C.F.D.A. Awards Takes More Serious Tone at 50th Anniversary

By Jim Shi June 6, 2012, 3:26 PM EDT

A digital projection screen was incorporated in a three-dimensional, 38- by 19-foot box that spanned the width of the stage. The piece was cantilevered 6.5 feet off the floor, with ground support from behind.

Photo: Joe Schildhorn/

Council of Fashion Designers of America's Awards
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Content was king at Monday night's 50th anniversary Council of Fashion Designers of America awards gala, where the trademark extravagance of the black-tie affair's previous iterations was eschewed in favor of a clean and classic format.

For the event at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, KCD's team—led by president and partner Julie Mannion and creative consultant Nian Fish—worked alongside C.F.D.A.'s C.E.O., Steven Kolb, to coordinate the efforts of 11-year sponsor and decor partner Swarovski, graphic design components from Laird & Partners, and a set created by scenic designer Scott Pask. This year's ceremony also marked the first year in recent memory that former KCD staffer (and now Prodject founder) Keith Baptista did not work on the event.

While the last two years saw such undertakings as a revolving stage set shaped like Richard Serra's “Torqued Ellipse IV” sculpture and architectural video mapping, a retrospective fashion show and live serenade by the Princeton Footnotes to introduce Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, Tommy Hilfiger, were the night's only two—and relatively simplistic—productions. Swarovski's presence was visible in the crystal podium and four Glitterbox Floor Lamps by Georg Baldele for Swarovski Crystal Palace erected in the lobby.

Although the C.F.D.A. declined to comment on the reasoning behind the more formal show this year, Pask explained that his approach was to celebrate the content format. “The idea was to let the content be what the evening was about so that the tributes are really present and really visible.”

The central focus of this year's awards was a hovering white box made of steel and aluminum that was cantilevered in a “black void” on stage with a scrolling logo on its dimensional surface. According to Pask, the concept referenced minimalist sculptures in the style of Donald Judd. “With content as the driving force behind what the shape of the set is, the shape evolved from being a film screen to have a dynamic quality to it to show it has greater depth,” said Pask. “Whether to go over the top or not go over the top was never discussed.” In fact, the floor of the stage this year—with the build of a black plexiglass surface and choral platform riser across the front—was much more developed than in year's past.

The screen was used in the night's opening act—a fashion show of nearly four dozen archival pieces from a cross section of the C.F.D.A.'s 400-plus members. During the presentation, a short film directed by Zoe Cassavetes entitled 50 Years of the CFDA and inspired by Richard Avedon's 1969 portraits of Andy Warhol and members of the Factory played.

As per usual, the event drew big names, including celebrities like Kate Bosworth, Dakota Fanning, Victor Cruz, director John Waters (who accepted the awards for no-shows Johnny Depp and Rei Kawakubo), and the night's host Seth Meyers, who mingled with fashion industry bigwigs such as council president Diane von Furstenberg and winners Reed Krakoff, Joseph Altuzarra, and Phillip Lim. Following the award presentation, guests filed out of the auditorium for dinner, heading to the Monkey Bar, where Hilfiger celebrated his honor, and then a C.F.D.A. Fashion Awards Swarovski after-party at the Top of the Standard.

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