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NYT's New Fashion Critic Opens Can of Sass on the CFDA Awards

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Last year's CFDA Awards. Image via Getty.
Last year's CFDA Awards. Image via Getty.

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The CFDA Awards need to be fixed, says newly-installed New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman. As they stand right now, they're irrelevant, predictable and downright boring. How boring? Let her count the ways:

1. The show's nominees could not be more predictable.

Marc Jacobs or Alexander Wang or Joseph Altuzarra for women's wear? The Row or Proenza Schouler or Alexander Wang (yes, again) for accessories? And so on. OOOHHH. I can't wait! O.K., maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration. "I am mildly curious" would be a more accurate description.

After all, every one of the names nominated for one of the big three awards has won before — in Mr. Jacobs's case, nine (count 'em) times, including a lifetime achievement award in 2011 (and I would be happy to discuss the inexplicable logic of how you follow that one with another women's wear award with anyone who cares to comment); in Proenza's case, five times; in Mr. Wang's case, three times, though he has been nominated 11 times. Tom Ford, who is getting the lifetime achievement award this year, has also won five times.

2. What is the sense of bestowing an "International Award"?

Granted, there has been some effort to broaden things out — the CFDA bestows an "international award," given this year to Raf Simons of Dior — but in a way, that only serves to underscore the us-and-them divide. I mean, surely Marc Jacobs is an international business? Ditto Alexander Wang, who is also creative director of Balenciaga? Ditto — well, every nominee, really.

3. And for that matter, what's the sense of categorizing certain designers as "American"?

There's a reason Tom Ford just gave an interview to Women's Wear Daily and announced, in response to the question, "Do you feel connected to the American fashion industry?", "I don't … I am not nationalistic, I don't feel connected [to any one place]. I am a global brand, I live an international life and I have for many years." To that point: He lives in London, bases his business there — and holds his shows there. So what makes him an American designer? His passport?

4. It's all just a big publicity stunt anyways.

I understand there is both a financial and marketing imperative for the awards evening, given that people buy tickets and that it goes to support the CFDA, and that it is in the interests of the nominated designers to bring a celebrity, who will then get photographed on the red carpet and hence garner them, and by association, the CFDA and American fashion, lots of associated publicity. But still.

5. Fashion's Oscars? More like an unwelcome return to high school.

Wouldn't it be better to open the awards to the entire fashion industry, which, frankly, would make for a much more interesting evening, and may even create a situation that could legitimately be compared to the Oscars, as opposed to high school? I don't think it would contradict the current mission, which "recognizes the outstanding contributions made to American fashion by individuals from all areas of the industry and related arts." American fashion is influenced by fashion from all over the world, after all, just as it in turn influences other cities. We may as well acknowledge it. Even, well, award it.

How refreshing. And she'll be live-tweeting the event, which means there's probably plenty more snark to come.

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