May 5, 2023
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Ace Awards celebrate annual event with a star-studded affair

May 5, 2023

​Despite their creative and economic impact on the fashion business, accessories are often regarded as the industry's stepchildren. One night a year, thanks to Karen Giberson, president and CEO of the Accessories Council, along with chairman Frank Zambrelli, the fashion punctuation mark shines as the main event.

In New York, the 27th annual Ace Awards ceremony took place at its residence, Cipriani 42nd Street, and honored luminaries such as Ciara and her husband Russell Wilson for their House of LR&C venture, screen and stage actress, Julianne Hough; Mickey Drexler; Dee Ocleppo; and jeweler, Alexis Bittar, among others.

Kris Jenner and Dee Ocleppo - Courtesy

As guests mingled during cocktail hours, the red carpet was buzzing with photo ops of presenters such as Kris Jenner, Ocleppo's husband Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren's Guillaume Tardy, and Elle magazine fashion director Alex White, who posed in various configurations with honorees that also included Fashionphile, Echo New York, Judith Leiber Couture, Wolverine and Von Maur.

Pre-show, Ocleppo spoke to the FashionNetwork.com about her brand's journey.

"You have to pivot and change to survive in this business. Pre-Covid, there was a big sneaker craze, but post-Covid, after people wore sweatpants for two years, people wanted to dress again. We saw a sharp increase in need and sales for dressier styles," she said of her eponymous evening-centric shoe and bag line.

Dressed in a festive tonal green sequin Etro dress paired with Graff earrings, Dee Ocleppo shoes, and a Judith Leiber handbag where she also serves as its creative director and co-owner. She advises accessories should be explored.

"Have fun with accessories—statement pieces, shoes, or fun bags; they can completely uplift an otherwise mundane outfit."

While mingling with fellow honorees and guests, Hough -- wearing a vintage red Pucci dress paired with Alexis Bittar earrings and a Judith Leiber bag -- also spoke about her love of accessories. "Accessories shape your style. Sexy heels, cool earrings, and sunglasses can elevate a classic jeans, T-shirt, and blazer look to a feeling of expensive," she offered.

Julianne Hough and Ciara - Courtesy

She also revealed that she received word of three exciting new projects just that day. She could only give details on her new Dancing With the Stars role. "I'm returning as a host; I started as a dancer, then a judge. I've gone full circle like my fashion style; I've tried different things," she mused, noting her style goal is "elevated and effortless" these days.

Hough admitted that her style was just coming into its own after her various career influence—ballroom dancer, country music star, stage actress, and Hollywood film and TV star—made it a bit confusing.

"I've gone from one extreme to another but have found space to explore the Hollywood glam and glitz, the LA casual living athleisure style, and New York style, the epicenter of art and fashion. This past year in New York allowed me to take risks and was the first time exploring those influences where I am not part of a specific system or put in a box. There is always an accessory for each of my personalities," she said while accepting her Style Ambassador award.

Making an impromptu outfit change, White donned a sash borrowed from Thank God for Abortion founder Viva Ruse, who was also a guest at Bittar's table, to give the non-profit movement a shout-out. White recalled the 30 years following Bittar's career from a street vendor to selling his brand to Brooks Brothers and returning after six years of fatherhood and philanthropy to regain his brand. In 18 months since making a comeback, he opened six new retail stores, launched handbags, and made an impression with his pro-diversity marketing campaigns.

"What strikes me most is how committed he is to championing inclusivity in his unique way. I am a proud mother of an autistic teenage girl whose eyes light up when she sees her crush, Alexis Bittar," she said, adding that her neighbor and friend has always been supportive. "He has shown so much empathy and compassion to my daughter no matter how busy he is; he always has the time to stop and chat and high-five her."

On the advice to other young creatives or any aiming to make a comeback, Bittar offered FashionNetwork.com some solid tips for those seeking to follow a similar path as Bittar.

"More than ever, it's important to be authentic to your voice!" he confirmed.

Jamie Salter and Tommy Hilfiger - Courtesy

When accepting her award for The House of LR&C (Love, Respect, and Care), Ciara made a point of reminding the crowd that she and her husband, Russell Wilson of the Denver Broncos, give back three percent of the brand's earnings to their Why Not You 501c non-profit organization aimed at uplifting young folks out of poverty to help them achieve education and career goals. The primarily e-comm-driven collective of brands has also focused on sustainability, having tapped Christine Day, formerly of Starbucks and Lululemon, to guide them.

Speaking to FashionNetwork.com, Ciara said after Wilson initially launched the Good Man brand, Day and Good Man co-founder Therese Hayes helped steer the collective of three brands. "Good Man was founded in 2016, but when we brought Christine together with Therese, we looked at the sustainability factor, which became important. We began to implement and dive deeper into aspects such as sustainable fabrics and applied it to all three from the get-go of The House of LR&C."

As she ended her speech, Ciara said, "Oh, is Max [Mickey] Drexler here? I would love to have coffee with you sometime."

Not surprisingly, the Ace Awards, with its range of participants, seems to be a likely spot for those kinds of industry connections.

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