The CFDA Awards: A Testament to a Truly Global, Borderless Industry

While President Donald Trump would like to see that immigrants are pushed out of jobs on American soil, that is certainly not the prevailing view in fashion. Instead, fashion is an industry that thrives on international talent. This is particularly true when it comes to stateside brands, and Monday evening’s Council of Fashion Designers of America (“CFDA”) Awards was quite indicative of that fact.

For its annual awards event, which honors “the best and brightest in American design,” the CFDA nominated no shortage of designers with international backgrounds. Of the evening’s winners, the majority were not actually American-born, which may seem contradictory given that the event is hosted by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. The CFDA, however, merely requires that a brand be based in the U.S. to qualify for an award or an individual designer be American if his/her brand is based abroad (think: Rick Owens or Virgil Abloh of Off-White, for instance, both of whom are Americans that maintain brands headquartered outside of the U.S.).

With that in mind, it was squarely within the bounds of the CFDA Awards' guidelines that Belgian designer Raf Simons took home the evening's two biggest prizes – one for Womenswear Designer of the Year and the other for Menswear Designer of the Year – both for his work at New York-based brand Calvin Klein. South Korea-born Laura Kim and Dominican Republic-born Fernanda Garcia claimed the prize for Emerging Design of the Year for their brand Monse, which is headquartered in New York. (Note: Kim and Garcia also head up fabled American design house Oscar de la Renta). 

British designer Stuart Vevers was nominated for and won the Accessories Designer of the Year prize – he is the creative director of New York-based Coach, after all. And California-born, Paris-based Rick Owens was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award, while Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Vetements and Balenciaga, was given the International Design Award.

The 2017 nominees were just as varied as the ultimate winner in terms of nationality. Joseph Altuzarra, who was nominated for the Womenswear Designer of the Year Award, is from France. Menswear designer nominee Tim Coppins is Belgian. Sander Lak of budding young "it" label Sies Marjan was born in Brunei, and the list goes on. 

Given the amount of diversity at play – both in terms of nationality of the award winners and nominees, and in terms of where these individuals operate their brands – the fashion industry’s biggest evening seems rightly representative of the modern world and its occupants; this holds true in light of its aim to celebrate American design. 

In fact, the awards ceremony – which doles out what CFDA calls “the highest honors in fashion” – is a meaningful reminder not only of the significant contributions that many creatives originally hailing from outside the U.S. make to the domestic fashion industry. It speaks to how seriously the American fashion industry would potentially suffer if the Trump administration remains strict in its stance towards immigration.

In short: Fashion is an ever-evolving industry that depends on diversity. As Vogue’s Brooke Bobb noted earlier this year, “American fashion should have no borders,” and it certainly did not appear to at Monday evening’s awards ceremony.