As I've said before in these pages, the annual awards ceremony held by the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) is a little bit like going to see your favorite indie rock band perform at Radio City. On one hand, you're ecstatic they've found the kind of success they always deserved. On the other hand, you miss being part of the small crowd at Cake Shop cheering them on. Maybe with a free beer even. There is no free beer at the CFDA Awards. There is champagne, however, which should provide some consolation for fans like me of the Swarovski Award winners (aka the indies): Tim Hamilton for menswear, Alexander Wang for womenswear and Justin Giunta (of Subversive Jewelry) for accessories. If you could (albeit barely) afford them now, just wait till you see the prices on their Spring 2010 collections. Oof.
Of course Alexander Wang has become something of a cult designer in New York and L.A., so his recognition wasn't wholly a surprise — though his laid-back attitude about the event rather was (boyfriend wore shorts and claimed to have forgotten the awards were even that day when he woke up). It should be said, however, that he beat out Jason Wu for his prize — Jason Wu of "I dress Michelle Obama" fame.
And speaking of Michelle Obama, she graciously accepted the Board of Director's Special Tribute for her outstanding style and support of under-the-radar designers (like, oh, non-winner Jason Wu, who by that point was probably chugging champagne somewhere). Granted, she accepted by video, but everyone felt all warm and fuzzy regardless. Come to think of it, there seems to be an increasing number of feel-good awards at the CFDAs of late. There's already the (slightly vague) International Award (Marc Jacobs this year) and the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award (whose career is now officially behind them? Anna Sui, apparently). Now this year adds another one to the roster: The "Popular Award" — as opposed to the "People's Choice," which probably sounded too tacky and text-to-win-ish — which went to the most over-exposed designer in America, Ralph Lauren. Rah-rah consumerism!
But behind all the puffed-up prizing, too-cool-for-school youngsters and Jack McCollough's nose finally being healed after his run-in with Kiefer Sutherland (I'm still laughing about that one) was a truly spectacular win: Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte took home the top prize for womenswear, beating out serious heavy-hitters like Marc Jacobs and Narciso Rodriguez. The Mulleavy sisters have been the darlings of fashion insiders and editors for quite some time, but have still managed to stay relatively low-key — avoiding super star mishaps like broken noses, tell-all articles and Twitter wars. For that we say: Bravo, you two. We'll keep saving up for those dresses.