Nominees for fashion’s ‘Oscars’ same old faces
New York may be the fashion capital of the world, but there are only a few American designers worthy of honor. The rest can go pound salt.
You might be tempted to believe that if you’ve noticed annual nominations for the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards, the Oscars of the U.S. fashion industry. Except for categories for emerging designers, it seems that the same designers are nominated year after year after year.
The pattern continued with the recently announced nominations for 2009. The nominees in womenswear and menswear design categories reveal basically the same faces occupying the lion’s share. Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodriguez and Rodarte are the three nominees for womenswear, all prior (and regular) nominees or winners. Calvin Klein is again in the running for menswear, and accessories nominees are part of the band of usual suspects: Mr. Jacobs, Proenza Schouler and Vera Wang.
These designers do exceptional work. But they’re not the only ones who do great work by any stretch of the imagination. America has many talented designers who turn out fine collections each season. Designers such as Ralph Rucci and Tracy Reese, Carmen Marc Valvo and Zang Toi, Carlos Miele and Pamella Roland — and scores of others too numerous to name.
Why, then, do they remain unsung heroes in this competition? Because, like most industry awards, the CFDA Awards is a popularity contest. And the 800 or so council members, press, retailers and stylists chosen to nominate and vote are a fundamentally incestuous, East Coast-dominated group who as a whole seem uninterested in spreading the accolades around to more of those who deserve them.
Winners will be announced June 15 at the usual star-studded gala. Also at the event, First Lady Michelle Obama will be given the Board of Directors’ Special Tribute, likely because she has boosted the visibility of American fashion. The mere perception of her as a fashion icon has been a boon to an industry hanging from a penthouse window ledge by its French tips.
The CFDA ought to make some changes in the nominating and voting process to include more designers who deserve to be recognized. The domination by the same handful of names year after year is insulting to the design community and the American public.