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Monday night’s CFDA Awards clearly sought to satiate the fashion set’s appetite for something new.
There was the spanking new location, Alice Tully Hall; the first-time host who ribbed the oh-so-serious fashion crowd, Tracey Ullman, and a nod to the next generation with winners like Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy for women’s wear, Band of Outsiders’ Scott Sternberg and Calvin Klein Collection’s Italo Zucchelli for men’s wear, and Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez for accessories.
Where past awards have dragged on, this year’s theater-style ceremony and buffet dinner kept the night mercifully brief, ameliorated by hostess Diane von Furstenberg, the Council of Fashion Designers of America president, who started asking people to take their seats in the auditorium practically the minute they arrived. Ullman echoed her friend’s sentiment.
“Let’s get on with the show,” the comedienne told the crowd in her welcoming remarks. “It’s time, because I can see Kiefer Sutherland flexing the muscles in the back of his neck. Brooke Shields is trying to hold him back, but he’s a strong lad.”
Ullman’s shtick was hit and miss, with the occasional lack of laughs proving again that fashion is one tough crowd. Some of the loudest applause went to her praise for Michelle Obama, who was honored with the Board of Directors’ Special Tribute, but sent her thanks via a taped video. Desirée Rogers, who was scheduled to accept on the First Lady’s behalf, was also a no-show.
Ullman didn’t totally fawn over the First Lady, though. “In the short time her husband has been in office, she has already done a tremendous amount to promote the American fashion designers, especially J. Crew,” Ullman crowed. “Is J. here tonight? Mr. Crew? How about Mrs. Crew? Any of the Crew kids? Oh come on, you’d think that they’d be here tonight to show support for J.”
Ullman also had some thoughts on Marc Jacobs, who took home the International Award for his work at Louis Vuitton, but went empty-handed in the women’s wear and accessories categories. “Every year, no matter what, Marc ends up a winner,” she said. “Something’s not right. He’s the Bernie Madoff of fashion. I think you should have a CFDA permanently tattooed on your arm, Marc.”
And it wouldn’t be 2009 without some commentary on the recession. “The bad news is the Russians have stopped buying,” Ullman offered. “The good news is that that’s mostly bad news for Versace.”
Ralph Lauren, too, had some good news: He took home the CFDA’s first-ever award for popular vote. “Wow, there’s nothing much to say except, I’m going to dance for you now,” Lauren said. “I really thank the public and I guess it was worth 42 years. You finally got the message.”
If there was ever a complaint that previous award ceremonies didn’t feature any live fashion, it was put to rest Monday. In addition to the tower of models dressed in the nominees’ most current collections that greeted guests as they arrived, there were live presentations for Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Anna Sui and the Womenswear Designer of the Year nominees. Sui, true to her runway, recruited catwalkers Sasha Pivovarova, Coco Rocha and Agyness Deyn, while fellow Detroit native Jack White presented her with the honor.