Since Ben Stiller played a rookie security guard in the 2006 flick Night at the Museum, which takes place at Manhattan’s American Museum of Natural History, spending some after-hours time with its larger-than-life replicas has been an enticing proposition. On Monday night, the CFDA put a wildlife spin on its yearly award ceremony by moving the event uptown to the iconic New York institution. Newly appointed CFDA Chairman Thom Browne was hosting the awards for the first time and was responsible for the new location, which was attended by the crème of American designers and their celebrity dates.

Gwyenth Paltrow – CFDA

CEO Steven Kolb spoke to about the new venue choice for the CFDA Fashion Awards presented by Amazon Fashion, which was also just steps from a solidarity rally New York Federation of the UJA, which drew 10,000 people to its “Unite for Israel” gathering (in contrast, the day started with a protest at the Statue of Liberty attended by 500, including artist Nan Goldin demanding a ceasefire organized by the Jewish Voice for Peace NYC.) The UJA event took place at the edge of Central Park, a few blocks up from the museum, causing the organizers of the awards to disperse maps with open routes and QR codes for vehicle entry.
“Thom wanted something iconic to New York that had an entrance with a grand staircase,” the executive said of the decision to hold the ceremony announced in September. “We knew about the rally Friday as we were informed by museum security. We had to be sensitive to everything around the war,” he said, adding, “The speeches are heartfelt and acknowledge the current state of the world very much. We are here to celebrate our industry’s culture and creativity, but what better way to comfort ourselves than around our art.”
Indeed, the guests who arrived at the museum entry greeted by the Barosaurus were decked out in their choice dress, fulfilled by the directive of ‘American cocktail chic.’ Nominees and honorees such as Gwyneth Paltrow wore a black turtleneck and satin gown skirt; Demi Moore shined sparkling in a silver Carolina Herrera dress; Chloe Sevigny, in a shocking yellow gown; Kim Kardashian, in a backless form-fitting gown stopped to chat with Ashley Graham and La La Anthony; Serena Williams, posed in Thom Browne with Karlie Kloss, and Anne Hathaway, on target in a denim bustier and coordinating gown skirt; mugged for cameras before making their way into the cocktail hour taking place in the elephant atrium where Dennis Basso and Martha Stewart chatted underneath replicas of the mighty beasts.

Kim Kardashian presents award to Serena Williams – CFDA caught up with Cate Holstein of KHAITE just before she would win American Womenswear Designer of the Year, presented to her by Hathaway and Narciso Rodriguez for a second year. She was sporting a sculptural gold necklace with a single massive stone dangling. “It’s the first time I have worn a necklace in 10 years. It’s so well made and with a unique point of view,” she said of fellow nominee Ana Khouri’s design worn under an oversized KHAITE blazer jacket dress. Holstein has changed a lot since winning her first CFDA award for the same category last year.

“I was about six months pregnant last year. Since then, we acquired a CEO around the same time I gave birth. Now, I can really focus on creative expression, which is where my true value is, and embrace motherhood. I have this beautiful son and work with my husband, who does the retail,” she explained, adding that a retail expansion plan is underway.
Motherhood has skewed her aesthetic, but in a good way. “The clothes always had an ease to them, but now even more so since becoming a mother. It goes back to what you put on in the morning. There are more separates to dress in what you feel truly comfortable in,” she continued. They must also be ready for life’s unexpected moments with the baby. “I joke that you know you are a mom when your baby spits up on you, and you don’t even wipe it off,” she laughed.
She has been busy dressing her son in the new KHAITE X Bonpoint collaboration, joking that baby clothes are her new shopping addiction. She had some sage advice for women, particularly the highly driven Manhattanite who forgoes family for career. “Having children is what life is all about; I didn’t know this before. I was always really into work. I didn’t know if this was for me, especially as it’s a lot of New York women’s experience. It’s a great perspective, as he is the true love of my life,” she reflected.

Mara Hoffman and son Joaquin – CFDA

Another honoree was celebrating her son, too. In this case, Mara Hoffman was with her school-age son Joaquin in tow to accept her Environmental Sustainability Award presented by Rosario Dawson. She quipped they had just spent a night in the museum, part of a special event the institution offers.
“When I started 23 years ago, I didn’t even know what the word sustainability meant. No one was speaking about it in the context of fashion; it took years to enter the lexicon,” she said. She began a full reset to make her brand fully sustainable in 2015. She encourages others to follow.
“It’s one of the more worthy things you can do on this planet in the space of fashion; it’s the only thing to do. It doesn’t have to destroy you or your brand to do it. Some versions can be done at every level,” she said, adding, “There is zero excuse if you have the access and the resources; it is their responsibility to do more and support those who don’t. You have to do something; even on a small level, there are things you can do.”
Other notable award presenters and recipients include J Balvin and Greg Lauren to Willy Chavarria for the American Menswear Designer of the Year award, Ayo Edebiri and Prabal Gurung who announced Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen of The Row as the American Accessory Designer of the Year; Charles Melton and Zac Posen presented the Shop with Google American Emerging Designer of the Year award to Rachel Scott of Diotima; Serena Williams was named Fashion Icon, presented by Kardashian; Moore, introduced by Amazon Fashion President, Muge Erdirik Dogan, gave the Innovation Award to goop, with Founder and CEO Gwyneth Paltrow; Vanessa Hudgens presented the Board of Directors’ Tribute to Vera Wang; Naomi Watts presented Alina Cho with the Media Award in honor of Eugenia Sheppard. The Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Maria Cornejo by Laura Linney; The Founder’s Award in honor of Eleanor Lambert was presented to Domenico De Sole by Tom Ford; Greta Lee gave the International Award to Jonathan Anderson for JW Anderson and LOEWE. Notable program highlights included 50th-year tributes to Hip Hop Music video director Hype Williams, introduced by Mary J. Blige, and to Stephen Burrows concerning the Battle of Versailles, who was remembered by Bethann Hardison and Pat Cleveland.
Jeweler Ana Khouri arrived wearing a stunning diamond pave chunky chain necklace with huge rubellite, a bit overwhelmed by the honor to be nominated in the accessories category as it’s rare for a jeweler to be included among the leather goods designers.

Ana Khouri – CFDA

I’m just so happy to have a jewelry designer nominated, not just me but the category being recognized. I’ve been working to stay true to my vision of design and craftsmanship on the idea of what high jewelry should be; what do we want to wear today? she said. The sculptor turned jewelry has honed in on her work to be limited edition and noted the US has been her most significant market. “My designs empower the woman. It’s not about the jewelry dressing them but the shape and form molding to her body,” she added.
As the final guests made their way to the seated dinner, a few nominees enjoyed the ‘second’ Red Carpet line, casually chatting to guests and the press. Colm Dillane of KidSuper, nominated for his second menswear award, called out over the atrium to a guest wearing his design, saying, “Hey, I designed that!” Stuart Vevers, who arrived with his husband, chatted about their recent Halloween experience on their festive West 78th  Street block. “There is no strategy; I’m just here to have fun and be a part of the New York fashion community.” However, the designer has had tremendous success with the Coach Tabby bag recently. This was Vevers’ ninth nomination, and he had previously won once in the past.
Menswear winner Willy Chavarria said it was an honor to be recognized by peers, while two award nominee Raul Lopez of Luar for both womenswear and accessories said he was so ‘F’ing stoked to be there.’
“I am so excited I feel like a rock star but nervous because it’s also a lot of my friends who are competing and it gets in my head,” he said adding excitedly to a ‘what’s next’ query. “Next year I want to take over the world.” 

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