Fashioning a National Identity

The 28th annual CFDA Awards were back at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center tonight for the second year in a row, and the stars came out to support the evening's nominees. Gwyneth Paltrow arrived on the arm of Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Michael Kors, Rachel Weisz showed up with Swarovski Womenswear winner-to-be Jason Wu, and Sarah Jessica Parker wore a long dress that Sarah Burton handpicked for her to present a posthumous Board of Directors Special Tribute to Alexander McQueen.

"I was an admirer and he was aware of my affection," the actress said during cocktail hour. "He was a singular mind. How do you do him justice in a few words?" In fact, Parker's speech, for which she used no teleprompter, was powerfully moving. "There's no question his breathtaking work will endure," she said. "But I would've loved to see what he would've done next." Then, with the soundtrack from The Piano, which McQueen used for his magical Fall 2006 show, playing in the background, models glided out in his final collection.

That rather sad moment aside and despite the lack of a funny person as host, the night was long on laughs. Accepting the Fashion Icon Award, Iman, who wore Giambattista Valli, said, "I want to thank my parents for giving me the longest neck of any girl on any go-see anywhere in the world," before thanking the CFDA for "the right to finally say to my husband, 'Move over, you're not the only icon in the house.'" Anna Wintour's anecdotes about Kors were also much appreciated, especially the one in which the designer couldn't get out of the ocean in Round Hill, Jamaica, because Ralph Lauren had plopped himself down on the beach, and Kors didn't want Lauren to see him in a bathing suit. "Who would?" the Vogue editor asked. Kors, by the way, was the only winner to get a standing ovation. But Eugenia Sheppard Award honoree Kim Hastreiter of Paper received her fair share of applause when she told the crowd, "I hope the fashion world looks beyond the usual suspects. Just because you're cute, well-connected, rich, or the offspring of someone famous doesn't mean you design great stuff."

Self-made man Marc Jacobs, after what he recalled as four nominations, finally walked off with the Womenswear Designer statuette. Rag & Bone’s Marcus Wainwright and David Neville, meanwhile, beat out Tom Ford and Michael Bastian to receive the Menswear nod. Ralph Lauren nabbed the Popular Vote Award for the second year running. And Richard Chai and Alexander Wang took home the Swarovski Menswear and Accessories prizes. At the dinner after the ceremony, Wu said, "I was so nervous, I asked Rachel for advice. She told me, 'Just breathe.' I think it was her red lipstick. Red is good luck in Chinese culture."

Speaking of different cultures, as the Lincoln Center portion of the evening wound down, International Award winner Christopher Bailey of Burberry compared our fashion Oscars to the British Fashion Awards: "The sentiments are the same," he said. "But I think the Brits drink a lot more." Guess nobody told him that we save that for the Boom Boom Room after-party.