Celebrating with the CFDA

“Tonight is the night where designers celebrate designers,” CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg said as she opened the organization’s annual awards ceremony, “And this is what American fashion is all about.”

It turns out that celebrating American fashion is also a heavily emotional endeavor. Things kicked off with a heartfelt tribute to Ruth Finley, the creator of the fashion calendar and this year’s recipient of the CFDA’s Board of Directors Tribute, and were quickly followed by a series of standing ovations and plenty of tears: Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen touchingly dedicated their award for Accessories Designer of the Year to their friend, the recently deceased designer Jay Ott; Raf Simons choked up while accepting the award for International Design (fortunately, his date for the evening, the French actress Marion Cotillard, was there to comfort him); and Naomi Campbell cried while presenting the legendary model and agent Bethann Hardison with the Founder’s Award (“Bethann is like my mother,” Campbell said. “I call her mom.”). Even an Adam Selman-clad Rihanna, who received the Fashion Icon award for her energetic, inventive style, took the celebration seriously. “I can compensate for all of my weaknesses with fashion,” she said. “I grew up in a really small island. I didn’t have a lot of access to fashion, but as far as I could remember fashion has always been my defense mechanism. Even as a child, I remember thinking ‘She can beat me, but she cannot beat my outfit.’”

But, it wasn’t all heavy. How could it be with actor (and W contributor) John Waters serving as the evening’s host? After jokingly pitching a post-Normcore fashion line to the captive audience, he suggested fashion should become more expensive. (How else are designers supposed to afford luxury vacations? was the justification.) He was also one of three people to dance during the ceremony—Bethann Hardison got her groove on to Nicki Minaj on stage, while Richard Buckley couldn’t contain his excitement when presenting his husband Tom Ford with the Lifetime Achievement award before joking that it was, in fact, he who deserved the honor, not his partner. Womenswear and Accessories Designer of the Year nominee Alexander Wang also brought a lighthearted touch to the evening, bringing the actor Chris Kattan in character as Saturday Night Live’s Mango as his date. “I’m going to find a way to get nominated,” Mango confessed before the show. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I am. Perhaps in the category of best fellatio.”

Watch some of the evening’s highlights in the video below and see the best red carpet looks here.

Womenswear designer of the year: Joseph Altuzarra for Altuzarra

Menswear designer of the year: Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne for Public School

Accessory designer of the year: Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen for The Row

Swarovski award for menswear: Tim Coppens, Swarovski award for womenswear: Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters for Creatures of the Wind, and Swarovski award for Accessories: Irene Neuwirth