To people in the industry, the CFDA Awards is like the Oscars. And this year, some of my favorite Black designers took home the biggest honors.
“It’s not about the clothes. It’s about telling a story that makes someone look at something in a different way,” Mr. Day, better known as Dapper Dan, said during cocktails before being presented with the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award. And what a life it has been.
An innovator from Harlem whose early designs repurposed — “sampled” seems an apt word in this context — the logo-centric codes of European luxury labels for consumers that historically had scant access to the real thing, he was once pursued by legal gunslingers for big luxury brands brandishing cease-and-desist orders.
All but hounded out of the business, he suddenly found himself a cynosure when Alessandro Michele of Gucci cannily concluded that, rather than sue him as a bootlegger, Mr. Michele ought to see him as a collaborator.
Now he has a silver statuette signifying the embrace of an industry that not long ago shunned him. “My ninth-grade teacher taught me,” he said, “that the essence of genuine aesthetics is taking something familiar apart and putting it back together so people can see it different.”Guy Trebay
The singer Ciara presented Telfar Clemens of Telfar the award for accessories designer of the year. And when the Korean actress HoYeon Jung finally managed to wrestle open the envelope and read out the name of the American emerging designer of the year, there were whoops of joy for its surprise recipient, Edvin Thompson of Theophilio, an immigrant from Jamaica.
A young Black designer, Christopher John Rogers, may have been shocked into near-incoherence when he reached the podium to receive his award as women’s wear designer of the year. (“I really didn’t expect this,” he said — with perhaps an excess of modesty given that he is a past Vogue Fashion Fund winner and a reliable awards-night favorite.)
More important, his success in a field he entered after failing to find work as a waiter is seemingly as assured as the theatrical designs he produces for everyone from Lil Nas X to Michelle Obama and has sold to both Bergdorf Goodman and Target.Guy Trebay
Oh, and did I mention that Zendaya Zendaya was awarded Fashion Icon of the Year. Obviously.