Give this, at the very least, to James Corden. As host of the 2015 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall on Monday night, the late-late-night talk show personality can carry a tune.
His was called “To Sew the Impossible Seam,” and included lyrics the evoked the dream of fashion design, sung before a roomful of fashion designers, as “to act like the fate of the world is tied to the launch of your line, to speak of your side-ruffled peplum as if you are Einstein,” and “to fit your whole life on an Instagram square.” I’ve left out the expletives here, but still, you can imagine how well this went over.
In many ways, this was one of the more bizarre and puzzling CFDA Awards in recent memory—absurdly long, punctuated with less-than-heartfelt speeches, overly self-conscious about the omnipresence of social media on the runway, subject to egregious use of the word “brilliant,” and generally unstylish. And yet, as Diane von Furstenberg, the president of the fashion council and reality television star, remarked after the show ended, it also reflected our times very well indeed, including an award presented to Instagram by none other than Kim Kardashian (@kimkardashian, 34.8 million followers), who wore a see-through dress, while pregnant and, heroically, under the weather. How many likes does she have now?
Normally, everyone who is sort of famous feels not famous enough at fashion’s big night, but now even the designers are struggling to stay relevant. While it’s true that we’re all just a number—who was sitting front row, just a few spots from Tom Ford, other than the social media sensation Josh Ostrovsky (@thefatjewish, 4.4 million followers)?—substance still carried the night. At least the designers still get awards—and there were plenty of them to go around in the top 10 moments of the night:
1. The Row Wins Big
Reclaiming the top prize of womenswear designers of the year, Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen of The Row said they never expected to be so honored when they started their fashion label a decade ago, though their closets must be lined with CFDA trophies by now, having last won the womenswear title in 2012 and the award for accessories just last year. But understated elegance is a very important part of their brand message, and it was heartening to hear them thank their customers, rather than the usual suspects, when accepting their latest trophy.
2. Familiar Faces in Accessories and Menswear
Tabitha Simmons won the top prize for accessories design, and Tom Ford for menswear (and for sexiest acceptance speech, it should be noted). Just last year, Ford received a lifetime achievement award, which in the fashion industry, is shorthand for being put out to pasture. But not Ford, who has been turning out consistently powerful collections. As he said, “I’m so glad to know there is still life after lifetime achievement.”
3. Speaking of Lifetime Achievement ...
Betsey Johnson received this year’s designation, and celebrated with a cartwheel that ended in a split—her customary signoff at every runway show for the last 50 or so years. Somewhere along the way on Monday night she lost one of her shoes. But Johnson is a legend, as much for her longevity as for her fashion, and to her credit she never acknowledged from the stage that her footwear had gone astray. Bonus points for bringing along her granddaughters, who were dressed in tulle tutus and sneakers, a look grandma all but trademarked as a Betsey Johnson original.
4. The Talented Up-and-Comers
Swarovski, the Austrian crystal company, sponsored the prizes for emerging talent once again this year (its 14th in partnership with the CFDA, and bravo for that). But the winners seemed a little bored. Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel of Mansur Gavriel, originators of the biggest bucket-bag trend of recent times, won the accessories prize, but struggled to come up with anyone to thank, besides “our husband.” Shayne Oliver of Hood by Air, as expected, won the menswear prize, and sort of acknowledged Swarovski and the CFDA before strutting offstage, prompting presenter Zachary Quinto to deliver the best ad-lib quip of the night—“They really want to get you to the party.” Womenswear honoree Rosie Assoulin was more gracious, noting she once had to crash a CFDA party—and now she’s a certified award winner.
5. And Now a Word About Our Host
Corden hit a few highs, but mostly a lot of lows in his exceptionally course routine, which touched on recent controversies surrounding the photographer Terry Richardson and Michael Jeffries, the chief executive of Abercrombie and Fitch who was dispatched from his job following the company’s economic decline. It was a bit like listening to a record player on which the needle skips with hair-raising screeches, over and over, causing you to grimace and cover your ears, as when Corden threatened to greet Kanye West by licking his face. Or when he described the crowd as especially diverse: “White gay men from all different areas of Manhattan have traveled to be here tonight to celebrate the best and brightest fashion designers of the past 12 months.” Or, when he said, “Asking me to host the CFDAs is like asking Terry Richardson to host your daughter’s birthday party,” which, I am certain, no one asked, ever.
6. Remembering Oscar de la Renta
Chelsea Clinton delivered a tribute to the late Oscar de la Renta, recalling how the designer, after they had become friends through her parents, had pulled her aside one day to ask her why she always dressed like she were trying to blend into the walls. This she acknowledged heartily was her intention, before explaining how the gift of a beautiful dress from the designer changed her approach to fashion, and to life.
7. Acknowledgement of Social Media's Most Powerful
The Kardashian media complex continues to thrive, producing an astonishing amount of news, the latest tidbit being that Kim Kardashian has now officially been named the “Queen of Instagram,” as per Kevin Systrom, the chief executive of the company. And while Kardashian is pregnant with her second child, she still managed to attend the awards wearing a sheer black Proenza Schouler dress with lots of grommets and fringy bits at the shoulders. Also, Kim Kardashian has a cold.
8. Gigi Hadid's Gilded Outfit
9. Kanye West Compares Himself to Pharrell
Introducing Pharrell Williams as the icon of the year, Kanye West, wearing a sort of martial arts jacket, started out well with a knowing aside about his reputation for fashion rants: “You know how Obama brought out the angry version of himself? I’m sort of like the angrier version of Pharrell,” he said. He then went a bit deep on the problem of the “gross misconception about the idea of a celebrity creative” in our society, perhaps playing to the wrong audience.
10. The Longest Acceptance Speech of the Evening
Pharrell (@pharrell, 5.1 million followers), accepting his award in a 12-minute speech, revealed the true secret of his fashion awakening. Early in his career, having spent his entire first paycheck on Ralph Lauren’s RRL label, the artist Kelis read him like a book: “She explained that I needed to diversify,” he said. As he began to buy designer clothes (shoutout to Tom Ford for a caramel colored leather coat from Gucci), Williams discovered Comme des Garcons, Junya Watanabe, and Mark McNairy, and his do-it-yourself style became internationally recognized. Still, Williams said of the achievement, he learned a lot of humility. “It’s a privilege to be acknowledged,” he said, “not a guarantee.”