2018 Couture Council Award for Artistry in Fashion Honoring Narciso Rodriguez

On Wednesday, Narciso Rodriguez was presented with The Couture Council of the Museum at FIT’s 2018 Artistry in Fashion Award at an awards luncheon held at the David Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center. The luncheon benefits The Museum at FIT (MFIT), New York’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the art of fashion. Angela Dotson and Jean Shafiroff co-chaired the luncheon. This year not only marks the 20th anniversary for Narciso but the 50th anniversary of the Museum at FIT and the 75th anniversary of FIT. Congratulations!

Joyce Brown, Kathy Kakesti, Valerie Steele, and Sylvie Picquet
Photo: Lieba Nesis

The famed designer was chosen for his lifelong dedication to the art and craft of fashion by a distinguished advisory committee chaired by Dr. Valerie Steele, director of MFIT, that includes Glenda Bailey, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar; Hamish Bowles, international editor-at-large of Vogue; Ken Downing, fashion director at Neiman Marcus; and Linda Fargo, senior vice president of fashion and store presentation director at Bergdorf Goodman among others.

Olivia Palermo, PJ Pascual and Josie Natori
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Past honorees in chronological order: Ralph Rucci, Alber Elbaz, Isabel Toledo, Dries Van Noten, Valentino, Karl Lagerfeld, Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera, Manolo Blahnik, Akris, and Thom Browne. I have gone to every awards luncheon since its inception, and I remember them all very well. At Ralph’s celebratory lunch held at Brasserie 8 ½ at 9 West 57th Street, there were about 100 guests, and at the time, Ralph referred to it as a “simple but quiet and luxurious lunch.” Boy, have things changed. It’s a sign of the times that there is very little that is intimate and quiet these days (especially in the fashion world).

Bronson Van Wyck and Martha Stewart
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Everything is now done on a much grander, bigger scale with a lot more buzz, a lot more press and a lot more noise (it’s “HUGE”!). And yes, the David Koch Theatre was packed to the gills with an eclectic crowd that included Arthur Elgort, Fern Mallis, Martha Stewart, Fe Fendi, Stephanie March, Stefano Tonchi.

Valerie Simpson
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Among my tablemates who enjoyed a lunch of squash blossom with ricotta and pine nuts, summer squash tart, shrimp enchilada with yellow rice and Mignardises, were fashion designer B. Michael and Valerie Simpson, the legendary songwriter and producer who gained fame as half of Ashford & Simpson (her husband passed away several years ago). She is still going strong. Of course, I could not resist asking if she attended Aretha Franklin’s funeral. Both she and B. Michael had (Aretha wore the designer’s hats). The late singing icon recorded many of Valerie’s songs including one that was a personal favorite: her rendition of “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing” for which she received a Grammy!

Yaz Hernandez, Liz Peek, Jean Shafiroff and Angela Dotson
Photo: Lieba Nesis

There were welcoming remarks by Dr. Valerie Steele, Director, The Museum at FIT and Dr. Joyce F. Brown, President, Fashion Institute of Technology.  The Lunch Presenter was Jessica Seinfeld, a good friend of the award-winning designer, and a loyal customer. She looked sleek and chic in one of his body-conscious dresses with her hair simply pulled back in a ponytail and spoke about his integrity and the enormous respect he has for the intelligence of women. “He designs clothes to make women feel strong, not to be photographed on the street in” she noted. “He is so important to the history of fashion.”

Jamee Gregory, Glenda Bailey, Audrey Gruss, and Karen LeFrak
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Narcisco took to the podium to receive his award and said: “I’m honored to have my work recognized with the prestigious Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion — and especially upon the anniversary of my 20th year in business.” Narciso wasted no time reflecting on the immense gratitude he had for the people he most admired, namely, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein at which point he broke down in tears.

Judy Byrd, Kathy Chenault, Amelia Ogunlesi and Somers Farkas
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Narciso was very emotional throughout and almost did not get through his short but sweet speech. He said that his greatest accomplishment was “being able to fulfill the dream of that optimistic young student.” The Cuban-American designer then thanked his parents who were immigrants to this country and worked hard to make sure he fulfilled his lifelong dreams (this met with thunderous applause).

Jean Shafiroff and Ralph Rucci
Photo Marilyn Kirschner

Jean Shafiroff followed, and the lunch co-chair spoke about the importance of supporting the Museum at FIT and keeping the dream of fashion alive. She praised Narciso as both a great fashion designer and a great man who adopted two children. Jean’s perfectly formfitting black Narciso Rodriguez dress suited her. She and the many other women wearing one of his designs was a walking endorsement for his simplicity, meticulous craftsmanship, purity of design, and precise cut and fit.

This woman looked fabulous in a white shirt black skirt
Balenciaga shoes and The Row red velvet bag
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

The event was a sartorial mixed bag. I guess you could say it’s a perfect reflection of fashion: a little bit of this and a little bit of that, from subdued but perfect white shirts and black skirts (a fail-safe combination if ever there was one) to colorful, glittery party dresses.

Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

My award for The Most Colorful goes to Sharon Jacob in Mary Katrantzou’s mixed striped sequined dress.

Julie Macklowe
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

My award for The Most Puzzling ensemble goes to Julie Macklowe, down to the face-obscuring Balaklava, even though she did look enviably cool and comfortable in her Gucci shorts and trainers. When I asked what the significance of the outfit was, she said she just had a baby, and this was all that fit.

My award for Best Dressed Man is naturally, Ralph Rucci in an impeccable white blazer and white shirt, and black trousers.

An attendee wearing a sculptural Rick Owens design
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

The Best Dressed Woman: a gal who was wearing a breathtaking sculptural dress in heavy white satin by Rick Owens. Talk about “Artistry in Fashion.” My mind immediately raced ahead to next year, and I thought how perfect a recipient for this award he would be. Upon leaving, we were all given a bottle of Narciso’s new perfume, L’absolu (can’t wait to try it). I bumped into Miki Higasa of Kaleidoscope PR, the publicist for Thom Browne who was the very worthy recipient of the 2017 Artistry in Fashion Award. With the arrival of NYFW, I was immediately reminded of how much I (we) all miss Thom. New York’s loss, Paris’s gain!

– 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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