Issa Rae Calls Out The Impact Black Culture Has Had On Fashion

For the first time ever, the CFDA Awards took over another borough, bringing with it designers, models, and a whole crop celebrities, including Issa Rae, the event’s first Black female host. To kick off the evening at the Brooklyn Museum, Rae noted that she was really there to “public drag Andre Leon Talley for not inviting her to his watch party for RuPaul’s Drag Race ” and joked that the audience consisted of “two Olsens and a six-pack of Kardashians.”

But on a more serious (as serious for a comedian, that is), Rae highlighted the impact Black culture has had on fashion. “We’ve gone from having white designers study Black culture to make Black clothes for white people that are too expensive for Black people to buy to [having] a Black man bringing Black culture to a historically white fashion house making clothes too expensive for everybody,” she said, referring to Virgil Abloh, who was named menswear artistic director at Louis Vuitton in March.

Though Abloh didn’t take take home awards in either of the categories he was nominated (he was up for womenswear and menswear designer of the year, the evening was still a celebration of some of the industry’s most influential Black names. British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful received the Media Award in honor of American fashion writer and newspaper columnist, Eugenia Sheppard (given to him by Oprah, who referred to Enninful as “a bodacious man”) and Naomi Campbell received the Icon Award. In her acceptance speech, the model said: “I was told many times that I couldn’t do certain things because of the color of my skin. But I never let that be an excuse. I let that drive me. I stand here today as a proud woman of color.”

In addition to Enninful and Campbell, the evening honored an array of industry mainstays: Diane von Furstenberg received the Swarovski Award for Positive Change; Narciso Rodriguez received the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award; Carolina Herrera received the Founder’s Award in honor of CFDA founder Eleanor Lambert; and Donatella Versace received the International Award.

The Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent went to Sies Marjan designer Sander Lak. It makes sense, considering the former Dries van Noten head of design was accompanied by all the cool kids of the evening (see: Bria Vinaite, Laura Harrier, Julia Garner).

To the crowd’s surprise, Menswear Designer of the Year went to James Jebbia of Supreme (The Cut’s Emilia Petrarca joked whether Jebbia would be “list[ing] it on Grailed”), while The Row, helmed by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, was named Accessory Designer of the Year. The biggest award of the night, Womenswear Designer of the Year, went to Raf Simons, who took home the prize for the second year in a row for his work at Calvin Klein.

Perhaps the most contentious award of the evening went to Kim Kardashian West, who was honored with the Influencer Award. Though there’s been internet debate over whether the reality star deserves such an accolade, Kardashian took it in stride. “I’m kind of shocked that I’m winning a fashion award when I’m naked most of the time,” she joked on stage. “It’s a really trip, getting an award for fashion when it’s something I’ve always really loved.”

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