothing line for HSN and recently launched a furniture collection for them. She has just written a book, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon, and has collaborated with fashion designers on special projects.

When Bergdorf Goodman celebrated her new book with a unique pop up shop on the third floor and the Fifth Avenue windows this past March, she worked tirelessly with Naeem Khan, Ralph Rucci, Stacey Bendet, Mary Katrantzou, Adrienne Landau, Alain Mikli and others, on unique pieces. The party in her honor was packed to the gills with fans of all ages and attracted the likes of Dee and Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Rucci, Adrienne Landau, Stacey Bendet, Christie Brinkley, Ranjana Khan, and Jeffrey Banks. Now, if that’s not someone worth honoring, I don’t know who is!

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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