Will People Outside the Fashion Industry Watch the CFDA Awards on TV?

The CFDA announced plans to broadcast the awards ceremony live on television for the first time. But do they have the audience for it?
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Kanye West presenting Pharrell with the fashion icon award at the 2015 CFDA Fashion Awards. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Kanye West presenting Pharrell with the fashion icon award at the 2015 CFDA Fashion Awards. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

On Thursday evening, the CFDA announced that, for the first time ever, the CFDA Fashion Awards would be broadcast live on television. (It has been webcast in the past.) The New York fashion industry’s governing body has partnered with The Weinstein Company to distribute the rights to air the annual ceremony, along with red carpet coverage. It’s big news that catapults this once-insider-y event closer to the level of more mainstream, entertainment-focused awards shows that have aired on major networks for decades. CFDA President and CEO Steven Kolb has said that the organization is trying to become more consumer-facing, and that its long-running CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition has become a reality TV series airing on Amazon (and, previously, Ovation). That said, could the "fashion Oscars" ever draw an audience close to the size of the real ones?

While we are certainly excited to see all our favorite fashion people in action on the small screen, and happy that they'll be given more exposure to the public, we’re not sure how eager those outside of the industry will be to see whether, like, Aurora James of Brother Vellies will beat out Paul Andrew for the Swarovski accessories award, or which awards Altuzarra, Proenza Schouler and The Row (who are all nominated for more than one) will get. To determine this, we conducted an informal poll of our friends who work outside of the industry to see whether or not they would watch. (A rep for the CFDA did not respond to our request for comment on the viewership of the CFDA Award webcasts.) The majority — 19 out of 24 — gave us a hard no, with comments like, "I'd rather read coverage of the CFDA Awards than watch yet another long, interminable awards show," "I figured it would be boring. It's just like the technical and sound awards for the Oscars/ it's never televised," and, "You're assuming I know what CFDA stands for." We got two yes’s from big fashion fans who work in other industries, and a few maybes with caveats: One said she'd watch if there were a live performance of some sort. Another said she would consider watching “if it can guarantee people show up wearing crazy shit, a la Met Ball, or Rihanna [in 2014]." A couple of others pointed out that a lot would depend on the marketing.

Rihanna wearing "crazy shit" (by Adam Selman) at the 2014 CFDA Awards with Anna Wintour. Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Rihanna wearing "crazy shit" (by Adam Selman) at the 2014 CFDA Awards with Anna Wintour. Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Indeed, marketing would be key to educate people on the show’s existence, remind them when and where it airs, and make it look entertaining. The host, who has not yet been announced, will have to be good (and ideally funny) and so will the celebrities in attendance. While the event typically pulls a number of models and stylish actresses like Diane Kruger and Taraji P. Henson, its going to have to up the ante for live television — and with the increased visibility that brings, it should be able to. Appearances by the likes of Kanye West, who presented last year's fashion icon award, and Kim Kardashian would not be out of the question, and who doesn't love them?

It’s fascinating for us to watch designers and industry figures talk and emote since we typically only ever see them waving at the end of a runway, so we'll definitely be watching. But will you?

See all the CFDA Award nominees here and who we think should win this year's fashion icon award here.

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