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Last Night at the CFDA Awards: The Art of Giving (& Receiving) Compliments

By Godfrey Deeny
Fashion Wire Daily NY - If editing is about conciseness, then Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour gave her nearest rival, Harpers' Bazaar editor-in-chief Glenda Bailey, a lesson at last night's slimmed-down but still rambling CFDA Awards.

Wintour avoided blowing her own trumpet when presenting Kal Ruttenstein the Eleanor Lambert Award after a short, witty introduction. She drew the biggest laugh of the night, by revealing that famously-fond-of-his-food Ruttenstein, who got a standing ovation, hadn't won anything since picking up a prize for cooking while a young chef doing military service in Fort Dix.

Bailey, however, presented the Creative Visionary Award to the man she hand-picked to be Bazaar's creative director, Stephen Gan. Not that anyone could fault Glenda's delivery or prose, both of which were powerful. It's just that she took five times as long as Anna to praise a staff member rather than a friend. You have heard of a puff piece? This was a puff speech.

Giving and receiving compliments was the theme of these CFDA Awards, fashion's equivalent of the Oscars, which this year was smartly moved from Avery Fisher Hall to The New York Public Library, and edited down from an unwieldy 1,000 guests to under 400.

At the opening cocktail party, fashion honchos vied to arrive with the most glittering personality on their arm. The CFDA President of the Board of Directors, Stan Herman, looked to have won this particular contest by appearing with Lauren Hutton, only to be upstaged by Oscar de la Renta with Senator Hillary Clinton wearing a wide smile and a grand black gown. "Yes, it's one of mine," winked Oscar.

In the end, Narciso Rodriguez won the women's wear designer award and Marc Jacobs the men's prize, Rick Owens (at 40) won the Perry Ellis Award for young designer, and Tom Ford for YSL nabbed the accessory title. This provoked one tiny voice to squeal in mock outrage, "Long live Marc Jacobs!" much to the delight of Jacobs, who sat beside Hilary Swank. However, it wasn't a great evening if you were betting on the outsiders -- as none of these choices were much of surprise.

The CFDA has attempted to trim down the lengthy ceremony, where awards are presented in 11 different categories. However, the soiree still lasted five hours, from the opening champagne in the foyer to the finale of C.Z. Guest picking up the fashion icon award from de la Renta.

But what still seemed too long-winded, was a series of videos of fashion folk pontificating on themes of the past four decades - causing raised eyebrows and weary shrugs from many tables.

Fortunately for TV viewers, they can catch edited one-hour reports in New York on Metro TV at 8.00PM Wednesday, or nationally on WE/Women's Entertainment this Saturday at the same hour.

David Bowie took the smartest tack in his introduction of Hedi Slimane. "For the part five years Hedi Slimane has been staging a quiet revolution in fashion," Bowie sang, provoking a burst of cheering. Bowie looked splendid in a black tuxedo with a figure-hugging jacket and enormously flared pants. When someone remarked that the silhouette recalled the musician's own "David Life" cover, Bowie replied, "I thought exactly the same thing too."

No sooner had the ceremony finished than a select grouping whizzed downtown to the party Slimane, Gan and Lagerfeld threw at Fun, a delightfully beat-up club with trashy electronic graffiti projections, a golden disco ball and trashy upstairs "VIP" section. Linda Evangelista spun the discs, Shalom Harlow hit the dance floor, Suzy Menkes snapped with her camera and Eric Wright and L'Wren Scott danced on the bar.

"And what would you like to drink?" enquired Karl, who along with Hedi and Stephen were barmen for the night, their tips - and we counted several $100 bills in glass jars - going to the Robin Hood Association. And, in typical perfectionist mode, Lagerfeld actually read books on how to be a barman before mixing a mean cocktail. Talk about not leaving anything to chance.

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