Designer Raf Simons of Calvin Klein scored a rare double win at fashion’s glittery awards ceremony on Monday, winning both womenswear and menswear honours at the annual Council of Fashion Designers of America awards.
The ceremony, hosted by Seth Meyers, had an activist bent this year, reaching outside the industry to honour feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards, and actress Janelle Monae for their involvement in the Women’s March on Washington in January. The three were presented with the Board of Director’s Special Tribute by designer Diane von Furstenberg, who said they had “epitomised and crystallised” the march.
In her remarks, Steinem, a harsh critic of President Donald Trump, said the country is experiencing “a time of hope but also of danger.”
“There is backlash from Trump to terrorists against the kind of equality and understanding and simple humanity that we strive for,” Steinem said. “So like a woman leaving a violent household, who is then most likely to be injured or killed because she is escaping control, we too are escaping control. We have to be careful and look out for each other.”
“Now there is more activism than I have ever seen in my lifetime,” she added. “Maybe we are about to be free.”
Simons, formerly of Dior, has made a huge splash in American fashion since arriving at Calvin Klein at the beginning of the year. The Belgian designer presented his debut collection for Calvin Klein in February, to rave reviews. That show was not without social commentary. It opened and closed, pointedly, with the David Bowie song, “This is not America.”
“If we as creatives can be an inspiration for how the world should look,” Simons said in his speech Monday night, “I think that it’s something we should take as a very important task.” Actress Nicole Kidman presented him with the womenswear award.
Other celebrity presenters included actresses Kerry Washington and Mandy Moore, and singer Jon Bon Jovi.
Richards, speaking after Steinem, earned cheers from the crowd when she said, “health care isn’t a privilege, it’s a fundamental human right.”
“The fashion industry has long celebrated bodily autonomy and free expression and the right of every person to live their life on their own terms,” she said. “In this moment, at a time when these principles are being threatened like never before, you are rising up to fight back.”
And in a nod to the extremely fashionable crowd of designers and celebrities, Richards thanked the CFDA for “proving that looking good and doing good go hand in hand.”
Monae, recalling the march in Washington, said she was “reminded of all of those faces that I saw ... young, old, gay, straight. I saw different religious backgrounds, it didn’t matter because they were together as human beings, and that’s the one thing that left with me.”
Monae closed by asking the crowd to “speak out against the sexism, the racism, the homophobia, the Islamophobia, and all those things that are constantly trying to divide us.”
In other awards, the Swarovski award for emerging talent went to Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia of the Monse label. They also are the designers of Oscar de la Renta. Accessory designer of the year went to Stuart Vevers of Coach.
Kenneth Cole won an inaugural Swarovski award for positive change, and the fashion icon award — which in the past has gone to names like Rihanna and Beyonce — was given posthumously to Franca Sozzani, the former editor in chief of Italian Vogue, who died in December. Vogue editor Anna Wintour choked back tears as she presented the award, which was accepted by Sozzani’s son, Francesco Carrozzini.
Designer Rick Owens won a lifetime achievement award, and makeup artist Pat McGrath won a founder’s award.