Telfar, Pyer Moss, Christopher John Rogers claim CFDA Awards - a win for the black fashion community

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2020 CFDA Award winner designer Telfar Clemens walks the runway at the Telfar Fall/Winter 2019 Collection on February 8, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images)
2020 CFDA Award winner designer Telfar Clemens walks the runway at the Telfar Fall/Winter 2019 Collection on February 8, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images)
  • The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA) is a not-for-profit trade association of America’s foremost fashion and accessory designers.
  • The Council's annual CFDA Awards, originally set for Monday June 8th, were postponed indefinitely due to Covid-19 and the winners were announced on on 14 September 2020 by CFDA Chairman, Tom Ford.
  • Of the six nominated black designers, three took home the Trova, namely; Christopher John Rogers, Telfar Clemens, and Kirby Jean-Raymond. 

“In lieu of the in-person event, we will be prioritising new and existing programming to support our designer community during the global pandemic – by redirecting efforts towards next generation scholarships and making important changes to bring racial equity to the fashion industry,” said Steven Kolb, (former) President and CEO of the CFDA this June when their nominees were announced. 

“The annual gala serves as our largest fundraiser, and our hope is to continue raising money to support this work through industry contributions," he stated. 

Nominations for each award category were submitted by 13 March 2020 as per the deadline by the CFDA Fashion Awards Guild, made up of members of the CFDA, along with top fashion retailers, journalists, and stylists.

The CFDA has since promoted CaSandra Diggs - a black woman - to the position of President of the organisation, who served as the CFDA's Chief Administrative and Financial Officer.  

READ MORE: Trimmed to 5 days, New York Fashion Week looks forward to a makeover this September 

At the time when nominees were announced, we shone the spotlight on the six nominated black (and POC) designers, among whom were the likes of Virgil Abloh, Peter Do, and Kenneth Nicholson.

But not without offering this caveat first; it must be said that the fact that we're still at a point - in 2020 - where we can count on one hand the number of brown skin folk who are recognised for their stellar contributions in any industry, is getting a bit embarrassing. 

I've written before on the subject of firsts that so often, we hear of a black person or person of colour being the first of their kind to achieve something praiseworthy, yet in the greater scheme of things, it is not really that unusual. The fact that the feat is not unusual does not make it trivial, but makes one think for how long black people have not had access to the means for success. Black excellence then and the recognition thereof, is not - and should not be - an anomaly.

The tokenisation of black excellence and the "first black" sashes we drape black and POC figures in when white spaces give them a nod they've long-deserved, is a mentality of internalised (deliberate) exclusion we will perhaps need to interrogate beyond these awards. And beyond The Academy discovering black people in 2020.  

READ MORE: In light of the coronavirus pandemic, there'll be no 2020 LVMH Prize winner

Alas, today our black designers must be celebrated and cheered on: 

American Menswear Designer of the Year 

Kerby Jean-Raymond for Pyer Moss 

Loved, celebrated and worn by a long list of A-listers including Tracee Ellis Ross, Gabrielle Union, Lena Waithe, Megan Thee Stallion, Jhene Aiko, Snoh Aalegra, Yara Shahidi, and Issa Rae. Why he was not nominated in the womenswear category as well is a mystery we won't attempt to figure out right now - we're just happy to see Kerby win.

American Accessories Designer of the Year

Telfar Clemens for Telfar 

The Telfar shopping bag was listed in the top three "hottest women's products" on the 2020 Q1 Lyst Index report - a quarterly ranking of fashion's hottest brands and products.  

black CFDA nominees

Telfar's handbags have also appeared on hit TV series Insecure, where costume director Shiona Turini often weaves black designers' merchandise into her wardrobe storytelling.   

READ MORE: ANALYSIS | 2020 Lyst of hottest fashion labels released, but how fiery are they about race matters? 

American Emerging Designer of the Year  

Christopher John Rogers   

READ MORE: Valentino epitomises couture with digital showcase of all-white gowns we're drawing bridal inspo from

We also take this time to congratulate Valentino's Pierpaolo Piccioli, Dior's Kim Jones, and Gabriela Hearst.

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