Last night, fashion’s great and good gathered at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom for one of the most significant nights in the industry’s calendar, the Council of Fashion Designer’s of America (CFDA) awards. Held annually in June, the event, which is widely regarded as the Oscars of U.S. fashion, celebrates the best and brightest in American design.
However, despite its star-studded reputation, for some the event has lost its shine in recent years, due in large part to the same familiar names being nominated for the same awards each year, many of whom are past winners and have also been honoured more than once. But this year, it was the winning of multiple awards that hit the headlines for all the right reasons, and made fashion history.
Raf Simons, Chief Creative Officer at Calvin Klein, secured both the coveted Womenswear Designer of the Year Award and Menswear Designer of the Year Award for his AW17 Calvin Klein collection, his debut for the house. “It feels like a big welcome,” said the designer in his acceptance speech. And there has only been one other designer in the award’s history to achieve this double honor in the same year, and that was Calvin Klein himself in 1993.
The night’s other award winners included Demna Gvasalia, who took home the International Award for his work at Vetements and Balenciaga (Raf Simons was a past winner during his time at Dior), and Stuart Vevers, executive creative director of Coach, who was honored with the title Accessory Designer of the Year.
This year also saw the introduction of two new awards. The Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent, presented to Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim of Monse, and the Swarovski Award for Positive Change, honoring an individual in the U.S. fashion industry who has made a positive impact on American communities and has improved the welfare of others, which was awarded to Kenneth Cole.
But undoubtedly the most prestigious award of the night is for lifetime achievement. Announced prior to the ceremony, the honor has been bestowed upon a select group of industry luminaries over the years, and joining their ranks this year is Rick Owens, whose dark, draped and deeply considered designs are beloved of a legion of loyal fans.
Owens, originally from California, received the CFDA New Talent Award in 2002, after making his New York Fashion Week debut the previous year. He then moved to Paris, where he still lives and works, and where his label has been on the official show schedule since 2003. When asked in an interview with vogue.com whether there’s a certain Americanness to his designs or design process he responded, “I’ve taken American bluntness to European complexity...I’ve always admired that intellectual complexity, but I’ve always wanted to interpret it in my own blunt American way. That’s been my schtick all this time. I’ve always been looking at European culture from the 1930s and applying my Scotch tape, Brâncuși, punk rock aesthetic to it. So yes, the Americanness did serve me very well, and I’ve used it in a calculating way.”
After hearing the news that he was to receive the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, the designer told vogue.com’s Luke Leitch “It’s incredibly flattering, especially because this award, at least in my head, is recognizing a body of work rather than just one collection. And that is exactly what I want: for everything that I do to be part of a body of work, all related. So for this council of aesthetic leaders to focus their general approval in my direction is very validating.”
See the full list of 2017 CFDA Award Nominees and Winners here