The 2016 CFDA Awards

The awards were given out in relative secrecy at the Hammerstein Ballroom last night. The fact that they were not televised gave host Joel McHale so much material (fashion pun) to work with: he literally opened the show with a stream of alternating and repeating expletives (the “F” word and the “S” word, if you must know) simply because he could.
Joel McHale emcee of the dinner at the Samsung after party
Photo: Lieba Nesis

He also claimed that he considered doing the whole show with his “D” out, however that would be so last season a la the Rick Owens male anatomy exposing tunic.  I know all of this because — while not technically telecast, the awards were live streamed at Samsung 837 in the Meatpacking District, a multi-level space with a three-foot tall viewing screen, and, most importantly, the official space of the after-party. ICYMI I’ll try to encapsulate the Awards with a few highlights.

The Samsung 837 venue filling up
Photo: Laurel Marcus

After a bizarre video with cameos by DVF, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Zac Posen, Donna Karan, and Thom Browne, the first award for Accessories Designer of the Year goes to Mansur Gavriel. This is awkwardly given out by the “Broad City” actresses/creators/writers Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, and even more awkwardly accepted by Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel. Nothing to see here folks except that Abbi and Ilana do actually clean up well.

The crowd waiting on line for the red carpet
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Onto Menswear Designer of the Year — Thom Browne who is wearing his usual summer school boy uniform– suit with shorts– remarks that his team is waiting to do shots with him. If you haven’t yet seen “The First Monday In May” he admonishes you to do so, if only to see his better half in action– the remarkable Andrew Bolton. Next it’s the Media Award in Honor of Eugenia Sheppard given by Alexa Chung to Imran Amed at BoF. He thanks “the readers who wake up with us everyday”, while referring to the 10-year-old Business of Fashion as “the voice this industry needs and hopefully the voice that will be around for a long time.”

Hamish Bowles, Lauren Santo Domingo & Derek Blasberg waiting on line
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Another short film with Isaac Mizrahi trying to discover “what the hell the CFDA does.” Hint: he tells some B’ballers that the CFDA is the NBA for Jews. Calvin Klein is now on stage presenting the Founders Award in Honor of Eleanor Lambert, to his good friend Donna Karan (apparently they get together and laugh a lot). Karan gets a standing ovation, then takes a walk down memory lane invoking Lambert’s 1973 Battle of Versailles –her boss was another Klein namely Anne, who helped put “American design on the map.”

Model Constance Jablonski and J Mendel
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Karan tells the heartwarming story of how she was seven months pregnant with her daughter Gabby at the time and preparing to be a stay-at-home-mom when the unthinkable happened. Anne Klein died of breast cancer and Karan had to finish the collection practically from her delivery room. She makes a point of how design should be about not only “dressing people but addressing people.”

Adriana Lima
Photo: Lieba Nesis

There are three Swarovski awards given (Womenswear, Menswear and Accessories) and while Nadja Swarovski is introducing them by thanking DVF and the CFDA for “making fashion what it is today” something remarkable happens.  The camera zooms in on Diana in an exaggerated eye roll. I’m still wondering if that was meant to be self-effacing or blame-deflecting?

Model Emily Ratajkowski and Jason Wu
Photo: Lieba Nesis

The Orley’s win for Menswear and they seem like a nice enough family. Look out though because Brandon Maxwell has won for Womenswear and it’s an even more dramatic iteration of his emotional gasping for air speech which I witnessed at the FGI Rising Stars award. First of all, Naomi Campbell has to help dress him (his jacket is off). “I’m a slightly overweight boy from Texas who thinks a fancy dinner is something deep fried and rolled up in wax paper,” says Lady Gaga’s designer, who admits to growing up “very gay in a very small town.”

Naomi Campbell
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Anna Wintour introducing Alessandro Michele of Gucci for the International Award: “I  know you’ve all been checking your iPhones because Hillary Clinton has become the presumptive nominee.” Ugh — no politics tonight, please! This isn’t the Miss USA pageant (lol). Wintour proceeds to describe how Michele basically walks on water as well as looks like Jared Leto and, though he only has two feet, he owns 360 pairs of shoes. Also, design is about ideas but needn’t be about completely starting over each season because some people like the familiar (and perhaps want Gucci to have a trademarked style?)

Steven Kolb & Margaret Hayes
Photo: Laurel Marcus

The crystal-embroidered pink-suited Gucci wunderkind read his prepared notes. Clearly English is more difficult for him than knocking out a menswear collection in just five days. Tilda Swinton presented the Board of Directors ‘ Special Tribute Award to David Bowie remarking that tonight was David and Iman’s 24th anniversary (BTW no Iman in sight). “You checked out early and we’re still finding your stuff in the drawers,” his doppelganger read a letter she’d written telling Bowie he’s missed but thanking him for giving so many freedom — “you brought out everyone’s freak.” Michael C. Hall who starred in Bowie’s last play “Lazarus” belted out “Ch-ch-Changes.”

 Christian Siriano with actress Selma Blair
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Michael Kors introduced Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award winner Norma Kamali by calling her a disrupter of 50 years who played with the concepts of high-low; athletic wear way before athleisure, and as the pre-eminent designer to debut online shopping in the ’90s. Kamali thanked Francesco Scavullo and Christie Brinkley for photographing and being photographed in her maillot, Diana Vreeland, Richard Avedon and Ian Schrager among a few others.

While she is often asked by young people how to get into the fashion business she admits that the business is so different now. “If you have a talent, like Beyonce, do that. If not, go for the sex tape.” However it did not end there as Norma says she asked Mickey Drexler to do a sex tape with her (he says it would be a long tape — ewww) — Anna Wintour’s bemused countenance is then shown in a panning camera angle. I’m cringing so hard! Best line of the night belonged to Joel McHale — after a black t-shirt clad Marc Jacobs, quickly thanked his design team in his acceptance speech. “Marc, we have your tux backstage.”

Donna Karan & Nadja Swarovski
Photo: Laurel Marcus

It’s DVF’s moment — “Designers have become celebrities and celebrities have become designers. Talent is always the solution and that’s what we have tonight” as she introduces Beyonce who is receiving the Fashion Icon award. Makes sense, since Rihanna has already received this award and she and Beyonce are always the last two to shut down the red carpet at the Met Gala. Beyonce spoke of her grandmother who was a seamstress, sewing in exchange for her mother’s school tuition, and her mother who later created the Destiny’s Child costumes by hand since ” high-end labels didn’t wanted to dress four, black country, curvy girls.” Blue Ivy was adorable mouthing the words “mommy” when Bey walked out in her striped crystal Givenchy suit, black hat and minimal makeup.

Brandon Maxwell, Ryan Roche
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Not entirely sure how I feel about Jennifer Hudson’s Prince tribute (yes, I’ve mentioned that these are getting old) but most importantly, the show is a wrap. Mia Moretti takes over the DJ booth on the lower floor and eventually the party gets rolling. With three levels to cover I’m not sure what to do. I forgo the Step and Repeat and climb the stairs again (this party is like a Stairmaster on steroids)!

Diane von Furstenberg relaxing at the VIP lounge
Photo: Laurel Marcus

I stalk the VIP section(s) on the top level and am rewarded by sightings of many of the luminaries who actually attended the awards including Steven Kolb, DVF, Vera Wang, Naomi Campbell (yikes, she’s holding her cell phone), Christian Siriano, Jason Wu, Hamish Bowles, Bethann Hardison, Joel McHale, Stan Herman, Fern Mallis, Donna Karan, Imran Amed, Margaret Hayes,

Sliders, anyone?
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Nadja Swarovski, Nicole Miller, Brandon Maxwell (who grabbed a tasty morsel from a quickly disappearing butlered tray), Ryan Roche, Susan Scafidi, Adrienne Landau and many others who I’m too bleary-eyed to recognize. At 12:30 A.M., though the music’s still pumping, the drinks are still flowing and the mac and cheese is still being proffered from these over-the-top wooden trays that take two to carry, I head uptown.

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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