Put it down to the presence of the phenomenon that is Lady Gaga, but the CFDA Fashion Awards had a welcome sense of heightened energy this year. There weren't one, but two standing ovations, the first for Board of Directors' Special Tribute honoree Arthur Elgort and the second for Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award winner Marc Jacobs. Celebrity presenters came thick and fast and included a pregnant Jessica Alba, Gerard Butler, and Naomi Watts, the lattermost of whom gave the Womenswear Designer of the Year prize to Proenza Schouler's Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough. The $10,000-a-seat tickets raised $1.3 million for the Council of Fashion Designers of America's programs. And all that was before Lady Gaga took to the stage to receive her Fashion Icon award in staggering 12-inch platforms and a studded G-string.
Gaga arrived with her crew a few minutes into host Anderson Cooper's opening monologue, one in which the silver-haired fox revealed he was once an 11-year-old fox, complete with a portfolio full of modeling head shots that made him look like a girl from Little House on the Prairie. "I hope now you'll think of me," he said, "as not just Anderson Cooper, reporter, but as Anderson Cooper, supermodel." Eugenia Sheppard Media Award honoree Hilary Alexander of England's Daily Telegraph played her speech for giggles, too, claiming she was planning to use her statuette to exercise, "so I don't have bingo wings." Bingo wings, for those unfamiliar with the term, are saggy triceps, and a problem we doubt Iris Apfel suffers from, not with all the exercise she must get from toting the stacks of bangles she likes to wear on both forearms. "I’m a big believer in the accessory," Apfel said, before handing Alexander Wang his Accessory Designer of the Year prize.
Kanye West presented the International Award to a designer he called "one of the elite special forces in fashion," Phoebe Philo. The rapper famously wore a blouse from Philo's Spring 2011 Celine show at Coachella in April, and got "bashed by all the hip-hop blogs" for it, but that didn't stop him from singing fashion's praises. "I have to be the biggest fan of everyone in this room," he said. Speaking of fans, Swarovski Womenswear Designer of the Year Prabal Gurung made himself some new ones with a powerful speech in which he name-checked many in attendance before declaring, "For a guy from Nepal, you gave me the possibility to call my mom and tell her, 'I turned out OK,' so thank you."
Karolina Kurkova, who presented the Swarovski prizes to Gurung, Robert Geller, and Eddie Borgo, won some hearts as well, singing a few lines of Gaga's hit, "Paparazzi," and doing a bang-up job of it. "This is like KK's coming out. I'm your biggest fan," she said in the direction of the pop star, who stood up to cheer her on. After the ceremony, Kurkova didn't rule out a future music career. "I can sing really loud," she said. "It's very impressive at karaoke."
But leave it to the Lady herself, in an aqua-blue bob, to get the biggest applause of the evening during her Icon acceptance speech. When Vogue's Anna Wintour sent her a text message informing her she'd been chosen, Gaga recounted, she at first thought the text was from a different Anna and wrote back, "Yes, Bitch, we did it." After the room quieted down, the "Born This Way" singer went on to say that she tried to carry a rat into Alice Tully Hall as a tribute to New York City, but wasn't allowed to bring him in. "My rat's name is Black Jesus," she said, "And he asked me to tell everyone he said, 'Amen fashion.'"
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