The Fashion Group International’s 2017 Night of Stars Gala: “Modern Voices”

What is modern? The dictionary definition is “of or relating to the present or recent times as opposed to the remote past”. It’s a word that is constantly bantered around, especially within the world of fashion, and there are probably as many ways to define it as there are those to try to do so. It’s at the heart of the current fashion exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (“Items: Is Fashion Modern?”), and “Modern Voices” was the underlying theme for Fashion Group International’s 2017 Night of Stars Gala which was held last evening at Cipriani Wall Street.

Dennis Basso, Iris Apfel and Linda Fargo
Photo: Lieba Nesis

The 12 honorees (from the worlds of fashion, beauty, retail, business) represent “modern voices who speak through their work, with vision, truth, and authority” according to FGI President and chief executive officer Margaret Hayes. Hearst Magazines and Lord & Taylor were lead sponsors with Arcade Beauty, IFF and LIM College acting as support.

Fern Mallis
Photo: Randy Brooke

Ruben Toledo once again illustrated the invitations and commemorative catalogue, and Simon Doonan reprieved his role as host of the awards dinner that began with cocktails and ended with a first ever after party hosted by DJ Paris Hilton. During the cocktail hour, I spotted Thom Browne, Andrew Bolton, Amy Fine Collins, Daphne Guinness (both wearing Thom Browne), Fern Mallis, Stacey Bendet, Marc Jacobs, Kay Unger, Nicole Fischelis, etc.

Marilyn Kirschner
Photo: Randy Brooke

Looking around it was obvious that everyone’s idea of what comprises ‘modern’ dress is quite subjective and varies markedly. (For me, it’s the idea of thinking out of the box and mixing form and function so for the occasion, I chose a vintage Junya Watanabe for Comme des Garcons puffer jacket and matching skirt. The fact that the colors were sort of ‘Halloween’ inspired, didn’t hurt lol!).

Claudia Li designer
Photo: Randy Brooke

Stan Herman told me that we were in for “a big surprise” at the beginning of the program, but he wouldn’t spill the beans. After Margaret Hayes made her welcoming remarks, she introduced Stan who quickly asked, “What becomes a legend most?” and he started to describe a “5’3” woman (if she’s stretched out he joked) “who proscribes to poetry in her critiques, who has been in the business for over 60 years, yet still retains her curiosity and wonders about the future”.

Marylou Luther and Stan Herman

The woman he was referring to was Marylou Luther, Fashion Group International’s indomitable Creative Director, the recipient of the Fashion Legend Award. He marveled that she actually interviewed Christian Dior and touched the hands of Balenciaga and called her a true legend, admired and emulated by colleagues, peers, and friends around the globe.

Burak Cakmak Dean of Fashions at Parsons and Julie Gilhart

Marylou was utterly surprised but composed. She said how much she loves working for the Fashion Group and how important their work is and simply said “Thank you, thank you, thank you”! For the record, I am a member of the Marylou Luther Fan Club and this award is well deserved to say the least.

Jonathan Adler and Simon Doonan
Photo: Randy Brooke

Meanwhile, when Simon came on stage, he did his thing in his own hilarious, inimitable way (among other things, he joked that Thom Browne took the express Greyhound from Allentown, Pa. to get here and that Kerry Washington came “all the way from the Bronx”). At the end of his rather short discourse, he said, “Raise your hands if you are praying that everyone makes short speeches, like Stan Herman”. This was met with a lot of laughs.

Kim Hastreiter
Photo: Randy Brooke

On a night when ‘modern’ is the unifying word, it should be pointed out that brevity is the most modern when it comes to speeches. Fortunately, many were on board and some of the best moments were also the briefest. Highlights of the evening:

Tommy and Dee Hilfiger
Photo: Randy Brooke

When Tommy Hilfiger took to the podium to present the Humanitarian Award to Macy’s Chairman Terry J. Lundgren, he joked, “I feel like I’m on the Ed Sullivan Show here”. He talked about the importance of giving, and cited Terry’s enormous generosity with his time, his money, and his heart.

Samira Nasr, Kerry Washington and Liz Rodbell
Photo: Randy Brooke

Kerry Washington was the recipient of the Lord & Taylor Fashion Oracle Award, which was given to her by her good friend, stylist Samira Nasr who called her “an unstoppable force, an inspiration, a fierce advocate for groups that feel forgotten”. “Her advocacy work is truly remarkable. Great style is inspiration and aspiration. You don’t need to bare all to be drop dead sexy and Kerry knows that.”


“I didn’t know what an oracle was but I know that oracles don’t say much so I will keep this brief. I don’t know who the character is unless I know the shoes she is wearing. You in this room are the arbiters of beauty and that is no small thing. You help us express ourselves and express ourselves we must! There must be more beautiful voices, strong voices, gorgeous inclusivity and power!”

Jamie Kern Lima
Photo: Randy Brooke

The Beauty prize went to It Cosmetics founder Jamie Kern Lima, and SunHee Grinnell was the presenter. She described how Jamie needed make up to cover her rosacea so she invented a transformative concealer. “In 10 minutes, she sold 6000 units on QVC and the rest is history (it is a $1.2 billion company). She became the 1st female CEO of an all-male company that empowers women to look good and conquer the world. She is listed as one of the most influential women in the world, over Taylor Swift and Beyonce”. Jamie:

 “I was inspired to change my life and my world. This is one of the best success stories in the beauty industry. I want to thank QVC who was the first retailer to take a chance on the brand. If you are committed to change you have the power to change the world!”

Martha Stewart and CEO of QVC Mike George
Photo: Lieba Nesis

The 2017 Multi Media Retail Leadership award was presented to president and CEO Michael George for QVC by Martha Stewart who just launched Martha Stewart QVC in September. She quipped,”I haven’t quite reached $1.5 billion in sales yet. That’s a lot of turkeys!” Upon taking the podium, Michael retorted, “You will!” (the crowd laughed knowingly).

After receiving the award, he said,

“If you love something and throw yourself into it, you can change the world. Everything in this world changes so quickly, but what has stayed constant is the power of a great design to lift people up. You can make a connection with the customer and make their lives a little better.”

Marie-Claire Daveu and Kelly Slater
Photo: Lieba Nesis

The Sustainability award was given to chief sustainability officer Marie-Claire Daveu for Kering by professional surfer Kelly Slater. She certainly has a lot to smile about given the fact that Kering, with their winning trio of Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Balenciaga, is riding high, reporting continual growth and outperforming competitive luxury conglomerates in the third quarter.

Uri Minkoff, Rebecca Minkoff and Olivia_Palermo
Photo: Randy Brooke

The brother-and-sister team of Rebecca and Uri Minkoff were handed the Technology in Brand Development award by Olivia Palermo who talked about the importance of family and the ability of the duo to create new ideas within the tech world.

Anna Ewers, Isabel Marant and Carolyn Murphy
Photo: Randy Brooke

The consummately French designer Isabel Marant, whose combination of androgynous chic and bohemian nonchalance has that je ne sais quoi, picked up her Fashion Star award from Inez Van Lamsweerde who said, “I can’t imagine my life without her clothes. I am grateful for how you have shaped fashion and functionality today.” Isabel playfully noted, “We were allotted 2 minutes for our speeches and someone already went 10 so I will simply say, thank you!”

Stefano Tonchi and Simone Rocha
Photo: Randy Brooke

British fashion designer Simone Rocha, whose work is achingly feminine yet edgy, was presented with her Fashion Star award by Stefano Tonchi who called her “someone very special, a fashion star for a new generation with a very strong vision. She thinks about fashion for women in the tradition of Rei Kawakubo and Miuccia Prada, mixing tradition with transgression, and playing with extremes. She is quite exceptional, full of curiosity, and has so much sense and sensibility for someone so young”. Simone simply said she was “humbled to be here.”

Thom Browne, Amy Fine Collins and Andrew Bolton
Photo: Randy Brooke

Fashion Star Thom Browne, who arrived at the event with Amy Fine Collins and Daphne Guinness (wearing his fabulous designs of course) gets the award for best dressed posse (Model Grace Bol was also there in one of his colorful designs right off the spring 2018 runway)! His presenter, basketball great Dwayne Wade noted, “What matters most is how a designer makes you feel when you discover them. His message is disruptive. Every season he defies fashion norms. I am a fan of his creative genius. People at the top of their game are so inspiring to me.”

Stacey Bendet of Alice+Olivia
Photo: Randy Brooke

Thom: “Design is a collaborative effort. Thank you, Andrew (Bolton), for being my inspiration in life and in work. I am standing here 10 years after receiving Fashion Group’s Rising Star Award. Fashion design is easy but the business part hasn’t always been so easy. I constantly challenge myself which is so important. I take classic ideas and show them differently. I love that some of you have loved some of my designs and some of you have hated them. The last thing we need is another pretty dress. I make conceptual fashion; I want to inspire people.

Bridget Foley and Marc Jacobs
Photo: Laurel Marcus

WWD’s executive editor Bridget Foley received the Board of Director’s Media award from Marc Jacobs.

Marc: “For over 30 years Bridget’s love of fashion remains unadulterated. Her willingness to be seduced by fashion and her honest and direct interpretation are two things that have impressed me the most. It’s intellectual journalism at its best”.

Bridget: “There are too many people to thank but I have to single out one name: Etta Froio who hired me many years ago and with whom I have become very close. It is very special to be honored on the same night as Marylou Luther. You are the reason I will always love fashion. Thank you!”

Dries Van Noten
Photo: Randy Brooke

The man of the evening, the Superstar Honoree, was Belgian designer Dries Van Noten who shows in Paris, and is known for his elegant, womanly, sophisticated, artistic clothes (almost nobody mixes colors and patterns quite like Dries). He is in fact so revered and is such a designer’s designer, he received his award from Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez.

Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough
Photo: Randy Brooke

They called him their “personal hero” for proving that “fashion could have soul and meaning”. “We were mesmerized by his lack of artificiality, his unwavering authenticity, the utter control of his voice. He is a true pioneer who has managed to stay completely independent. He has no creative limits and stays true to the core principles his customers rely on.”

Dries simply said,

“I love to make clothes” and left it at that (you can’t get briefer than that).

When it was over, many headed upstairs to the mezzanine to party on. Others went out into the cool night, carrying a big black velvet tote bag filled with goodies which included a bottle of Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio, white Stella McCartney sunglasses, a bag of makeup from It Cosmetics, and a Lord & Taylor gift certificate.

– 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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