By: Donna Freydkin
They're like the Oscars of fashion.
The CFDA awards spotlight design excellence in womenswear, menswear, accessories, and bestow a lifetime achievement prize.
But let's get real here. It's all about the style, and who's wearing what and going with whom. Each year, designers pick their dates. So we consulted with sartorial superstar Zac Posen, who has dressed everyone from Demi Moore to Michelle Obama and who won in 2004 (and also happens to be the women's creative director of Brooks Brothers), on the nitty-gritty of fashion's biggest night. This year, it takes place on June 6, at the Hammerstein Ballroom.
What it means: "At the end of the day it's acknowledgment from your peers. It's just such a huge honor. The CFDA is a great institution because it creates community in an extremely competitive and cutthroat industry."
What the night is like: "It's like going to your prom, or a high school reunion. It's that feeling of excitement and the same time your nerves take over. There's always a surprise. What I like about the American fashion industry is the level of diversity and how it all mixes. It's a great celebration of art and commerce."
How the awards have changed over the years: "I've seen the awards evolve considerably. When I first got nominated in 2002, I did not win, there was a dinner and the awards ceremony afterwards. Then they cut out food altogether. At these fashion events, nerves are so high that very few people are eating the catered food. It evolved into a more typical awards show format. Now, it's so exciting that Harvey Weinstein is involved and morphing it into more of an entertainment event."
How he picks his companions: "I always pick my dates. Maya Thurman-Hawke is very dear to my heart. That was her first red carpet. That made it a fun experience for me. (Her mother) Uma is a very close friend of mine. I had Karen Elson when she was pregnant. I've had wonderful dates over the years. It's a great red carpet. It gets great national coverage."
His standouts: "Greta Gerwig was one of my most favorite dates. To me, she's a great artist, one of the finest actors of our time, and has just begun. She's elegant, she doesn't play the fashion game. She's committed to her work. Natalie Portman was my date when I won the CFDA. The anticipation was high because I'd been nominated for two years in a row. The stakes were high. I was just putting my company together. I was there with Natalie, I wore an undershirt with a white jacket, with my hair slicked back. It was really special. She was so supportive. I was so nervous. I don't remember what I said."