You’ve seen the looks, but what happened inside? After walking the lengthy red carpet, which drew comparisons to the Met Ball due to its size and star power, guests at the CFDA Awards were finally seated at the ceremony’s new venue, the Hammerstein Ballroom. This year, with a little help from Harvey Weinstein, the CFDA introduced a new format, namely a sit-down dinner before the show. (We were at table #41 with Kenneth Cole, Jason Derulo, Candice Huffine, Tao Okamoto, and Gabriela Hearst.) The show was hosted by Joel McHale, who quipped early in the night, “If you can, do me a favor and instead of laughing at my jokes tonight, just stare back at me blankly after each punchline. Just stare! Don’t display human emotions.” But there were plenty of emotions as the night went on.
- THE BEY MOMENT: The surprise appearance of Beyoncé, who picked up the Fashion Icon Award, was a highlight of the night for obvious reasons: Beyoncé. After she was presented her award by Diane von Furstenberg, Beyoncé gave the final speech of the night where she revealed her familial connection to the fashion world: “My grandmother made the uniforms for the students in exchange for my mother’s education. She then passed this gift down to my mother and taught her how to sew. When we were starting out in Destiny’s Child, high-end labels, they didn’t really want to dress four black, country, curvy girls. And we couldn’t afford designer dresses and couture.” So her mother Tina Knowles created their costumes. “My mother was rejected from every showroom in New York,” she said. “But like my grandmother, she used her talent and her creativity to give her children their dreams.” She continued, “We have the opportunity to contribute to a society where any girl can look at a billboard or magazine cover and see her own reflection. Soul has no color, no shape, no form. Just like all of your work, it goes far beyond what the eye can see. You have the power to change perception, to inspire and empower, and to show people how to embrace their complications, and see the flaws, and the true beauty and strength that’s inside all of us. Thank you so much for this incredible award, I’ll never forget this night.” We will never forget that hat!
- THE NEWBIE MOMENT: Brandon Maxwell (who brought Naomi Campbell as his plus one) was up against Daily faves Monse and Ryan Roche for the coveted Swarosvki Womenswear Award in one of the toughest races of the evening, and took home the honor. His speech was both emotional and humorous, with the newbie designer noting, “I’m not even in the CFDA!”
- THE BLESSED MOMENT: Anna Wintour honored Gucci’s Alessandro Michele with the International Award and uttered the words that fashion designers dream of: “Alessandro has disrupted what had become a rather bourgeoise house,” she said. “He was hardly the obvious first choice and yet seemingly overnight his quirky but totally original point of view erased all that had come before.” The editrix also injected some politics into the night as she celebrated the AP’s breaking news that Hillary Clinton earned enough delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination for U.S. president, which brought applause.
- THE ROCK STAR MOMENT: Tilda Swinton paid tribute to David Bowie, who was awarded the Board of Directors’ Tribute Award, and read an open letter she wrote to the late musician: “Dear Dave: The CFDA had the great good sense and elegance to tip their caps to you this year. There’s pretty much no year out of the last 40 that this would not have been a good idea, but this time around, it feels like an apt opportunity, given this stage in the proceedings, to remind us all how very much a part of us you always were and always will be. At the request of your beautiful Mrs. [Iman], I’ve come to collect it for her, for you. These kind people, the fanciest fashion people on the planet, are giving you their highest prize, their Director’s Tribute. To honor and thank you for all the shakes you’ve thrown, from start to finish, through all your years, London and otherwise. All your changes. Ever moving forward. All your kindness. All your magic. All you vim and vigor. All your glory. Always and always.”
- THE VETERAN MOMENT: Donna Karan, winner of the Founder’s Award, and Norma Kamali, winner of the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, showed us how it’s done. Both went far back into their career beginnings to thank their mentors, with Karan paying homage to Anne Klein and Kamali thanking, well, everyone, ever. Calvin Klein presented to his bestie Donna and Michael Kors presented to Kamali, who also provided one of the funniest (and random!) moments of the night when she mentioned she wanted to make a sex tape with J. Crew’s Mickey Drexler. She really said that.
- THE “AWWWW” MOMENT: Thom Browne gave one of the sweetest speeches after he nabbed the menswear honor and thanked his partner and “most important person” in his life, Andrew Bolton. “If anybody hasn’t seen The First Monday in May, you have to go out and see it! You really get to see the important work that Andrew Bolton is doing for fashion and introducing it to the world. I am the lucky one that gets to spend my life with him. He’s my biggest inspiration and I thank him every day for everything.” He also dressed Ansel Elgort who along with Alexander Skarsgard (in Tom Ford) and Steven Kolb (in custom Jonathan Simkhai) win our best-dressed dudes of the night. Later, Elgort gave the crowd a little razzle-dazzle when he broke into an impromptu tap dance before presenting the Swarovski Award for Accessory Design with Karlie Kloss.
- THE ENTERTAINING MOMENTS: The hilarious short film, The Messenger, kicked off the night and starred Tony winner Sarah Jones as a bike messenger (and a variety of other characters) crossing paths with Tommy Hilfiger, Vera Wang, Donna Karan, Thom Browne, and Tory Burch. (Click HERE to watch.) The evening came to a close with Jennifer Hudson’s tribute to Prince, who sang a medley of “When Doves Cry,” “The Beautiful Ones,” and “Let’s Go Crazy.” Most of the room took the last song literally and headed downtown to the impressive Samsung 837 space for the after-party, and an army of troopers carried on even later for a nightcap at Top of the Standard. We won’t mention any names.
The Full List of Winners:
Fashion Icon Award: Beyoncé
Womenswear Designer of the Year: Marc Jacobs
Menswear Designer of the Year: Thom Browne
Accessories Designer of the Year: Mansur Gavriel: Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel
Swarovski Award for Womenswear: Brandon Maxwell
Swarovski Award for Menswear: Orley: Alex Orley, Matthew Orley, Samantha Orley
Swarovski Award for Accessory Design: Paul Andrew
Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award: Norma Kamali
The Media Award in Honor of Eugenia Sheppard: Imran Amed, editor in chief of The Business of Fashion
The Founder’s Award in Honor of Eleanor Lambert: Donna Karan
International Award: Gucci: Alessandro Michele
Board of Directors’ Tribute Award: David Bowie