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A Museum Show and a Martini

The CFDA Toasts Its 50th Anniversary

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Steven Kolb, George Sharp, and Kate Winslet   
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CFDA chief executive officer Steven Kolb was standing just inside the doors of the Museum at FIT last night, greeting designers and directing them onto the red carpet. "Some of them are shy. They don't really want to go that way. But it's not just Vera and Diane's moment to shine, it's everybody's," he said. If anything came to light at the opening night of Impact: 50 Years of the CFDA, it was the star-making turn the half-century-old organization has taken in recent years.

"Early on, the meetings were really just an excuse to have a martini and go to lunch," Kolb explained. "But now fashion has become this pop culture phenomenon, and people want access, so we've evolved from an insular trade group to a consumer-facing organization." As Michael Kors put it, "Everyone wants to crash the party." The martini drinking is being done after dark these days, in the company of stars like Kate Winslet, who arrived on the arm of St. John's George Sharp amid a flurry of popping flashbulbs.

At some point, most everyone made it from the buzzing ground floor to the basement, where looks from 70 designers told the story of the last few decades. Reed Krakoff was paying his second visit of the day, having attended that morning's preview. "I'm familiar with most of it, like all of us, but to see it at one time this way shows how it happened historically—that gave it a new twist," he said, adding that the opportunity to say hi to childhood heroes like Alexander Julian and Norma Kamali was an extra bonus.

Maria Cornejo pointed out that today's American designers are comparing themselves not to Europeans but to each other. Case in point: "I'm really pleased," she said, "because my piece got put next to a Rick Owens."

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