Another spring, another awards season for the Council of Fashion Designers of America. We always look forward to this announcement, and yet we always walk away from the press release disappointed. Why? Well, because year after year, it all just feels the same and it's gotten to the point where we feel we could pick out the nominees, blindfolded and drunk, and probably get them right about 90% of the time. But first, the nominees.
In case you haven't heard, the group, whose prez is none other than that lullaby-talking Diane Von Furstenberg, has announced the following nominations for 2008: [Note: The Swarovski awards recognize emerging design talent.]
Womenswear Designer of the Year Swarovski Award for Womenswear
Francisco Costa (Calvin Klein) Kate & Laura Mulleavy (Rodarte)
Lazaro Hernandez & Jack McCollough (Proenza Schouler) Thakoon Panichgul (Thakoon)
Marc Jacobs Alexander Wang
Menswear Designer of the Year Swarovski Award for Menswear
Thom Browne Patrik Ervell
Michael Bastian Tim Hamilton
Tom Ford Scott Sternberg (Band of Outsiders)
Accessory Designer of the Year Swarovski Award for Accessory Design Tory Burch Philip Crangi
Marc Jacobs Justin Giunta (Subversive Jewelry)
Michael Kors Joy Gryson
Well, congratulations to all the winners. Then again, we're sure they've heard it all before. Actually, they have. Let's take a quick, two-year trip down memory lane, just with the marquee awards.
CFDA Nominees 2007 CFDA Nominees 2006
Oscar de la Renta Francisco Costa (Calvin Klein)
L. Hernandez and J. McCollough (Proenza Schouler) L. Hernandez and J. McCollough (PS)
Marc Jacobs Marc Jacobs
Steven Cox and Daniel Silver (Duckie Brown) Thom Browne
Ralph Lauren Ralph Lauren
Italo Zucchelli (Calvin Klein) Alexandre Plokhov (Cloak)
Accessory Designer of the Year: Accessory Designer of the Year:
Marc Jacobs Marc Jacobs
Michael Kors Michael Kors
Derek Lam Tom Binns
Notice anything? Like maybe the fact that the nominees in the
womenswear category have remained virtually unchanged (with the
exception of Oscar de la Renta) for the past three years? Or that Michael Kors (pictured, right, doing his Project Runway duties) and Marc Jacobs have been the accessory designer of the year nominees for three years running, as well? The only thing that seems to have changed much at all is the men's category.
In his statement regarding this year's nominees, CFDA executive director Steven Kolb lauds the way in which "this year's nominees and honorees reflect the strength and vitality of the American fashion industry."
Really? It seems to us that it suggests the industry is rather stagnant, with only the same three names worthy of distinction in each of the categories. And let's not forget that chief among those names, Mr. Marc Jacobs, seemed poised, only a season ago, to take his whole operation to Paris. But we digress.
In essence, it would seem that the CFDA nominations this year, and as we've demonstrated above, the past several years, prove that American fashion is a pretty rarified echelon in which only a standard round of top names compete for industry prizes. For an industry where the bread and butter is creativity, the stagnancy (why does that word keep coming to us?) of the nominations list seems to imply a less thoughtful approach. That said, if asked which designers we thought were tops in American design, we'd be hard pressed to come up with a different list. Perhaps the fault then, dear readers, is not within the CFDA nominating committee but within our American fashion selves.
It's hard for American designers—hell, for ANY designers—to become established like these award winners anymore, given the difficulties of getting funding and the fact that we live in a world that no longer seems to care about the development of talent as much as they do about constantly having something new, something chic, and something with a name that others will recognize. To that end, CFDA (and Vogue) are to be commended for their work to bring notoriety to new design labels, as they have with Proenza Schouler, who now top the ranks of their regular awards, having graduated from the Swarovski Award for Womenswear. But it's hard to see any kind of sea change in American fashion coming—and perhaps no one wants it—given that these guys are always at the top of the list for women's design.
And full disclaimer: This post is not a statement, by Fashion Notebook, that we think any of the nominated designers aren't talented, or are not worthy of awards. Rather, it is a statement that we've seen these same people getting awards and nominations for years, and we're wondering why there's no one else in the American fashion ring worthy of such distinction by the CFDA.