The 2023 CFDA Fashion Awards went uptown on Monday night, where fashion industry power players and their celebrity guests mixed and mingled in celebration of this year’s honorees and winners. 

The VIP guests were plentiful, including Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian, Gwyneth Paltrow, Anne Hathaway, Demi Moore, Chloe Sevigny, Mary J. Blige, Greta Lee, Chase Stokes, Lil Yachty, Ayo Edebri, Lakeith Stanfield, Naomi Watts, Lola Tung, J Balvin, Charles Melton, Karlie Kloss and many many more. Travis Kelce, rumored to be attending, sadly did not make an appearance. 

The new location came with some awkward logistical negotiations, as guests weren’t quite sure of where to go upon arrival: celebrities and designers were escorted to the red carpet, the rest of the entrance hall proved an impromptu mingling space, while the proper cocktail hour was across the hall into a dark exhibit room with a dramatic elephant centerpiece. Bites of caviar and sticks of broccoli were passed about, as were champagne coupes; the museum’s animal displays remained lit, giving a rather eccentric backdrop to American fashion’s big night.

The museum space was welcomed by some, questioned by others. “With the dinosaur?” Nina Dobrev asked a photographer who requested a photo, before she gamely posed next to the skeleton.

“I’ve always wanted to go to something under the whale and I’m excited just to go party under the whale,” said Bach Mai, a two-time nominee for Emerging Designer of the Year.

Puppets and Puppets designer Carly Mark, also nominated in that category, noted that just being in the room was an honor. “I feel really honored because the people voting are the people that I look up to in the industry,” she said. “Everyone in the room works so hard, and everyone in my category works so hard, so it’s really a win already just being here.” 

“It’s the biggest honor to be appreciated by your peers,” said Willy Chavarria, up for menswear designer of the year. The designer brought musicians Rauw Alejandro and Tokischa. “They’re both wearing Willy Chavarria, both in their own unique way,” added the designer.

Hari Nef, dressed in JW Anderson, was the guest of Jonathan Anderson, the year’s International Designer winner. 

“He was changing the way that I thought about clothes in high school, looking at his collections online. And the fact that we found each other in all of this fashion stuff and mind melded in the way that we have, you just don’t always get that around here,” Nef said. “And this feels warm and sweet and I’m really proud of him tonight.”

Thom Browne, the CFDA’s new chairman, was behind many of the nights’ ensembles, including Fashion Icon honoree Serena Williams, Lil Yachty, Emma Chamberlain and Cynthia Erivo, who gave an award-worthy acting performance of posing with her look. 

Gwyenth Paltrow was dressed in G Label by Goop to accept her innovation award. “It’s very validating,” said Paltrow of being honored by the CFDA. “It’s such a respected organization, and to be acknowledged and awarded for our contribution, especially in the innovation space, feels very cool.”

Vera Wang, who was being honored with the Board of Directors’ Tribute, walked the carpet with Vanessa Hudgens. “I feel so honored, I can’t explain it. At this stage in my career it’s still wonderful to receive any kind of accolade from your peers,” said Wang of the recognition. “So I’m really excited. I just hope I can get through my speech.”

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