Fine-Tuned C.F.D.A. Awards See Live Fashion Shows, Revolving Stage Set

By Jim Shi June 9, 2010, 4:00 PM EDT

With a wave of fashion-related activity set to arrive at Lincoln Center this September for Fashion Week, the Council of Fashion Designers of America solidified the emergence of fashion on campus with the sophomore staging of its annual awards at Alice Tully Hall. Attended by some 700 guests, including honorees Michael Kors, Burberry's Christopher Bailey, and supermodel Iman, Monday night's highly anticipated industry event sought to build on the look and staging of previous iterations and modify elements for a more efficient ceremony.

KCD's team, led by vice president of creative services Keith Baptista and including senior directors of production Tobi Armstrong and Jihye Song, worked alongside the C.F.D.A. to coordinate the efforts of sponsor and decor partner Swarovski, graphic design components from Laird & Partners, and the set created by scenic designer Scott Pask.

“This coming season will be the first season that Fashion Week will be at Lincoln Center, so there was a lot of attention paid to the fact that the industry is now casting its spotlight on this uptown venue,” said Armstrong, who added that the directive given to the producers was to “take all the best pieces of what worked, fine tune them, and take them up a level.”

One of the most eye-catching visuals introduced last year was the phalanx of models posed on the steps of the hall's entrance, each representing a key look from one of the three designers nominated for womenswear designer of the year. To extend this preshow installation, KCD incorporated the models into the presentation of the award later in the evening. “This was a two-pronged effort that tied the show and party directly together, because the girls seen in the stairwell were then in the final segment of the show,” Armstrong said. “It bookended the evening perfectly, because they were the first thing you saw and the last thing you saw.”

Also visually evocative was the stage set itself, which allowed the producers to continuously switch the colors and textures behind the presenters and award winners as well as create vibrant backdrops for the two live fashion shows. Shaped like Richard Serra's “Torqued Ellipse IV” sculpture, Scott Pask's scenery featured two curvilinear fabric walls around a central cylinder that were painted with different video projections for each of the ceremony's 18 segments. “This was a departure from last year's 'flown' set that was hung from the rafters,” noted Armstrong. “This year we went for a fully ground-supported set. So much of the awards show format is dominated by video, we really tried to create an unexpected and dynamic video surface.”

This change also accommodated a format that didn't include a host. According to C.F.D.A. executive director Steven Kolb, the organization wanted the show to be carried by the strength of each segment. “It has been terrific to have the C.F.D.A. Awards in a proper theater,” Kolb said. “It allowed us to create a stage show and gives us reach with our creativity. It also provides an opportunity to do live fashion, which we previously were unable to do.”

Indeed, the live fashion presentation honoring the late Alexander McQueen, who received the board of directors' special tribute award, was a big part of the show. The segment, the evening's most technical, involved 40 additional panels and a Swarovski chandelier (which itself required 12 hours to build and another 5 hours to hang) in a vignette modeled after French drawing rooms. To reveal this, the stage's central cylinder rotated on a 24-foot-diameter turntable. At the conclusion of the presentation, a video projection of McQueen waving at the end of a past show appeared on the backdrop.

Among the night's winners were womenswear designer of the year Marc Jacobs, menswear designer of the year David Neville and Marcus Wainwright of Rag & Bone, and accessories designer of the year Alexis Bittar.

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