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Fashion's Big Awards Show

June 18, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

Before the Council of Fashion Designers of America's (CFDA) American Fashion awards at Lincoln Center, guests walked a lengthy red carpet to a pre-party at a tent behind Avery Fisher Hall.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America's American Fashion awardsAvery Fisher Hall at Lincoln CenterThursday, 06.14.01, 6 PM onward
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Friday must have been a dead day on Seventh Avenue, because Thursday night brought New York's fashion heavies to an air kiss-filled and champagne-soaked awards show, complete with both a pre-party and an after-party. Held at Lincoln Center, the Council of Fashion Designers of America's (CFDA) American Fashion awards managed to generate a palpable feeling of excitement among one of the most jaded of New York crowds, even as the three-pronged event stretched over a period of six hours. Since 1999's disastrous event--with its marathon awards show that lasted past midnight--this event was under increased scrutiny, and it definitely delivered.

The awards brought out some of the biggest names in American fashion, including Tommy Hilfiger, Marc Jacobs, Betsey Johnson, Andy and Kate Spade (who brought along Andy's brother David), Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Cynthia Rowley, John Varvatos and Diane von Furstenberg, plus European label designers including Tom Ford, Nicholas Ghesquiere and Karl Lagerfeld. The fashion press showed up too, including Vogue's Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Talley (who managed to be both the biggest fop and the biggest person in the room, even with all those GSS security guys--he's tall), Hearst's Cathy Black, The New York Times' Cathy Horyn, CosmoGirl's Atoosa Rubenstein and new Harper's Bazaar editor Glenda Bailey, whose presence sent a number of junior fashion editors into a tizzy.

The evening started with a pre-party in a tent erected behind Avery Fisher Hall, where Restaurant Associates served a summer buffet supper, with lots of grilled vegetables, grilled chicken and beef, and large ice bars with shrimp, crab, caviar and vodka shots. Some of the small tables throughout the room also had sushi rolls, put out with small servings of wasabi and pickled ginger. (Some of the food looked like the spread Restaurant Associates put out at a recent COPE reception.) (See photos of the food...)

For the decor, Avi Adler created a kind of garden oasis using lots of different green plants (bamboo, horsetail, foxtail, cedar, tree peonies, pampas grass, euphorbias), with just a few colored flowers for accents. He also made low, square bed seats with pillows to create different mingling areas within the large space. Lots of high tables covered with shiny olive tablecloths and olive velvet-covered bar stools also helped guests balance their drinks and food. Lux Lighting used warm, pink lights to create an attractive ambiance and pale green lights to highlight some of the large tree branches. (More photos of the decor...)

(Adler has been busy--the awards came just two weeks after he created two surreal environments for the Robin Hood Foundation's gala.)

The awards ceremony (in Avery Fisher) was supposed to start at 8 PM, but at 8:05, the tent was still packed (and overheated, despite the piped-in air conditioning) when an announcement came to leave the tent and DJ Beverly Bond stopped spinning her laid-back mix of music (much of it from the 80's, like the clothes shown last season). But with the Moet flowing and the shrimp platters still coming, who wanted to go to an awards show?

So by 8:45, less than half the crowd was seated in the theater, and the air kisses were still flying. At 8:55--almost an hour late--the lights finally went down, and show host Sandra Bernhard appeared on stage with two showgirls strutting to “Viva Las Vegas.” A big hit as host last year, the sharp, sassy Bernhard joked to the crowd about 1999's fiasco, “Tonight I'm going to torture you. We're going to drag this thing out.”

Fortunately, she was lying: Producer Kevin Krier (the subject of a recent Impresario profile) and his team at Kevin Krier & Associates kept the show moving pretty smoothly (it clocked in under an hour and half), with awards presenters including models Gisele Bundchen, Naomi Campbell and Patricia Velasquez; actors Jimmy Fallon, Brendan Fraser, Heather Graham, Chris Noth and Mena Suvari; and Interview editor Ingrid Sischy. One highlight: Presenter Diana Ross told the crowd that special award recipient Bob Mackie “has been designing for me since 1968--almost 40 forty years.” (Huh?)

But the coolest part was probably the stage, a minimalist set that looked like a completely white Calvin Klein store--until Scharff Weisberg put dramatic colored lights and projections on it. The very cool effect allowed the stage to change constantly throughout the show, from a bold, solid color, to patterns, to the names of the nominees with pictures of their work.

For the after-party back in the tent--attended mostly by the younger members of the crowd--Adler cleared out most of the bars and stools, leaving more room for the crowd to walk around and dance to music from DJ Mark Ronson and a live performance from hip-hop star Usher. Restaurant Associates put out more hors d'oeuvres and a spread of tasty desserts, and party sponsor Conde Nast put out giant cubes showing iconic photos from the publisher's magazines. It was a stylish end to a stylish evening.

--Chad Kaydo

See photos of the food...

See more photos of the decor...

See more photos of the stage...

Read our profile of Kevin Krier...

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