The Couture Council of The Museum at FIT’s 2016 Artistry in Fashion Award

Albert Kriemler and Dr. Valerie Steele
Photos: Getty Images for FIT

It seems the fashion world is divided into two distinct camps these days and never have the lines been so sharply drawn. There are the maximalists who believe that more is more, and there are the minimalists who believe that less is more. The undisputed leader of the first camp, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, was given the 2016 CFDA International Award this past June. And for his unwavering commitment to understated luxurious minimalism, not to mention his outstanding couture like craftsmanship, exquisite fabrics, and sharply tailored architectural designs, Albert Kriemler, the Creative Director of Akris, was the worthy recipient of this year’s Couture Council of The Museum FIT Artistry of Fashion Award.

The luncheon
Photo: Getty Images for FIT

It was formally presented to him yesterday during the course of a wonderful luncheon held at the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center. This wildly popular and well attended event unofficially kicks off NYFW and heralds in the fall season (although I guess you can say Tom Ford single handedly accomplished that last night with his fabulous see now buy now fall 2016 show held at the former iconic Four Seasons Restaurant which is about to undergo a complete renovation  (see pictures). Regardless, you could say it’s the grown up version of the first day of school but with chicer “backpacks” and of course, better dressed ‘kids’. Guests are not only well put together, but historically, want to pay homage to the honoree by wearing their design. So it was not surprising that a number of women, including Couture Council board member Jean Shafiroff and Dr. Valerie Steele (among others), showed up in an Akris.

Jean Shafiroff in Akris
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

It was not lost on me that had the late Bill Cunningham been there (he always attended this event and featured it), he would have undoubtedly loved this as well. It was also not lost on me that a number of women who had been fixtures at this event, were noticeably missing this year. In particular, there was no Amy Fine Collins or Anna Wintour for that matter, and both these women have attended this event in the past. Gee, could it be that without Bill there, it’s no longer that ‘interesting’ and as much of a draw? Just asking. Anyway, when a bystander questioned aloud, who would have to go home and change, he humorously answered his own question by saying it would be Linda, because Audrey was in fact this year’s luncheon co-chair along with Lisa Klein.’

Audrey Gruss and Linda Fargo
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Guests enjoyed cocktails on the David H. Koch Theater terrace and were then seated for a three-course luncheon, catered by Olivier Cheng. The end of summer tasking plate, branzino baked in parchment with melted truffled leeks, carrots, fennel, chard, tomatoes, and dessert of mignardises were not only wonderfully tasty, but an artistic feast for the eye; which were perfect given the artistic element of this event. Bronson Van Wyck of Van Wyck & Van Wyck once again designed the flowers.

Yaz Hernandez and Hamish Bowles
Photo: Getty Images for FIT

Among those in attendance (there were approximately 440) was an eclectic group that included Vanessa Friedman (looking wonderful in Azzedine), Robbie Myers, Joanna Coles, Stefano Tonchi, Veronica Webb, Fe Fendi, Joe Zee, Patricia Mears, Alexandra Lebenthal,  Cameron Silver, Hal Rubenstein, Martha Stewart, PR mavens James La Force and R. Couri Hay, the designer B. Michael (whose runway show is next Wednesday) philanthropist Francine Lefrak (her latest endeavor,, a trade initiative based in the U.S and in Rwanda which seeks to empower women struggling with extreme poverty, is  truly inspiring and worth checking out), and photographer and artist Ike Ude. When I asked him whose portrait he hasn’t done, but would ideally like to do he rattled off the following names: Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron, Emperor Haile Selassi (all of whom are no longer with us) and then also mentioned Michelle and Barack Obama (which is far more likely to happen).

Vanessa Friedman
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Yaz Hernandez, Chair, Couture Council made her welcoming remarks and told the assembled guests that this benefit, now in its 11th year, has raised $8 million ($800,000 this year). She credited the success of the Couture Council to a number of things, not the least of which is the board which she described as a “phenomenal army of ladies and one man, who also came up with the inspired idea in the first place.” That man would be John Pomerantz (Yaz took the time to name and thank them all). Event Chairs Audrey Gruss and Lisa Klein said their thank yous and Dr. Valerie Steele, Director of the Museum at FIT and chair of the Couture Council Advisory Board quoted Linda Fargo, who has made the observation that Albert Kriemler “has improved the quality of life through his designs.”

Dr. Joyce Brown and XCEL Brands Robert D’Loren
Getty Images for FIT

FIT President Dr. Joyce F. Brown was up next and talked about Albert Kriemler’s “refined minimalism and exquisite fabrics” but quickly noted, “That’s only one part of Albert’s genius”. “His designs work. They function for our lives today.” When Linda Fargo took the podium as the award presenter, she wasted no time in complimenting Audrey Gruss on her choice of dress (this got a laugh from the crowd). She also said that this event is a wonderful excuse to get dressed up, out of summer clothes, and begin the fall season, which unsurprisingly, is her favorite. She described Albert, “the designer of the modern luxury brand Akris”, as a “true connoisseur”, “an architect”, and an “artist at heart”. She went on to say, “He is discriminating in everything he does, and does not do. His loyal customers don’t just buy his clothes; they collect, consider, and are building nonperishable wardrobes. Like his customers, his clothes don’t vie for attention”.

Fe Fendi
Photo: Getty Images for FIT

And she then directed her comments to the honoree, “You more than meet the high standards of this award. Congratulations and well deserved”. Albert joined Linda on the podium, received his award and quickly said, “I’ve pursued artistry of fashion throughout my career. I’m from a small city in Switzerland, St. Gallen and I’ve been asked how a global brand can be based in a remote city.” (Akris was founded in 1922 by his mother, Alice Kriemler-Schoch, and he took over as the designer in 1980).

“As Tom Wolfe said, “One belongs to New York instantly”. Indeed, New York gives me a sense of belonging. In 1979, I first discovered Bergdorf Goodman and felt an immense desire to see my collection in those windows. 10 years later, Dawn Mello met with my mother and myself, and made it happen.”

“I’m always inspired by this city. In 1997, I opened a boutique on Madison Avenue. East Side, West Side, Uptown, Downtown. It’s such a modern way to live.” He talked about the inspiration he gets from the city’s museums, including the Museum at FIT and credited Dr. Valerie Steele with creating those inspiring exhibitions. He also marveled about a book she wrote about Akris, “Akris by Valerie Steele published by Assouline, and how she found the perfect words to describe to express my collection.”

“I am humbled, grateful, and energized by my award. My collection on Friday is inspired by New York and is “very New York”. It’s also a tribute to FIT and to the women who collect and wear my clothes”. “We would not be where we are now without New York”. FYI, Albert, who is known to be inspired by world famous architecture, chose the iconic Lever House on Park Avenue as the venue for his Friday afternoon show. It is the first time he has not shown in Paris.

– 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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