If the 2017 CFDA Awards belonged to anyone, it was Raf Simons. The Belgian fashion designer, who was announced as chief creative officer of Calvin Klein in August, received both Menswear Designer of The Year and Womenswear Designer of The Year, an achievement that's only occurred once before — by Calvin Klein himself in 1993.
Since taking on his role, Simons' influence has been heavily felt not just at Calvin Klein, but on American fashion as a whole. His debut womenswear collection in February couldn't have been more perfectly timed: An immigrant designer writing a love letter to the American Dream, as America itself struggled with the very things that make it, well, America (diversity, inclusivity, equal opportunity). It was a love note as much as it was a call to action, and a sentiment that Simons reinforced in his acceptance speech Monday evening.
"If we as creatives can be an inspiration for how the world should look," he said, "I think that it's something we should take as a very important task in our existence."
The illusive Demna Gvasalia, who earlier this week announced that his brand, Vetements, would be quitting runway shows for good, accepted the International Award. "It doesn't have to be pretty for us to like it," he said of the aesthetic of his divisive label, as well as that of Balenciaga, of which he is creative director. In a not-so-black-tie baseball hat and Rammstein band tee, the Georgian designer took the stage to express his gratitude for the influence of the industry in which he works.
"I could never do this job without such a fascination of how clothes can change us," he said, "and how we can use them as powerful tools of innovation and self-expression."
Also honored for her undeniable impact on fashion was Franca Sozzani, who posthumously received the Fashion Icon Award from Anna Wintour.
"Franca and I were thrown into each other’s lives quickly, when we were hired to lead our magazines the very same week," Wintour said of the Vogue Italia editor-in-chief. "But we became friends slowly, in part because both of us were independent spirits, each unsure of what to make of the other. We circled each other for years, like jungle cats. Frankly, I was really intimidated by all that glorious hair. It was only after extraordinary issue after extraordinary issue of Italian Vogue that I began to realize not only what a brilliant editor Franca was, but how generous and playful her imagination could be. 'I wanted to prove myself,' she says in her son Francesco’s marvelous film. 'I did the exact opposite of what they said...I prefer to make my own mistakes.'"
The evening's other awards included: Accessory Designer of the Year, given to Stuart Vevers of Coach; the Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent, given to Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim of Monse; the Founder's Award, given to Pat McGrath; the Swarovski Award for Positive Change, given to Kenneth Cole; the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, given to Rick Owens; and the Board of Directors’ Tribute, given to Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards, Gloria Steinem, and Janelle Monáe.