How the ‘Oscars of Fashion’ Has Changed in 2020

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen at the 2019 CFDA Awards. Photo: Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

Earlier this year, it seemed like the Council of Fashion Designers of America Fashion Awards — sometimes called the “Oscars of Fashion”was another casualty of the pandemic. The annual event, originally scheduled for June 8 at the Brooklyn Museum, was postponed indefinitely, meaning that Eastern Parkway wouldn’t be turned into a runway this time around. But yesterday morning, the CFDA released their list of nominees for the 2020 awards. Instead of doing a live show, winners will be announced on September 14 on and the CFDA’s social media.

With all the changes besetting fashion right now, one might have expected the group, which operates as the American fashion industry’s governing body, to think outside of the box. The 2020 awards do introduce two new nomination categories: Global Women’s Designer of the Year and Global Men’s Designer of the Year. And the group has decided to forgo honoree awards like the Lifetime Achievement Award and Fashion Icon Award, which has previously gone to notable figures like Rihanna, Naomi Campbell, and J.Lo.

Still, as Vanessa Friedman at the New York Times points out, not so much has changed. The majority of the nominees are big-name designers who’ve already won several awards in the past. CFDA chairman Tom Ford, for instance, is nominated for both Womenswear and Menswear Designer of the Year. (He already won the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, in addition to six other awards under his belt.) The same goes for Marc Jacobs, who’s nominated this year for American Womenswear Designer of the Year, as well. The Olsen twins round out the list of familiar names that are often nominated.

Of course, along with the pandemic, the other big force shaping fashion right now is the ongoing discussion about racism. Last month, 250 Black fashion professionals sent a letter to the CFDA accusing the group of allowing “exploitative cultures of prejudice, tokenism, and employment discrimination to thrive.” But out of the 15 designers in the womenswear, menswear, and accessories designer categories, only Kerby Jean-Raymond, founder of Pyer Moss, and Telfar Clemens, founder of Telfar, are Black. Both are winners of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and were previously nominated in the same categories. The Emerging Designer category seems to be where the most diversity is found, which this year includes Christopher John Rogers, CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund 2019 winner, and Peter Do.

CFDA president and CEO Steven Kolb says supporting BIPOC designers is one of the group’s current priorities. “In lieu of the in-person event, we will be prioritizing 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,” he said in a press release. Since March, the CFDA has focused its efforts on distributing funds to support members of the American fashion community who have been affected by COVID-19. Their fundraising initiative with VogueA Common Thread, has raised almost $5 million.

The full list of nominees are below:

American Womenswear Designer of the Year: Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen for The Row, Brandon Maxwell, Gabriela Hearst, Marc Jacobs, and Tom Ford.

American Menswear Designer of the Year: Emily Adams Bode for Bode, Kerby Jean-Raymond for Pyer Moss, Thom Browne, Todd Snyder, and Tom Ford.

American Accessories Designer of the Year: Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen for The Row, Gabriela Hearst, Jennifer Fisher for Jennifer Fisher Jewelry, Stuart Vevers for Coach, and Telfar Clemens for Telfar.

American Emerging Designer of the Year: Christopher John Rogers, Kenneth Nicholson, Peter Do, Reese Cooper, and Sarah Staudinger and George Augusto for Staud.

Global Women’s Designer of the Year: Daniel Lee for Bottega Veneta, Dries Van Noten, Miuccia Prada for Prada, Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino, and Rick Owens.

Global Men’s Designer of the Year: Craig Green, Dries Van Noten, Jonathan Anderson for Loewe, Kim Jones for Dior, and Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton.

How the ‘Oscars of Fashion’ Has Changed in 2020