fashion celebrates raf simons and resistance at cfda awards

From immigrant designers taking home top honours to American activists taking centre stage, this year's CFDA Awards was the most political yet.

by Hannah Ongley
07 June 2017, 10:35pm

This article was originally published by i-D UK

Like the real Oscars back in February, last night's Fashion Oscars — also known as the CFDA awards — didn't skirt around social issues. "This year, it's been even harder to separate fashion from politics," Thom Browne-clad host Seth Meyers said to warm up the crowd, before taking some requisite jabs at Ivanka Trump's fashion line, which was recently disowned by Nordstrom. 

But the real winners last night were not comedians and department stores. From the overseas-born designers who cleaned up in multiple categories to the American feminist icons and AIDS activists honoured alongside them, this year's champions of American fashion are doing far more than just making clothes. And the diverse bunch did have one thing in common — they hardly mentioned the orange man in the Oval Office.

Some of the most rousing speeches last night came during the relatively unexciting-sounding Board of Directors Tribute. Winners Gloria Steinem, Cecile Richards, and Janelle Monáe all used their stage time to thank fashion for empowering women. Steinem delivered a bit of a history lesson while advocating for reproductive rights and an intersectional approach for feminism. 

"It turns out that controlling women's bodies is the first step in order to control reproduction in every hierarchy and it's made doubly necessary by racism, and caste, and class which is why being woke is understanding that you can't be a feminist without being anti-racist, and vice versa," she said. "Now that we're trying to transcend race and gender roles, it helps to know we invented them and we can dis-invent them."

Monáe — after calling Steinem and Richards her heroes — remembered discovering fashion as a young creative kid whose parents couldn't afford to buy her fancy clothes. Monáe also delivered a powerful riff on a 1995 Hillary Clinton speech that unfortunately remains pretty urgent more than two decades later. 

"Women's rights are human rights," she said. "LGBTQ rights are human rights. Poor folks' rights are human rights. Immigrant rights are human rights. Minority rights are human rights. So as human beings, let us never forget that none of us are free until all of us are free." Richards thanked fashion for standing with Planned Parenthood and the women the who rely on it.

Other winners included Kenneth Cole, who was awarded the very first "Swarovski Award for Positive Change" for his AIDS activism. Raf Simons — the Belgian designer who reimagined Americana for his Calvin Klein debut in February — cemented his golden fashion god status by taking out Designer of the Year in the Menswear and Womenswear categories. The last person to do this was Calvin Klein himself, in 1993. 

Accessory Designer of the Year went to another overseas import: England's Stuart Vevers, for his all-American vision of Coach. Celebrating alongside him was a crew of Coach-clad activists including Sasha Lane, Hari Nef, and Rowan Blanchard, all driving home Richards's closing assertion that "looking good and doing good go hand in hand."


Text Hannah Ongley
Image via Twitter

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