The CFDA Fashion Awards were good to Raf Simons this year. Last night, the Belgian designer took home both the Womenswear and Menswear Designer of the Year awards for his work at Calvin Klein. The last time the same designer won both awards was back in 1993. Coincidentally, Calvin Klein himself took the two home then.
The former Dior designer joined Calvin Klein as chief creative officer less than a year ago. While he joined the label last August, his first collection, for Fall 2017, only debuted in February. He’s made a huge impact in little time, though. He introduced Calvin Klein By Appointment in January, a made-to-measure offshoot of the label. One of Nicole Kidman’s most memorable Cannes looks this year, the black and white tutu-style dress was a Simons creation for the new label. Simons also introduced a new Calvin Klein logo ahead of his New York Fashion Week debut.
Simons had one more big change up his sleeve. For Fashion Week this year, he brought both menswear and womenswear under one roof. Instead of showing the two separately, they both walked at the same show. Perhaps it is fitting, then, that Simons took both awards. By combining womenswear and menswear under one show, he inextricably linked the collections as one. It would have been surprising and strange if he had won for one but not the other.
Following the unofficial theme of the night, Simons’ acceptance speeches took a subtle political tone. He spoke of moving to America as an immigrant and called the American people “inspiring.” His collection reflected this, as well, using Americana for inspiration. Simons went on in his speech to encourage creative students to use their art to inspire. He declared,
“If we as creators can be an inspiration for how the world SHOULD look, we should take that as a very important task in our existence.”
Simons was not the only one to reference the current state of American politics at the award show. Diane von Furstenberg asked the audience, “How many of you are immigrants?” before handing out the Board of Director’s Special Tribute Award. That went to Janelle Monáe, Gloria Steinem, and Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards for their part in planning the Women’s March. Steinem made a bold statement on the activism she’s seeing around the country:
“Now there is more activism than I have ever seen in my lifetime. Maybe we are about to be free.”
Richards offered her gratitude to the CFDA for “proving that looking good and doing good go hand in hand.” Meanwhile, Monáe called on everyone to “speak out against the sexism, the racism, the homophobia, the Islamophobia, and all those things that are constantly trying to divide us.”
Other winners of the night included Stuart Vevers as Accessory Designer of the Year for Coach, Kenneth Cole with the Swarovski Award for Positive Change, and Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim with the Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent for their work at Monse. The late editor of Italian Vogue, Franca Sozzani, posthumously won the Fashion Icon Award.
It seems like these days; nothing is free from a political tone, even fashion. In his show notes for his Fall 2017 collection, Simons wrote,
“It [the collection] is the coming together of different characters and individuals like America itself.”
This coming together is what made Simons’ collection standout. Let’s hope America can continue to inspire designers like Simons and welcome those from other countries to likewise inspire us.