CFDAs: the Can’t Fake a Damn Abouts

cfda clinton

The Oscars of fashion were presented earlier this week. Yes, I know that you know. After all, you’d been awaiting them at least since March, when the nominees were announced. You followed speculations about who will win – God, there was no end to these. You woke up on Tuesday excited and anxious to check the results, and then you went on to discuss them with friends and read media analysis of the ceremony and its outcomes.

Oh, you didn’t? Me neither.

Even Hillary Clinton's presence (and self-deprecating jokes) failed to attract much media attention.

Even Hillary Clinton’s presence (and self-deprecating jokes) failed to attract much media attention. Even Hillary Clinton’s presence (and self-deprecating jokes) failed to attract much media attention.

While high fashion might not have as many followers as cinema, there’s still a significant number of people who read Vogue (about 1.3 million, counting only the American edition), visit Style.com (over 2 million unique visitors per month) and even write their own blogs about the glamorous industry (infinity, it seems.) Yet hardly anyone gives the slightest bit of damn about the most important awards of the fashion universe. Even Vogue et al. devoted more print –also “online print” – to the actual Oscars. And a small mention on the 13th page of Metro isn’t quite my definition of hype. Compared to that, the Turner Prize causes frenzy. (Because everyone is a fine art connoisseur, right?).

Beautiful people looking beautiful: Hilary Rhoda in Helmut Lang, Kerry Washington in Jason Wu, Joan Smalls in Givenchy

Beautiful people looking beautiful: Hilary Rhoda in Helmut Lang, Kerry Washington in Jason Wu, Joan Smalls in Givenchy

So why is it that the annual CFDA Awards leave us so indifferent? For one, they’re vague. One gets an Oscar for a particular film, not for having been rather cool throughout the year. The Nobel Prizes come with a sentence of rationale. And the CFDAs? The committee gives no clue, but I can imagine them wondering: “Hey, who’s famous and hasn’t received an award recently?”

Fashion insiders looking stylish as usual: Anna Wintour, Diane von Furstenberg (stunning!), Vera Wang

Fashion insiders looking stylish as usual: Anna Wintour, Diane von Furstenberg (stunning!), Vera Wang

Which leads to reason number two: they’re predictable. If you’ve recently been appointed to a very high-profile job, and seem to be doing quite well, you might win. If you’ve been around for quite a while and don’t have a CFDA yet, it might be your year, too. However, if you don’t spend sufficient amounts on advertising, hang out with the insiders and dress fashion’s (read: Anna Wintour’s) favourite starlets, then your one-in-a-billion talent won’t help. Correct me if I’m wrong.

So happy together: insiders partying

So happy together: insiders partying

And that’s how we get to number three, or rather a summary of the previous two: they’re a private affair. No one knows what’s going on behind the scenes, from where a seemingly random if unsurprising list of winners emerges. No one brilliant yet relatively unknown gets honoured. And no one cares, because the whole ceremony is little but another occasion for the jet set to dress up, show off their status, have pictures taken and go partying. Kind of like that Derby where, exactly 100 years ago, Emily Davison was killed while campaigning for women’s rights. (Sorry, I just had to smuggle a mention of her somehow. RIP, suffragette.)

Tim Blanks kissing his well-deserved award. But no one will be calling him "CFDA winner Tim Blanks" six moths from now.

Tim Blanks kissing his well-deserved award. Too bad no one will be calling him “CFDA winner Tim Blanks” six moths from now.

PS. I have nothing against this year’s honourees. I’m especially happy for Tim Blanks, who is basically my fashion writing guru and should’ve won long ago. The Proenza Schouler guys are very talented, too, and so is Thom Browne etc. Suno may not be my type of thing, but I can understand the appeal. I just wish I knew why they were presented the award this year, and how they outdistanced their competitors. A clear explanation would be nice.

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