Seeking to reflect and respect the organization’s next wave of design talent, technological innovations—including the incorporation of architectural video mapping—and a vibrant color scheme marked this year's Council of Fashion Designers of America Fashion Awards on Monday. In the process, the $10,000-a-seat black-tie affair, hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper (a change from last year’s no-host format) and attended by 700 guests, raised $1.3 million for the C.F.D.A.’s various programs.
For the event (held once again at Alice Tully Hall), KCD’s team, led by president and partner Julie Mannion and vice president of production Jihye Song, worked alongside C.F.D.A. executive director Steven Kolb and event director Karen Peterson to coordinate the efforts of 10-year sponsor and decor partner Swarovski, graphic design components from Laird & Partners, and a set created by scenic designer Scott Pask.
Although the concept of video mapping has become a much-buzzed-about technique in events—Ralph Lauren and YouTube used the technology at gatherings last year—the novelty also meant the potential for challenges to arise. And while the award ceremony flowed smoothly and had a sharp uptick in energy level this year, there were some minor tech glitches, most noticeably when the audio and video weren't in sync.
The digital visuals for the show, conceived by curator and writer Neville Wakefield and directed by Hunter Lee Soik of the Wardenclyffe Institute, offered a new twist on a format that typically doesn’t change year to year. According to show producers, who were keen to “test it out and see,” the idea was to create something unexpected. The organizers mapped all the video projections to a three-dimensional backdrop, a structure that stood 41 feet wide, 24 feet deep, and 22 feet tall at its highest point.
Pask, who started preparations in March, took a more linear and modular approach to the set, while working with the limited grid space of the auditorium. The idea was, as he described it, to craft a “dynamic piece to serve as a palette to be painted upon.” The result was five lightweight aluminum-framed pieces, each wrapped in white muslin. “This year I wanted to redefine what we’ve been doing, but still maintain the self-sustaining idea of this object in the space,” he said of the large units, each individually placed to form sharp corners and erected overnight on the Friday before the awards.
Additionally, the set, which replaced last year's composition of curves with a constructivist assemblage of planes, was designed specifically to enhance the projections. “As the space was constantly changing, the challenge was how to creatively explore what a video projection surface can be while creating the perception of depth,” Pask noted. “It was a definite creative challenge.” In fact, the only time the forms physically moved was during the Marc Jacobs presentation, when the center panel slid stage right to reveal models on a castered platform. “The planes were made to look very deep when in fact they are very shallow,” he said. “It’s a false perspective in a theatrical way.”
The effect was stunning, with award categories like Womenswear Designer of the Year highlighted by moving images with a 3-D effect. However, while the video mapping created more movement for the onstage content, it remains to be seen if the team will revisit the technology for next year's event.
Also of note was the new approach to the affair's colors, shapes, and forms. In a sense, show producers started from scratch to incorporate an all-new color and sensory experience, reflected in everything from the chartreuse invitations and purple arrivals carpet to the bright green lounge sofas placed in the lobby and the neon pinks and purples woven into the graphic treatment of the step-and-repeat.
Following the awards, guests made their way to two after-parties. Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement award winner Marc Jacobs hosted a dinner at the Monkey Bar, which was followed by V magazine's bash at the Top of the Standard, which featured a performance by Fashion Icon award winner Lady Gaga.