Laughs and Tears from the CFDA Awards

celebrity fashion, fashion designers, CFDA, The Row, Ashley Olsen

Ashley Olsen looking about 55 years old, arriving at the CFDA awards.

I must admit I laughed out loud when I heard that Seth Meyers, the host of the recent CFDA awards, joked that Karl Lagerfeld was working on a TV show called “Are you fatter than a fifth grader?” But other than that, the night resulted in tears, and has done nothing but further support the fact that the fashion industry is becoming a total and utter farce.

And the irony here is that the CFDA stands for the Council of the Fashion DESIGNERS of America. DESIGNERS. Not celebrities who wear nice clothes. Not actresses who have loads of money and can afford to hire a great design team and create a brand which will automatically be famous because they are celebrities.

celebrity fashion, fashion designers, CFDA, The Row, Mary Kate Olsen

Mary Kate Olsen looking about 45 years old, also arriving at the awards.

It is totally beyond me that the CFDA awarded Ashley & Mary Kate Olsen the womenswear designer of the year award for The Row. Have the people behind the CFDA lost their minds? Have they forgotten what it is like to study fashion, to work hard in their career in order to achieve success in the fashion industry? I think they have. Because if they remembered how difficult it is to train to be a fashion designer and how much work is involved to establish oneself, then they certainly would not have given the award to two girls who used their child actress fame and fortune to take the short cut to establish a brand, without actually ever training as fashion designers. It was a sad, sad day in the world of fashion, and makes me feel silly to be in the fashion world.

celebrity fashion, fashion designers, CFDA, The Sartorialist, Scott Schuman

Two photos on The Sartorialist, taken 18 months apart, looking identical. Does he ever evolve?

One more thing annoyed me. The media award given to Scott Schuman and Garance Doré. If creating a blog (or two blogs) that essentially publish the same few photos over and over and over again deserves you a media ward, then I am embarrassed to be a part of the media. But I would award Scott Schuman on his incredible talent to big himself up in the press. I think that is why he probably got the award, he goes around telling everyone how much money he makes, and people are lead to think he is a genius. That is one thing he is very good at. However, taking the same street style photo over again and again and again is not the work of a genius.

p.s. Am I the only one who thinks that 99% of the readers of The Sartorialist are either people looking for photos of themselves or their friends, or bloggers who make lame comments and then add their blog url to the bottom of the blog in hopes of driving some traffic their way?

p.p.s. THIS is what the Olsen twins are famous for. AND THE CFDA TAKES THEM SERIOUSLY?!?!?

Images from and The Sartorialist.

  • AnaO

    The identical photos made me laugh out loud! Apart from that, yeah, I agree that CFDA awards are ridiculous. The judges must be like “hey, who’s famous and hasn’t been awarded too many times yet?”. I wish they gave awards for the best collections of the year, not “best designer”, which can mean anything and nothing.

  • Petra Z.

    I love Garance Doré’s blog (her own) for her artistry, illustrations and quality of photos. She manages to capture the essence of a person’s style in photo and writing. I didn’t follow the awards, so can’t judge wether an award given to her is justified or not. As for Schuman – maybe the amount of followers has an impact on the awards. A friend of mine, who has nothing to do with fashion leave alone dresses stylish, is looking at The Sartorialist all the time – must ask for his motifs…

  • Jasper

    well at least you can somewhat justify some of these awards on technology. the grammy’s on the other hand are a COMPLETE JOKE.

  • Inés Cruz

    I couldn’t believe they gave the award to the Olsen’s… seriously, what have they done? what about all those young talented designers that fight to get their brand moving? what about their hard work? It’s worse by the fact that the award is given BY designers, as you said. Totally lame.
    As to the Sartorialist award, well, I do have to agree on the fact that he is a bit repetitive (being extremely ironic here) but he’s made himself an important part of the media, whether we like it or not, and he’s relevant enough to grant himself collaborations with brands that, thank god, make him work a bit out of his comfort zone. I do comment from time to time on the pictures he posts, but only in those that I find interesting or different. It does bring some visits to my blog, but I’m convinced that most of the people that are interested on his, click on mine are are instantly bored by the fact that I do write articles… so it’s not the reason I comment. In any case, I do agree on your opinion.

  • Rudolf Seabra

    I do remember they gave P.Diddy/Diddy/whatever the fuck it is a designer of the year award some years ago. I think I have come to admire Rei Kawakubo even more for her stance on not going to the CFDAs and showing what a joke it has become. Having her and the Olsens considered as the same level of professional is just a further display of how fame and celebrity are destroying the core values of the fashion industry.  As of late I believe it has become seriously out of touch.

  • Lo

    I used to love your blog but unfortunately I feel like you are getting quite repetitive yourself. Your fashion 101’s were amazing and I used to really value your opinion but all I see now are posts on how much you hate celebrities and ‘a year ago on Searching for Style…’. All fashion houses have creative directors whom represent their line. Should the Olsen’s have got the CFDA award? Probably not. But, their line is called The Row, unlike other celebrity designers who stamp their face on the name (Victoria Beckham, anyone?). Yes, celebrities who use their name to get ahead suck when there are people working so hard who can’t get a break, but, I would love to see you expand your mind and write something interesting again.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    I’ve been working on another Fashion 101, but the ones I think are most interesting to feature (the making of a bag/jewelry/product) are extremely difficult to research. The brand has to be completely open to giving me all the information, and that is hard to get. The only one that has been fully cooperative has been Hermes. 
    The reason why I’ve been putting some “Best of” and one year ago” posts is for two reasons (and by the way, I think I will only be doing this once a month from now on.) Firstly, all of the sites I read about successful blogging talk about the importance of re-publishing your best articles because your new readers won’t know your archives. (And I have a lot of new readers, as well as old ones. I know this from my analytics.) 
    The other reason is because I simply don’t have the time to write 5 super high quality posts a week. I lecture, I have an editor job, I have my own nightwear company (which I’ll be announcing in the next few months) and I have a one year old, and a husband that has just gone back to work after 6 months parental leave. I don’t put my son into daycare 5 days a week because frankly, I don’t want to spend 5 days a week working. This blog doesn’t make me a huge amount of money, so I need to make sure I am dedicating time to all of my jobs. The reason why I wrote this article is because two readers requested it (hence the reason why it is so late after the actual awards.)
    I’m sorry you aren’t enjoying my blog as much as you used to, but I hope you can understand my reasons for not being able to constantly create high quality, in-depth researched content. On top of that, since January, I made the resolution to stop working Sundays (and now, I am not working Saturdays, either) so I just don’t have enough time to commit. 
    If there are any Fashion 101 subjects you are interested in, fill in the Ask Alexandra form, if I can answer it, I will.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Yes, her illustrations are beautiful, but I followed her blog for a year and aside from the bits about getting fat in the US, I found it repetitive. On that note, most of the blogs I do like are the ones that have a lot of writing, so I guess that’s just a question of taste.

  • drew

    I would like to agree with Lo statement about recently losing appeal to your blog. Like Lo, i have been a religious follower on your blog. i really admired your opinions and views regarding the fashion industry. (i also admire the length of youre posts as well) sadly, i too have been recognizing the repetitiveness within recent months.
    i can agree that yes, you do have much more on your hands with everything going on but i dont believe you can use that as an excuse as to why your blog is turning into what it is. ill use this example cause it seems to fit:

    jessica simpson recently was quoted complaining about how much she has on her hands with her pregnancy, her contract with weight watchers, her clothing line expansion etc…..
    no one is making her do those things. if anything, she is trying to expand her comany and her name and obviously make money. if you are putting yourself in those situations, you have no room to complain. simple as that.

    i feel the problem is that when you come up with excuses and such as to why things arent the way they are yet you have a problem with how other websites do it, comes off a bit hipocritical. as much as i can be happy that you have a new addition to your family, i dont feel like you should be talking so badly about sites like satorialist, or garcon dore, which you do on many occasions.

    another reason ive started to dislike your blog. as much as i can agree everyone is entitled to their own opinion, you talk alot of smack for someone who hasnt really shown much. if you have such a problem with how things are run, like the cfda, maybe you should put your life on hold, get back into the fashion industry and be the change you want to see.

    its sad to see that someone who “understands” the sufferings and woes of a fashion designer/student/whatever, can put down other designers works so easily. youre not only harming the brand but youre also hurting the designers who work hard for what they show.

    i wont even get into mary kate and ashley olsen because thats going to be another essay in itself, but maybe instead of talking so negatively about your peers in this industry and sounding like a deadbeat-didnt-make-it-too-far-into-the-industry-nothing, you should just focus on your other projects.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Wow Drew, you probably don’t have kids, a husband, or much of a social life, for that matter. First of all, I was not making excuses, I was providing reasons. And I am not complaining, I am simply stating facts. 
    Jessica Simpson does not need to do her many projects, she could probably do much less and still have more than enough money to provide for her family. 

    On the other hand, I can’t just give up projects to dedicate more time to the blog, because I actually NEED the income that is coming in. Of course I am trying to make money, that’s what jobs are for, right? Fashion is not a hobby for me, it is a JOB. A job I care about, but a job nonetheless. I’m not greedy, but I am certainly not going to be poor to dedicate 30 hours a week to write blog posts to satisfy people like you.

    And your suggestion to “put your life on hold, get back into the fashion industry and be the change you want to see” is possibly the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life. Put my life on hold to help the fashion industry???? It is my JOB. Not the love of my life. Why would I put my life on hold for an industry that has practically turned into a farce? My way of trying to make changes is to have a voice and say what a lot of people think but are too afraid to say and to support the brands, companies, and media I believe in. 

    As far as the “deadbeat” comment is concerned, if I had wanted a career working as a designer in Paris (which was the only place hiring the 3-4 years after I graduated, Milan wasn’t an option), I would have had it. But I didn’t. I chose my life instead. I wanted to have fun. Now, I never work overtime, I have time to spend with my family and friends, I have virtually no pressure or stress, and I enjoy my life. Sure, I don’t have a high profile job or a huge salary, but I look at my friends who chose those things and I do NOT envy them.

    I am critical, and as someone who puts themselves and their opinion out into the public domain, I expect to be criticized. But if you are going to criticize me, at least make it constructive (like I do with my criticisms.) You’ve told me to give up my life to make fashion better, you’ve told me I am a deadbeat, you’ve told me I am complaining and making excuses (which I haven’t been) and you’ve told me you don’t like my blog. Either offer something I can work with (like what you WOULD like to see here), or stop reading. But please, don’t suggest I should give up the things I love (time with family and friends, sleep, and money) to fight for the fashion industry. It is not, and never will be, worth it.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Yes, I do think he has been influential, but the Eugenia Sheppard award is meant to award great media talent, and if this is what fashion media has become (photos of people on the street) then I am sad. I interviewed Yvan Rodic from Facehunter yesterday and he had some interesting things to say about street style. Check back next week for the interview, it was really cool.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Haha, yes, the Olsens on the same level as Rei Kawakubo. This is the end of the fashion world as we know it. 

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Totally agree! The British awards and Scottish awards are the same! It is so repetitive, I understand why, but it gets boring. They need to change something.

  • Maggs

    Hi Alexandra, 

    I am The Srtorialist  and Garance Dore passive follower as well as yours for some good years. Usually I don’t comment, but this time I would like to let you know, I am neither expecting to be photographed, nor looking for picture of my friends on The Sartorialist page. No interest in it, no chance whatsoever.. I have no blog, no webpage, so no interest in catching the traffic either.

    The point is, I am very “visually minded”, looking more often for pictures, images, and this kind of blogs, like many others provide me with high stimulation that ends up in inspiration… As a passionate photographer and painter, interested in the role/meaning of esthetics in human life, I am very thankful that this blogs exist. 

    And I’m only guessing, I might not be the only one who appreciate them in that way.. 

    Well, I also do not perceive 2 pictures you posted as identical. Yes, there is the same girl in the very similar outfits, but behind each of them I could put totally different story – that’s my personal way of perception, just very different from yours. And this is only, as you said, the question of taste, or I would add the matter of interest.  

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Thanks for commenting. I completely agree with your points. There are at times some wonderful photos/illustrations on both of those blogs. My issue is with the fact that they won that award, In the past, it has been awarded to people like Hilary Alexander and Robin Givhan, journalists who have investigated, supported the industry, exposed stories, etc… Not people who just take pretty pictures, I don’t think that is right.

    And I suppose I am a bit bored of the blogs that are getting attention at the moment. Why do we have all these people taking photos of themselves in outfits, or just taking photos of others? Why aren’t there more Susie Bubbles, Vanessa Friendmans, and Imran Ameds, who say something. I find it frustrating. Printed fashion media is not just about pretty pictures, the blog shouldn’t be, either.

  • char

    I remember the Olsen twins’ $39,000 backpack *cringe*

    I never really “got” The Sartorialist. A few of its featured subjects look pretty good/interesting, but most of the time…meh.

  • Inés Cruz

    Certainly! I’m sure it will be pretty interesting.
    And about Sartorialist… it’s true. I suppose they should have given them an award as a brand, maybe, rather than media talent…
    And forget about Drew… anyone that really follows your blog would have known the lack of publishing was due to the baby, and the fact that you have a life, which is something you have talked about in many posts

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

     Thanks Ines! I do get annoyed when anyone suggests giving up my social life, or the jobs that make me the most money, to focus more on fashion. But the sad thing is, a lot of fashion people do that, and then they end up living for their work, which is quite sad. I never want to be that person.

  • Eve

    There is a huge debate in the States about the relevancy of certain degrees and while you certainly learn very necessary things at fashion school, I do wonder how much the Olsens have learned from their personal relationship with designers? Idk I’ve pointed this out on your blog before; I’m generally not a fan of celebrity collections, but The Row is pretty sophisticated and well-designed. Its hard for me to hate them when I would wear their pieces (if I had the money that is haha). 

    Also, I recommend listening to the first few minutes of this interview with Ashley Olsen when asked about the trend of celebrity designers. I think she gives a really interesting POV that is very honest and eye-opening:

    And are there any self-taught designers that you like or recommend? I am just curious if there are any out there and what your feelings are about them. Or do you just have an issue with them being celebrities? Thanks and can’t wait to see your collection! best of luck!

  • Brett2029

    I agree with your post Alexandra. And most importantly how is it that Anna Wintour let’s simple head figures win?? I suppose there’s some type of back room deals going on. (Allegedly)

  • Lo

    Thanks for the response. 
    I definitely understand the change which is not something I had thought about. I think I just feel like there has been a lot of negativity compared to a year ago. I would never suggest you leave your friends and family to devote your life to fashion. 
    I do enjoy re-reading the fashion 101’s because there is so much info that it does take a couple reads to take it all in. I stand by what I said, but I respect the work you have done in the fashion industry and that is why I will continue to read your posts.I most definitely do not dislike your blog, I would just love to see a more positive side to your writing.  I appreciate the time you took to respond to my comment. I apologize if it came off rude or insulting. 

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Eve, you’ve made some really good points. There are, in some very rare cases, designers who are self taught and who are also talented. However, most of the time, designers have been trained in SOMETHING relevant (architecture, textiles, etc…) or are skilled in other parts of the business (sales, PR, etc…) I will not deny that The Row has some decent pieces. But I am not convinced that the twins are the ones behind that. Behind them, there is a trained design professional, and a team of people, ensuring the collections look great. 

    A good example would be Topshop’s Kate Moss collection. It was great, but that was because there was a team of designers making it great. It just happened that Kate Moss was honest about the way she worked, she brought in pieces she liked, and they made versions of it. I am pretty sure the Olsen twins do something similar to that. And, if they do happen to be those rare talents that are self-taught, then good on them. But I also hate the fact that they are celebrities and take the short cut. Someone can be a fantastic, self-taught designer, but a celebrity with the same talent will automatically have exposure because of their fame. I don’t think that is fair, and I hate that celebrities have begun to use their status to infiltrate other sectors. Leave the design to the designers, please.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Thanks. If there is anything in particular you would like me to write about, send it through as an Ask Alexandra. I am currently working on one about the role of a buyer, as per a request from a reader. So I definitely do respond to my reader’s requests!

  • Sharlyn

    I am very late on commenting but as a recent graduate from fashion design I get very frustrated that celebrities are winning such awards. What does this teach new designers? Get famous and then start a line? I also work in a luxury department store and see how fast these collections fly off the racks. It makes it close to impossible to start your own line and for young designers to get any recognition when they are over shadowed by celebrities that have gotten bored after their careers slowed down! They also don’t have to worry about dedicating all their time to work because they already have the money to hire people. It makes it seem like a joke to even attempt having your own collection or fashion house. First off you have to pay off the debt you have from actually getting an education in fashion and then you need to get a loan or save money to start the process of your own business. I hope celebrity designers is just a trend and in the future we will start to see the actual talent of designers winning awards. I could rant about this all day but I am sure there is enough of it here.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Thanks for your comment. Sadly, this is the state of the industry these days, and I am sad to say that I don’t think it will change anytime soon. That’s why I complain about it all the time. The only thing we can do is NOT buy these collections, and support the young brands that are trying to penetrate the industry. I really feel for the students and young designers these days, it is SO hard for you guys. It sucks.

  • Lola

    Thank you for making the observation about Scott Schumann and Garance Dore. They are 150% completely over rated. The way they galavant around the world, posting videos and photos of themselves and employing 15 assistants irritates me beyond belief. Their content is repetitive at best, and perhaps may have been considered creative like 8 years ago. I stopped visiting the Sartorialist over a year ago as it is just became boring. I guess the fact that they won that award just goes to show if you know how to hawk yourself enough you can be considered good at just about anything! Pretty sad, really. 

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Same here, I stopped following them over a year ago. BORING.

  • Guest

    You’re ridiculous. So because they were on a show as babies they’re not capable of accomplishing anything beyond that?

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    No, that’s not it at all. Because they are not trained as designers, they do not deserve awards for being great designers.

  • guest

    My mistake, here I thought awards should be awarding accordingly based on talent. But you cleared that up, only based on who follows your formula for achievement (those who were “trained”). 
    Celebrity designers exist because there’s a demand for it. So if your pissed at people for buying it, why don’t you try to educate people on what else is available. Instead of just belly aching about everything you hate.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    If you followed my blog, you’d know that I do try and feature brands I like, as well as complain about the ones I don’t. And yes, celebrity designers exist because there is a demand for it. But so do Crocs and Uggs, doesn’t make it ok, or fashionable.

    You are right that I haven’t even explored the possibility that the Olsen twins, or any other celebrity designers, may actually have design talent. But I highly doubt many of them do. They have financial backing, which allows them to hire great teams, and they have fame, which means they get to fast track their company to a certain level, unlike trained designers who are NOT famous, and that actually need to work hard at learning the skill and the industry before they can achieve fame. I highly doubt you work in the fashion industry, because if you did, and you had spent years training to have the skills to do a job, you’d be ok with child starts deciding to start fashion collections without having to do any of the legwork involved with building a career. You;d also be highly annoyed that your industry was being totally devalued, when anyone famous could just “decide” to be a designer.