Come to see who's being honored for creating a more sustainable, inclusive fashion industry, but stay for one very Kanye West speech.

By Allison Taylor
Oct 28, 2019 @ 10:30 am
Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Under a zodiac-embossed rotunda, the fashion community gathered at Fashion Group International’s 36th annual Night of Stars last week in New York City to honor leaders in design who have made the values of inclusivity and sustainability central to their vision. Bringing together a constellation of celebrity names — Rick Owens, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Iman, Brandon Maxwell, Donna Karan, and more — the festivities focused on what FGI President and CEO Maryanne Grisz called the “parallel paths” of honoring the organization’s philanthropic legacy and enriching the careers of future leaders in fashion.

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian presented the Superstar Award to Rick Owens, whom Kim said is “a major source of inspiration” in their creative lives. West opened with a memorable introduction about his reverence for Owens, describing their last phone call before the awards. “Half the conversation was just me apologizing to him for knocking off his color palette,” said West to a room of laughs. Calling Owens the Michael Jordan of American fashion, West admits he got into arguments at Paris Fashion Week about whether the States can create on the same level. “But [they] can’t say nothing about Rick Owens. He drapes for hours on end. He lives in the factory. They said, 'L.A. fashion' tonight, like it’s a compliment. It used to be a diss!" On the subject of his admiration for the designer, he added, "We never had a Rick Owens piece where we weren’t like ‘How [do] we get fabric to do this?!’ That’s what it means to be inspiring.”

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Photo by Owen Hoffmann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Owens said he was honored to share the stage with “two of the most powerful communicators on the planet,” and emphasized the more nuanced values of fashion that “speak about beautiful behavior and signal standards we want to align ourselves with.” Owens said in a later interview that he’s thrilled by shrewdness that has emerged as a result of a rapidly changing industry. “All of the machinations and calculations have been exposed, and now you see that the people who are really winning are shrewd and cynical.” Owens sees this as a positive development — even the potential for information overload. “Everything is happening so much faster than it used to — there’s a hardness to it that’s sexy.”

Designer Brandon Maxwell also looked to the future of the industry as he accepted the Fashion Star Award, urging the guests to remember their early beginnings and use their access to create positive change. “I stand here because someone else used their seat at the table to pull up a chair for me,” he said. “I ask you to look around you and identify who you will pull up a chair for. The common bond that brings us together is that we were once young people dreaming of this life of glamour and something better. Now that we are here, we cannot forget that someone just like us is waiting outside the door.”

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When asked what he’d say to those dreaming of a career in the industry, his answer was infused with hope and determination. “No matter what anybody tells you, you can be the future of fashion. Don’t stop, just keep going. The world needs young people with great ideas that are putting out dreams and happiness and joy, now more than ever.”

Photo by Owen Hoffmann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

Accepting the Trailblazer Award, Iman ruminated on the adversities she overcame when leading the charge for Black models to receive the same pay as their white counterparts. “Being both a woman and a woman of color, over the years I’ve confronted attitudes that are not just un-glamorous but very wrong. I don’t know if I’ve managed to blaze any trails, but I do know I’ve had to kick some derriere — and not just be a pretty face, but also a pretty force.”

Seeing FGI recognize these industry leaders for going against the grain, standing up for what’s right, and opening the door for a new generation is powerful stuff. Chairman James D’Adamo also announced that FGI plans to establish two new scholarships in honor of late FGI pillars, Margaret Hayes and Isabel Toledo. Getting straight to the heart of it, D’Adamo said, “Our mission is clear: It’s to unify and provide resources for the industry ... But more than that, Fashion Group is a community, and our community is global, diverse, and inclusive. Support for each other, that’s what we stand for.”

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