The red carpet had been unfurled outside the Hammerstein Ballroom on West 34th Street, and stars like Nicole Kidman and Diane Kruger were on parade.“I had such butterflies outside,” said Ellie Kemper, the redheaded star of Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” who came as a guest of Kate Spade. “I felt like, wow, this is the Oscars of fashion.”
Well, it is and it isn’t. “The CFDAs are called the Oscars of fashion,” Seth Meyers, the host of the evening’s show, said from the stage in his opening monologue. “But just by you guys.” The line got a big laugh, including from Lupita Nyong’o, an actual Academy Award winner.
The CFDAs, the American fashion industry’s annual awards, are as starry an evening as American fashion offers, short of the Met Gala. But they are thankfully not as stuffy as most industry awards, or as self-consciously grand as the Oscars, though they are nearly as long. Tequila is served with dinner, and it’s not uncommon to hear winners’ tables slamming down shots as supermodels stalk down the center aisle en route to a cigarette or bathroom break.
“Someone’s hair is literally on fire,” Meg Ryan said to her date, the designer Christian Siriano, as an acrid smell perfumed the preshow cocktail hour.
But for designers, especially those nominated for awards, the evening is a rare chance to party with the women (and men) who wear their clothes, let their hair down and relax.“I’m honestly just really excited to catch up with everyone that I never get to see because everyone’s too busy to socialize,” said Fernando Garcia, one half of the label Monse, which ended up taking the Swarovski Award for emerging talent. He and his partner, Laura Kim, had brought Ms. Kruger and the models Erin Wasson and Kasia Struss as dates. “Erin was Laura’s muse and Kasia was my muse, and we’re bringing both,” he said.
Sander Lak, the designer of Sies Marjan, also nominated in the emerging category, had come with the actress Brit Marling, wearing matching shades of what they learned was rechristened Millennial Pink.
“I’m just really excited to be here with Brit,” Mr. Lak said. “We’re just going to sit in the corner like the two nerds we are and gossip. And talk about Season 2 of ‘The OA.’ I need to know how that ends.”
After a salmon dinner was served and cleared, the awards began in earnest: Raf Simons, the new chief creative officer of Calvin Klein, swept both the men’s and the women’s wear categories, despite having only a single Calvin Klein show to his credit. Stuart Vevers of Coach won the award for accessory designer of the year. Kenneth Cole, Rick Owens, Pat McGrath and Demna Gvasalia of Vetements and Balenciaga all took honorary prizes.
The ceremony took an emotional turn when Anna Wintour, holding back tears, paid tribute to Franca Sozzani, the editor of Italian Vogue who died in December 2016, and whose son (and Ms. Wintour’s future son-in-law) accepted a Fashion Icon award on her behalf.
The night ended with three women — Janelle Monáe; Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund; and Gloria Steinem — accepting a joint tribute. Ms. Steinem, in bedazzled pants by her friend Michael Kors, praised the crowd for its “wokeness,” a term that hasn’t always fit the fashion industry well.
Earlier in the evening, Ms. Steinem said that it was to be her first CFDA Awards, and spoke about the difficulties facing women’s rights. “It’s very dangerous,” she said, “but there is now more activism than I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
She has seen that rise in fashion, too. “Style is important self-expression,” she said, “and it’s good to make clothes instead of guns.”