CFDA Fashion Awards 2016

Tilda Swinton in Haider Ackermann at the CFDA Fashion Awards in New York, New York, June 2016. Photo by Getty Images.

About an hour before the CFDA Awards ceremony kicked off, nominees, honorees and presenters tittered about the red carpet outside the Hammerstein Ballroom in midtown New York, trying to shake off the nerves - and that was before they knew Beyonce would show up to accept the Fashion Icon Award.

“I’m nervous - very, actually, that’s why I’m cranking to get in there, slam a drink, practice my words, and hopefully not make a fool of myself,” said Alexa Chung, who was presenting and arrived with Prabal Gurung.

“You always get a little nervous,” said Thom Browne, who took home the Menswear Designer of the Year award and thanked his partner Andrew Bolton in an emotional speech. “It’s always nice when people see what you do, and recognize you.” As for any good luck charms, “Just a couple glasses of champagne, “ he said--which apparently worked very well.

One person who didn’t seem nervous at all was the evening’s host, Joel McHale - though apparently he was well-prepped. “Anna [Wintour] and I went to dinner several times, lots of back and forth,” he said, then admitting, “I met her once at the Met Ball two years ago, so I hope she still likes me.”

McHale wasn’t the only one with a faux meeting with the Vogue editor. “Yes, we had lunch with her a couple times this week. She was kind of nuts, she was like, 'Blaze up, drink up, curse,'” said Broad City’s Ilana Glazer, another presenter. “She was like, 'Dance hard on your walk out.'”

Related Videos

Many of the nominees looked to their dates - conveniently, many were trained actors - for advice on their would-be acceptance speeches. “I don’t have any advice on winning,” protested Jessica Chastain, on the arm of shoe designer Paul Andrew, who would go on to win the Swarovski Award for Accessory Design. “No, okay, actually there was the Golden Globe, but most of the time I go to these things and I don’t win, so I’m probably not the person to talk to.”

“We haven’t talked about it. We’ve talked about speeches in terms of being prepared but also not wanting to jinx things,” said Zosia Mamet, who accompanied Gigi Burris on a night off from filming the last season of Girls. “I’ve been telling everybody it probably won’t hit me until this time next year when we would go back to film. The idea that it’s ending feels very surreal, not quite tangible yet. So it just feels like any other season, lovely and wonderful,” she said of wrapping the show.

Some of the duos making their way down the press line were old friends - Calvin Klein and Donna Karan, who received The Founder’s Award in Honor of Eleanor Lambert - and some were new: “We met on Twitter!” said Christian Siriano of one of his dates, Selma Blair. (His other date was Alicia Silverstone.)

A few of the pairings made you wonder if there was an upcoming collaboration or campaign in the works: Ciara and Stuart Weitzman, for example. “Being here tonight with Stuart Weitzman is amazing for me. We’ve had so much fun so far,” said Ciara in Roberto Cavalli (and Weitzman shoes, natch). “Then there’s a tribute David Bowie as well. He paved the way for us. That era of music was so special. And if it wasn’t for artists like David Bowie, the Michael [Jacksons] of the world, we wouldn’t be here doing what we’re doing.”

“Somehow I think you would be!” piped in Weitzman earnestly.

Bowie, who received the The Board of Directors’ Special Tribute Award posthumously, was the source of inspiration for many people’s looks. Beyonce in a sequin striped Givenchy suit recalled his 1973 Kansai Yamamoto bodysuit. In smart tuxedo trousers and a blouse, in combination with her hair, Tilda Swinton could have been his twin sister.

“If Bowie was a hot female DJ, this is what he’d be wearing,” said Alice & Olivia designer Stacey Bendet, gesturing to her date Mia Moretti.

A handful of the people on the carpet knew Bowie personally - some more intimately than others.

“He used to wear my clothes,” said Betsey Johnson. “And, once, David Bowie went to pee in my bathroom in my store on Melrose. That experience was like going underwater with mermaids.”