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The CFDA Fashion Awards Explained and a Full List of 2021 winners

The 2021 Council of Fashion Designers of America Inc. (CFDA) Awards returned to an in-person modality on Nov. 10 after a one-year hiatus.

Edvin Thompson (dressed in red) of Theophilio celebrates after receiving the CFDA’s American Emerging Designer of the Year Award.

The 2021 Council of Fashion Designers of America Inc. (CFDA) Awards returned to an in-person modality on Nov. 10 after a one-year hiatus. 

The awards were held at The Pool + The Grill, a reimagined Four Seasons Hotel space in Manhattan, N.Y.. The in-person show was highly anticipated as the 2020 CFDA Fashion Awards were held digitally due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The American fashion industry has been called many things but one thing we can all agree on is the optimism and determination that drives our industry,” fashion designer Tom Ford said in his opening speech.

Known as the “Oscars of Fashion,” the CFDA Awards were created to honor excellence in fashion design. This year’s nominee list included a host of popular designers: Telfar Clemens for Telfar, Rick Owens, Daniel Lee for Bottega Venetta and Jerry Lorenzo for Fear of God. 

Founded in 1980, the Council of Fashion Designers of America Inc. is a “not-for-profit” organization whose mission is to “strengthen the impact of American Fashion in the global economy.” The CFDA owns several programs and scholarships including the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, The Gucci Change Makers x CFDA Scholars by Design Award, the CFDA Fashion Awards and the overall Fashion Calendar.

While big names like Anna Wintour and Tom Ford are usually associated with the CFDA, the organization has over 400 members. Members coupled with a larger group of editors, retailers and stylists make up the Fashion Guild. This invite-only network is tasked with nominating

award recipients. The CFDA board of directors then approves nominations and honoree awards.

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The process is quite political as designer and current CFDA secretary, Vera Wang said in a 2010 interview, “campaigning has been the rule, not the exception, forever—and I’ve been in fashion for 40 years.”

After a controversial year, the CFDA has made it a point to emphasize diversity and inclusion in fashion. Wednesday’s honoree awards celebrated the impact of innovators of color like Dapper Dan, Yeohlee Teng and Aurora James. 

This same sentiment was true for the design awards as many black designers won as well. 

Singer Ciara presented the American Accessories Designer Award to Telfar Clemens of Telfar. South Korean model, He Yeon Jung presented the American Emerging Designer of the year to Edvin Thompson of Theophilio. Zendaya was crowned Fashion Icon by international supermodel, Iman.

Tom Ford also announced that the CFDA granted $5.1 million to 161 designers, manufacturers and companies in 2020. Women and minority-owned businesses made up 79 percent of this number. In celebration of the CFDA scholarship fund’s 25th anniversary, Ford also announced that the coalition will double the scholarship to $500,000 and create new ones for “fashion students who represent the future of our industry.”

The CFDA seems to be achieving its goal of creating diversity, inclusion and equity in fashion. 

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“I don’t know about you but I feel in this room a sense of hope, of innovation, of ingenuity, and a true sense of togetherness and support,” Zendaya said as she accepted the Fashion Icon Award. 

A full list of the 2021 recipients can be found below.

Zendaya received the Fashion Icon Award.

Emily Adams Bode of Bode received the American Menswear Award.

Anya Taylor-Joy won Face of the Year.

Dapper Dan won the Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Telfar Clemens of Telfar won the American Accessories Designer Award.

Aurora James received the Founder’s Award.

Nina Garcia received the Media Award. 

Edvin Thompson of Theophilio won American Emerging Designer.

Yeohlee Teng accepted the Director’s Tribute Award.

Demna Gvasalia won Global Women’s Designer of the year.

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Christopher John Rodgers won the American Womenswear Award. 

Grace Wales Bonner won Global Men’s Designer of the year.

Patagonia won the Environmental Sustainability Award.

Model Alliance won the Positive Social Influence Award.

Copy edited by: N’dia Webb

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