Fashion Group International Salutes Rising Star Award Winners

A sellout crowd of 300-plus celebrated the winners of the Fashion Group International’s Rising Star awards Tuesday afternoon.

While success is always welcome in life, never mind at awards events, lessons in adversity and perseverance took equal billing at the 26th annual event. Longevity, determination and reinvention were recurring messages throughout the luncheon at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers.

After FGI’s president and chief executive officer Maryanne Grisz welcomed attendees, Jason Wu kicked off the program by honoring Cole Wassner with the Entrepreneur of the Year award. Several presenters and honorees reveled in the return of such a sizable in-person event. Others focused on how the hands of time had finally acknowledged unsung talent.

As Tracey Reese noted in saluting Byron Lars with the President’s Award for Excellence, the honor was long overdue for the designer, who has been in the industry for three decades. In praising Lars, Reese mentioned how, among other things, he had introduced plus-size clothing “before the industry was really ready” and spent a year perfecting the fit and the patterns to make sure that the customer had exactly “the same amazing experience as a standard-size customer.” Actress Lisa Arrindell helped to honor and thank Lars, too, saying: “You are never a designer or a man who tells a woman what she is. Rather you are curious about us and you continue to ask and to ask in love.”

Lars spoke of relaunching his brand In Earnest and the significance of its name. “It’s insisting to a greater extent more intensely than before. That was really powerful to us like a credo, and also what we want our customer to be living out.”

Several presenters shared their own insights about motivation, including Elle editor in chief Nina Garcia, who before handing over the Womenswear award, noted that she had presented the same award in 2016 to Brandon Maxwell. Making the point that the designer has created a luxury global brand in that time, Garcia said, “I know that every single nominee here has the very same potential. You are the future of New York fashion ⁠— of American fashion.”

Womenswear award winner Frederick Anderson exuberantly thanked the audience. “I really love the fashion industry. I love what I do. I work 24 hours a day doing what I do. To be acknowledged and to see all these amazing people who have contributed to my life, my work and my vision, and giving me this award, I am deeply [humbled] and deeply honored.”

Before presenting the 2022 Menswear award, Pyer Moss founder Kerby Jean-Raymond recalled how when he was honored by FGI in 2014, he’d had three brands failed after 10 years of trying.

“This group was the first one to recognize me after a period of trying, trying, trying and never giving up,” he said. “…like Kelly [Cutrone] said, I’m really excited that there are new people here and sharing in this community. This is really cool.”

The winner of the 2022 Menswear award was Aknvas founder Christian Juul Nielsen, who started his business three years ago, first in womenswear and then added menswear soon after “to somehow dress everybody.”

Before Cutrone gave the All Gender award to Stan’s Tristan Detwiler, she said, “There are so many amazing people in the fashion industry in New York, Paris, London, Milan, Peru and Hong Kong. They’re everywhere. And it doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter how you gender identify or where you’re from or how much money your family has. To be honest, when I got into the game, it was very blonde.”

She emphasized, “If you have something to say and your message is heartfelt and important, and you have a talent whether it’s retail, sales, design, marketing, PR or whatever it is, you are really welcome here. And you will get a front-row pass to some of the most amazing cities in the world with some of the most amazing people and the most amazing consciousness.”

In accepting the Hilldun Business Innovation award from Gary Wassner, Savitude’s chief executive officer Karen Williams spoke of the importance of helping to support underserved body shapes and making sure people who come to the door and want to buy something that fits them, are seen.

“Our opportunity is to make a difference not only with body inclusivity, but for the industry — with all the challenges of waste and returns — and for the environment,” Williams said. The Seattle-based company offers brands and retailers a design-focused, consumer-centric computer vision and analytics platform to maximize fit and minimize waste.

In delivering the keynote address, Rebecca Moses said, “Creativity is a voice of the times that we live in. Yes, we are living in extraordinary times. We need to understand different cultures, different ethnicities, different lifestyles and different generations. Many of us here today have been subjected to different isms — racism, ageism, sexism, classism. The list, sadly, is long, We must bury the isms that poison our world.”

Ken Downing, the presenter for the New Retail award, recalled how in the early ’80s, new retail concepts were teasing mannequins’ hair and silkscreening a designer’s name on glass. “Wow — how far we’ve come now,” he said.

Thirteen Lune’s Nyakio Grieco and The Vault by Volpe Beringer’s Nancy Volpe Beringer shared the New Retail award. Grieco explained how she set out to create more space for Black and Brown beauty founders who create products for everyone. With 157 brands, Thirteen Lune is now opening 600 concept stores. Beringer spoke of how “no matter what your ability or disability, you have the same right to use fashion and accessible fashion to express your individuality.”

Diesel’s Andrea Rosso handed over the Diesel Sustainability award to Mimi Prober, who started her brand to work with the people many in fashion don’t, like those on farms, in textiles production and natural dyes development, lace makers, hand weavers and garment production. “I hope this industry will continue to work toward supporting them and making sure hand crafts and all of those things are not forgotten,” she said.

Presenter Freddie Leiba reminded the crowd of the importance of curiosity and knowledge and how “a good dose of manners helps.” He gave Mia Becar’s Betzabe Gonzalez the Accessories award. Keira Moore announced the Beauty winner was Moerie’s Mantas Butkus, who was unable to attend.

Graff North America’s president and CEO Marc Hruschka told attendees how the company’s 82-year-old founder is passionate as ever and how he had been fired three times before achieving success. Hruschka handed out the Fine Jewelry award to Julie Lamb.