Last night, basically every major player in the American fashion industry (no hyperbole here) and many a celebrity descended upon Spring Studios in New York City to attend the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund awards dinner. The Fund, which started in 2003 as an initiative to help support young designers in a dire economy, turned 10 this year, a milestone that lent the evening’s festivities an extra buzz of excitement and celebration.
Guests, all dressed to the nines -- seriously, there wasn’t a bad outfit in the house, and only one spotting of practical tights! -- mingled with champagne flutes in hand, posing for pictures and occasionally partaking in the teeniest, Zoolander-esque hors d'oeuvres proffered by the handsomest waiters we’ve ever seen. Anna Wintour and Diane Von Furstenberg stood side-by-side at the entrance, personally greeting arrivals including Allison Williams, Ashley Olsen and Orlando Bloom with air kisses.
But of course this wasn’t strictly a party. It was also the culmination of a grueling competition that’s been months in the making. We spoke to former Fashion Fund winner Alexander Wang (who tied for most awesomely dressed-down with Vogue’s Grace Coddington, both of whom sported a uniform of black pants, black tops and sneakers, hers of the so-hot-right-now slip-on variety). He reflected back on his own night of edgy anticipation in 2008: “I was freaking out,” he told us. “But the key is to bring a date that you’re very comfortable with and who you just feel at ease around. At this point, you don’t want really want to think about the competition and just want to have a good time.”
At 9 p.m. sharp, the awards ceremony kicked off with an introduction by both Wintour and Von Furstenberg, followed by a keynote speech from Tom Ford, who was introduced by a very sparkly, Ford-clad Julianne Moore (more on that later today). After that, director Baz Luhrmann took the stage for a hot second -- he was popping in from the Glamour Women of the Year awards, where his wife, Catherine Martin, was being honored -- and screened a video tribute to Wintour’s 25 years at Vogue, in which her peers threw out words to the camera like “maternal” and “kind” to describe the real woman behind what the public perceives to be an icy demeanor.
Finally, it was go time, or as Wintour put it, “time to stop torturing the nominees." Ford and Moore returned to the mic to announce the second runner-up, French-born fine jewelry designer Marc Alary, whose whimsical collection of animal trinkets in gold and precious stones actually have moving parts(!).
First runner-up honors went to Juan Carlos Obando, a second-time Fund nominee (the first was in 2008), who specializes in what we’ll call yacht-chic evening wear, such as sweeping halter dresses in vibrant colors cut from sumptuous silks.
Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osbourne of Public School took home the big prize of the night for their men’s line Public School, an uber-cool hybrid of sportswear and suiting that manages to be both masculine and fashion-y at once. During the duo’s acceptance speech, Osbourne got a chuckle from the crowd when he thanked his tablemate Tommy Hilfiger for giving him his start in fashion by hiring him in his store years ago.
Chow and Osbourne will receive $300,000 in funding; the runners-up will each get $100,000. All will be assigned a business mentor in the industry.
The winners were selected from a pool of 10 contestants total, who included Veronica Swanson Beard and Veronica Miele Beard of Veronica Beard, Misha Nonoo of Nonoo, Shimon and Ariel Ovadia of Ovadia & Sons, Jason Jones of Parabellum, Tim Coppens, Todd Snyder and Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin of Tome.
So there you have it. And as far as what the future holds? CFDA CEO Steven Kolb put it this way, when we asked about his birthday wish for the Fund: “To continue to be successful in our fundraising, so that on our 50th anniversary we can continue to support a new generation of designers.” Hear, hear.