The weather gods would seem to approve of the CFDA Awards' new Lincoln Center venue. After an afternoon of showers, the clouds parted just in time for 60 models—20 each wearing Womenswear Designer of the Year nominees Rodarte, Marc Jacobs, and Narciso Rodriguez—to array themselves on an amphitheater outside Alice Tully Hall. "In the past, we've always heard that the ceremony is about fashion, but that there's no live fashion at the ceremony," said Council of Fashion Designers of America executive director Steven Kolb. "Well, this year, you're going to see live fashion." The model tableau made for a striking beginning to the evening, and the location itself—with its soaring glass reception area and theater space recently renovated by Diller Scofidio + Renfro—received its shares of oohs and aahs, too.
There were more changes to come inside. This year saw the introduction of a Popular Vote Award (won in a case of plus ça change by perpetual CFDA honoree Ralph Lauren) and the debut of Tracey Ullman as host (the comedienne had apparently turned down CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg at least twice before). Ullman's routine had its misses, but she earned big laughs with a number about fashion's determination to soldier on despite the sagging economy. "From the sands of Dubai to the basement of Daffy's, we will never surrender, never," she sang. Perhaps next year von Furstenberg could turn to another friend, Graydon Carter. The Vanity Fair editor almost stole the show when he appeared in a video introducing the Menswear Designer of the Year nominees and made fun of his own grand reputation. In another surprise, that award was then shared by two designers, Calvin Klein's Italo Zucchelli and Band of Outsiders' Scott Sternberg.
As for the night's other big prizes, Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, who arrived arm in arm with Kirsten Dunst, walked off with the Womenswear Designer statuette, while Proenza Schouler's Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough received the Accessories nod. That meant Marc Jacobs, who was nominated in both categories, had to content himself with the International Award. Not that that he seemed to mind. "I'm the luckiest guy in the world," he said during a teary acceptance speech. "I have two amazing jobs and I work with the greatest people." Michelle Obama, meanwhile, accepted her CFDA Board of Directors' Special Tribute via pretaped video. And though the First Lady couldn't be there in person, there was plenty of star power on hand, including Justin Timberlake, who presented the Eleanor Lambert Award to GQ magazine's Jim Moore.
If the post-show summer supper cleared out on the early side, blame it on the High Line (Calvin Klein was hosting an after-party at the just-opened new park). Well, that and the rather lackluster pasta stations, an element the organizers may want to tweak for next year. Jason Wu, who dressed Diane Kruger in a super-short red shift, was one of the last to leave. "It's like the Oscars, and to be honest, I'm just glad it's over," said the Swarovski Award contender. "Now I can enjoy myself."
— Nicole Phelps