Fashion Group International celebrates its Rising Star awards with Patricia Field
Now in its 27th year, The Fashion Group International, aka FGI Rising Star Awards, feels like a family affair when it comes to championing its own. The foundation, whose mission is to support fashion talents through scholarships, intern programs, and more, was full of emotions as recipients on behalf of winners Wolverine, Saints, and Sinners Haircare, Burkindy fine jewelry, Chris Donovan shoes, Teddy Von Ranson, Marrissa Wilson, Bach Mai, Oncept sneakers, TheWires, Fashionnovation, and Autumn Adeigbo were largely overcome with personal sentiment as they accepted the honors. The event kicked off with president and CEO, Maryanne Grisz, and keynote speaker, Patricia Field passing on some sage advice to encourage the next generation of industry stars.
Field took to the stage with a speech she apologized was probably geared towards students, "I would encourage you all to pursue a career you probably already have," she mused. The Emmy award-winning costume designer, retailer, designer, author, and most recently, fashion art gallery proprietor was humbled by the honor, taking a stab at the reason for her selection as if anyone was wondering why the iconic Sex and the City wardrobe guru would be chosen.
"Maybe I was asked to speak because my career has been a bit out of the classic box," she said. "My theory is that fashion is an art form; it's the story and mood of the times," she added, using the styles of the Roaring Twenties as an example.
She briefed the room on her career in fashion, which began with a steadfast belief she could make it through her beginnings as a costume designer, which started on a film with Diane Lane called Lady Beware. "The director Karen Arthur and crew were supportive even though I had no experience."
"Today, my new project at the gallery includes a group of fashion artists I have known for years. Who knows what is next," she said, adding that there was a documentary about her life debuting at next month's Tribeca Film Festival.
Perhaps the familial nature of many brands was responsible for the heartfelt thanks that had many participants holding back tears.
When husband-and-wife duo Michael and Diana Wilson of Saints and Sinners Haircare accepted the Beauty Entrepreneur award, Michael Wilson thanked his three daughters for listening to their parents talk about the business but acknowledged his jack-of-all trade partner and wife. "We are collecting the award, but I got my 'rising star' 26 years ago," he said.
Jeweler Paul Morelli acknowledged the challenge of designing something that involves solving the need to wear it when he presented jeweler Burkindy with the Fine Jewelry award. The Burkina-Faso designer told the Chelsea Pier Lighthouse venue crowd that he was a "coming to America story, except I'm not a king." He thanked his family, including his wife and partner Marusya Tamboura of their Jahnkoy brand, also nominated for the Active/Casualwear category.
Teddy Von Ranson, who won for the Active/Casualwear category, recalled a conversation five years ago when he said to his husband and co-founder, "Wouldn't it be fun to be entrepreneurs" to which his husband responded with a "look of horror on his face."
"He never intended to start a business, and there is no one else I would rather do it with," Von Ranson said in gratitude. The designer also gave a shout-out to the other up-and-coming designers. "I promise to be the first person to stand up with you when you get your awards; I want to build a new layer of American design culture with all of you," he added.
He was introduced by veteran journalist Constance White, who recalled a story a colleague wrote early in her career about a '7th Avenue stalwart' during an economic doom and gloom moment who said, 'I'm not worried; at any moment in the industry millions of dollars are being made,' said the garmento. White urged the nominees to "celebrate your success along the way, and your failures are a glowing moment; they will pass. Remember, your currency is economic and cultural."
Former Rising Star award winner LaQuan Smith encouraged the hopefuls "dream big, stay the course and never give up; I am a true testament to that," he said, presenting Marissa Wilson with the Ready-to-Wear award. She thanked her family, who pushed her and teared up when she thanked her "fiancé and business partner Nathan, who has gone all in with me."
When presenting the Eveningwear Award winner, editor, and fashion creative for 30 years, Stefano Tonchi stressed the responsibility of legacy.
"Some view power as a measure of success; creating a legacy and informing the next generation is the measure to define success and failure. Nothing gave me more joy than seeing creatives become the next generation's leaders. Use that power of being a rising star to build a community, listen to the older generation's voices, and encourage the younger who support and respect your belief; be a force of change," he said before bestowing Bach Mai with the honor.
"I'm such a crier. It's surreal I'm standing here. It's a difficult journey of being a young designer and entrepreneur, so I say 'bon courage' to my fellow creatives," Mai said, adding, "Thank you, New York City, which, seemingly against all odds, has brought my collections to life. Thank you to my father, who never wavered once in the pursuit of my dreams."
In an unusual twist, the accessories category—introduced by Edmundo Castillo, who proclaimed "accessories make everything better—yielded a tie between Oncept fashion sneaker designers Megan Key Campos and Nick Lucio and shoe designer Chris Donovan. The former told the audience that after 25 years as a telephone repairman, he left his job and went to Polimoda in Milan to study design. He choked up, thanking his husband, saying, "Steve was the one who pushed me into this and was willing to risk everything for me to go to college."
Mickey Boardman, the multi-hyphenate of Paper Magazine fame, gave a special Sustainability award to Autumn Adeigbo, who thanked her "mom who used to sell my dresses when I was a little girl." Gary Wassner presented Fashionnovation— a global platform that connects voices from the fashion and innovation ecosystems to encourage a more sustainable and inclusive industry— the Hilldun Business Innovation award founders Marcelo and Jordana Guimarāes, a husband-and-wife duo. Kimberly Carney was visibly shaken, acknowledging her father, who was too sick to be there, when she accepted her Entrepreneur of the Year award for The Wires.
Photographer Nigel Barker of Project Runway fame stressed the importance of collaboration in the business, pointing out several in the room with whom he collaborated over the years, such as Boardman, who "gave me my first opportunity" to Tonchi and White. He was presenting the first-ever Collaboration award to Wolverine X Old Rip Van Winkle.
"This industry is small; it's about collaborating. A true good collaboration lets both brands succeed. Remember, it's never just about you; it's about everyone out there and the stories you are all trying to tell," Barker advised.
Accepting on behalf of the brand was Tom Kennedy, group president of Wolverine Work, which includes five brands—Wolverine, Cat, Bates, HyTest, and Harley-Davidson.
"A brand at 140 (years old) is not a rising store in the same way as everyone else today. We keep our eyes on the brand perpetually. Our collaborators donate 100 percent of our profits to our Project Bootstrap initiative. What we do every day is to try to close the skills gap and educate the next generation of workers," he said to the crowd.
It's the second major accolade the brand has had in the last five days after receiving the Ace Award for Brand of the Year. He offered a bit of insight to FashionNetwork.com during the pre-event cocktails.
"Most people do collaborations to raise brand awareness, but we do them to raise awareness for a cause, and our cause is trade worker education," he said, citing the work boot company's collaboration with the heavy metal band Metallica's All Within My Hands project. The foundation aims to provide funds for young people to learn a trade.
"Collaborations that do something matter now. It's not just around a product. We donate the money to trade school education. People don't understand how reasonable this education can cost compared to a traditional college. A million dollars can send 100 kids to school. It's what matters to my core consumer, a trade worker. They care about this, so it's an opportunity to re-engage with them while we do good," he explained.
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