“The 28th Annual Rising Star Awards Venture Uptown”

Maryanne Grisz, Ralph Rucci, Gary Wassner, and the Rising Star Awardees attend Fashion Group International’s 28th Annual Rising Star Awards on May 13, 2024 in New York City. Photo courtesy FGI

“You can be a rising star at any age,” remarked Claudia Cividino, president of Jared Jewelers, as she accepted a jewelry award during yesterday’s FGI main stay awards Luncheon bearing that moniker. Fact check: true, and a few elders were among the fresh faces at the lovely uptown venue of 583 Park Avenue.

With over 100 applicants, the winnowing down of the nominees for the individual categories was tough enough – members of FGI vote to elect one finalist from various Fashion Apparel categories, Accessories, Beauty, Fine Jewelry, Content Creation, and Retail Tech.  

The Hilldun Business Innovation Award was given to In Seam’s Ann Wehren (for being that middle person who bridges the gap between the luxury consumer and the sale). The Future Fashion Award (sponsored by Macy’s) for a junior or senior in a college fashion program went to Fatmata Camara of Lim College.

The Room – photo by Laurel Marcus

After an 11AM cocktail hour (you got to love that on a weekday), during which it was easy to spot and speak with the often creatively dressed finalists, the program started upstairs in the Barbie pink-lit ballroom.

Nominee, Ken Downing, Mary Alice Stephenson, Nicole Fischelis – photo by Laurel Marcus

FGI President Maryanne Grisz gave her brief welcoming speech, followed by designer Frederick Anderson, who praised Maryanne for making FGI “modern.” Anderson also presented the President’s Award for Excellence to Gender-Neutral designer Terry Singh, a proponent, and wearer of men in long skirts or dhotis—the ancient garment worn by leaders and warriors—who appropriately paraphrased the Buddhist Bodhisattva Vow.

“Without young, up-and-coming designers, we have no industry – the amount of applicants tells us a lot about New York and fashion,” remarked Gary Wassner. “It is difficult to pick someone each year.

Jean Shafiroff and designer Ron Dyce – photo by Laurel Marcus

Lunch was served—tomato salad followed by delicious spicy chicken, rice, and carrots. Then, Ken Downing appeared out of nowhere to ask finalists: “What inspires you?”- a cute idea that may have been better had there been fewer finalists. He couldn’t get through them before the proverbial hook was pulled, and it was time for the main event.

Winner Kate Barton – photo by Laurel Marcus

For Beauty Entrepreneur, the presenter was Veronique Gabai Pinsky, who urged us, “Don’t go for good, don’t go for great, go for spectacular because you can, and it’s worth it.” The winner was Linda Treska (wearing her grandmother’s 1930s dress) for Pinch of Colour, a waterless beauty brand created in 2016 that has grown into a $9m company.

“Without accessories, you’re just kind of naked,” said Accessories presenter Marcus Teo, who then quoted AbFab, “You can never have enough hats, gloves, and shoes.”

Winner Guillaume Larquemain remarked on having just flown in from Paris for this event. “ I try to reveal the personality of the women in my life like my wife and daughter” when creating his vegan bag designs. His apple skin clutch was featured in WWD on Maggie Baird, the actress-activist mother to Billie Eilish and Finneas.

Bryna Pomp – photo by Laurel Marcus

Next was Presenter Bryna Pomp of MAD Jewelry, who remarked about how bright the lights were at the stage podium – this later became a theme for everyone who stood there. She also commented on Barkindy’s jewelry displayed at MAD, present today and a 2023 Rising Star Award recipient.

Finalists Emma Gage and Tara Babylon – photo by Laurel Marcus

As I mentioned, this year’s winner was Jared Atelier x Shy Dayan—a holiday collection featuring “accessible” diamonds that both Kathy Dayan (sister of Shy) and Cividino sported. “You can find our jewelry at $500, $5,000, or even $500,000,” Cividino remarked. “It recently walked the red carpet at the Met Gala.” Kathy Dayan added, “When you make a woman feel safe, comfortable, and beautiful in her own skin, she’s capable of anything.”

Terry Singh and Jeffrey Banks – photo by Laurel Marcus

Jeffrey Banks presented the two awards for categories under Fashion Apparel Lifestyle. The first for Intimate/Swim went to pajama designers Amy and Leo Voloshin of Printfresh. Based in Philadelphia, they release new prints every two weeks.

Stan Herman – photo by Laurel Marcus

The second category was for Casualwear which went to Maya Wang of Fried Rice, who I had a chance to speak with during the cocktails, and she is a trip! “Number 1 (her table), you people are fucking awesome. Without FGI, we won’t be here. We need this! I couldn’t sew a straight line when I began, but I bought a sewing machine. Honey, I’m telling you it ain’t easy – a lot of blood, tears, and sweat, but you have your team.”

MaryLou Luther and Gary Wassner – photo by Laurel Marcus

Deborah Weinswig presented the Retail Tech award and remarked on the need to be on time rather than too early or too late with a tech concept. Winner Kimberly Carney of The Wires (which includes both beauty and fashion brands, and a PawWire is on the way) was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” her last year here, so you see how this works.

Andrew Yu – photo by Laurel Marcus

In the category of Content Creator, presenter Sheena Butler-Young remarked on the “frenetic and unpredictable time we are living in” but added that these finalists “are up for the challenge.” Winners were mother/daughter team Allison Bruhn and Delia Folk of The Style That Binds Us. Their mission: “to advance and empower women.”

Fern Mallis – photo by Laurel Marcus

The next to last presenter was Nicole Miller for Fashion Apparel RTW, who gave a little rousing pep talk. “Don’t lose your dreams or your goals,” she urged. “If you get knocked down, get up and keep going. It’s not always smooth sailing.” Winner is: TheSalting’s Michael Ward and husband Manel Garcia Espejo who spoke of not intending to work together, but it just happened.

Ward mentioned that his first job was with designer Carmelo Pomodoro, “a good friend of Nicole Miller,” but she probably didn’t remember him. He also gave a shoutout to “the trinity of fashion – Fern Mallis, Jeffrey Banks, and Stan Herman – we were married by Stan Herman,” he related. They all happened to be there, so that was nice.

Winner Kate Barton goldfish – photo by Laurel Marcus

Lastly, a surprise presenter for Fashion Apparel — Eveningwear—THE Ralph Rucci appeared on stage to announce the only tie of the afternoon. Kate Barton was the first winner, and her goldfish in a bowl on a chain greatly pleased me during the cocktail hour (she said she also had an octopus). Her friend carried another of her glass “bags” with encased flowers.

Cyril Verdavainne of Verdavainne, the final winner, closed out the afternoon with the last quip regarding the bright lights. “I’m short, and now I’m blind!” he exclaimed.

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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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