Fashion honors its own at annual awards gala

February 04, 1993|By Bernadine Morris | Bernadine Morris,N.Y. Times News Service

NEW YORK -- Seventh Avenue gave one of those parties eulogizing itself Monday night, and surprise, everyone seemed to have a great time. It was an awards ceremony sponsored by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Though there had been some caviling when the recipients were announced a few months ago, that had ended by the time the awards were presented at the New York State Theater in a ceremony conducted with wit, style and heart.

On stage, videotapes interspersed events of 1992 with fashion highlights and scenes from the party.

A convincing case was made for all the awards, but especially the Lifetime Achievement Award that went to Pauline Trigere. How many designers, anywhere in the world, have been working in top form for more than 50 years? As Kitty Carlisle Hart, an old friend, introduced her, Miss Trigere received a standing ovation.

In the Franglais that is her trademark, Miss Trigere, wearing a sleeveless black jersey jump suit striped in rhinestones, told how she wanted to grow up to be a surgeon or an architect, but because she had to make a living for herself and her two infant sons, she turned to dressmaking.

Her father was a tailor, her mother a dressmaker. Her brother, Robert, took her first collection of 11 styles on a bus tour to stores throughout the country, and by the end of the trip, a prototypical Seventh Avenue success story was born.

There were other poignant moments, as when Ralph Lauren spoke movingly about Audrey Hepburn, who had presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to him last year.

Nearly everybody pinned the red ribbon handed out at the door to dinner jacket or evening dress. Patrick J. O'Connell, who devised the symbol for the Ribbon Project of Visual AIDS, an artists' group, received a special award for his efforts. He made a plea for AIDS support before the curtain lifted on members of xTC the council arranged on bleachers, all wearing their red ribbons. It was a rare sign of unanimity.

The evening was by no means a provincial affair. The presence of designers from Paris and Milan added a Continental flavor.

To shrieks from the audience, including the 400 students in the balconies, Giorgio Armani presented the men's wear award to Donna Karan. In Italian, translated by an interpreter, he said that it was refreshing to find a woman breaking the rules and designing men's clothes. Ms. Karan, who was wearing an off-the-shoulder ruffled dress, said that compared with designing men's clothes, designing styles for women was a cinch.

Karl Lagerfeld, speaking briefly and rapidly, gave a special award for photography to Steven Meisel, saying, "He likes fashion -- not every photographer does." Meisel made the shortest acceptance speech: "Thank you very much."

Liz Tilberis, the editor in chief of Harper's Bazaar, published by Hearst Magazines, which underwrote the evening, announced the council's first International Award, which went to Gianni Versace.

Elton John introduced the designer, a friend, saying, "I am deeply grateful that I can afford his clothes."

Earlier, there had been objection that the awards placed too much emphasis on grunge, the anti-fashion movement based on popular music.

But nobody seemed to object when Marc Jacobs, a grunge enthusiast who designs the Perry Ellis collection, received the award as Designer of the Year from Christy Turlington. Linda Evangelista presented the Perry Ellis Award for new fashion talent to Anna Sui, whose last collection touched on grunge.

Cher, in a black tail coat, presented the accessories award to Chrome Hearts, headed by John Bowman, Richard Stark and Leonard Kamhout, "three men I love a lot."

Two exceptions to the black-dress rule almost universally adopted by the audience were Mrs. Hart, in a rose-pink Trigere dress, and Susanne Bartsch in a red leather devil's outfit that left much of her unclothed.

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