CFDA Awards or Bust

Tom Ford, Raf Simons, Bethann Hardison, and more honored on American fashion's biggest night


John Waters   
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Cocktail hour went on longer than usual at tonight's CFDA Fashion Awards. Rihanna, this year's Fashion Icon, was a late arrival. Hey, it takes time to slip into 230,000 Swarovski crystals. Other than those rhinestones, there wasn't much to her Adam Selman dress; it afforded a nearly naked view of one of the world's most famous behinds as she took the stage. (For the record, BadGirl Riri was barer than Lady Gaga was when she accepted her own Fashion Icon Award in a G-string three years ago.)

But Rihanna's famous posterior wasn't the only attraction at this year's Awards. The CFDA scored John Waters as host, a coup that President Diane von Furstenberg acknowledged in her speech: "I'm so glad we hired you," she said. Waters opened with a bit about hitchhiking to Lincoln Center in white tie and tails, and alternately celebrated the fashion industry he was playing to and took the piss. The name of his hypothetical clothing line? Caught Dead In, "as in I wouldn't be." And his fashion rallying cry: "Let's stamp out nudity for style and profit."

Beyond laughs and Swarovski crystals, two things this Awards ceremony had more of than any we can remember: standing ovations and tears. Ruth Finley, the octogenarian founder of the Fashion Calendar and the Board of Directors' Tribute Award winner, received the evening's first ovation. Bethann Hardison, the diversity advocate and Founder's Award winner, got the last. "I'm not here to put anyone down," Hardison said, "I'm here to lift everyone up." In between, Lifetime Achievement honoree Tom Ford brought the crowd to its feet. "Please have me back in another 25 years," he asked. "I promise I'll wear a toupee and use a cane."

Raf Simons, who accepted the International Award for his two years of work at Dior from Marion Cotillard, broke down when he thanked his right-hand man, Pieter Mulier. "My biggest thank-you goes to the man that has been standing by my side for more than 15 years designing together with me. Thank you for your endless support, your vision, your energy, and the friendship." And there wasn't a dry eye in Alice Tully Hall when Paul Cavaco remembered his late wife, Kezia Keeble, in his speech for the Media Award. "If she were here, she would be accepting this award with me."

Joseph Altuzarra, The Row, and Public School took home the night's top prizes for womenswear, accessories, and menswear, respectively. (See a complete list of the winners here.) "Well, that's about it," Waters said in closing. "As all the CFDA winners know, fashion is power. Change your clothes three times a day and you can take over the world!"

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