What happens when there are more seats at the proverbial table? In the case of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), it has meant that “diversity and inclusion” can be more than just fashionable rhetoric. The past several years have seen the organization become increasingly diverse, from its membership, to the 2020 ascension of CaSandra Diggs to its presidency, to its ongoing efforts to further inclusion in the historically white-dominated industry.
That trend continued on Wednesday night at the 2021 CFDA Awards, where creative ingenuity was celebrated in tandem with inclusion and equity initiatives like Aurora James’ game-changing Fifteen Percent Pledge, for which the Brother Vellies founder was honored with the 2021 Founder’s Award in honor of Eleanor Lambert. Streetwear legend Dapper Dan was also among this year’s honorees, accepting a well-earned Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award at The Grill Room in New York City.
Unsurprising to anyone who has ever set their alarm to catch a new bag drop, Telfar Clemens’ reign as American Accessories Designer of the Year has now entered its second year. On a similar trajectory is Christopher John Rogers, who, after a 2019 Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund win and the Emerging Designer of the Year in 2020, is 2021's Womenswear Designer of the Year. Following in Rogers’ footsteps while breaking new ground, Edvin Thompson of Theophilio is this year’s American Emerging Designer of the Year.
But all eyes were on Zendaya as she received the coveted 2021 Fashion Icon Award. As previously reported by The Root, at 25, the star is the youngest to receive the honor previously bestowed upon Rihanna, Beyoncé and living legends Iman and Naomi Campbell, among others. Appropriately, Zendaya shared the honor with longtime collaborator and “image architect” Law Roach, who styled his muse in a two-piece crimson silk faille ensemble showing off her now-famous midriff, designed by Vera Wang Haute. The duo also kept it culturally correct for the evening, topping both their looks with box braids.
Of course, there’s no celebrating fashion without checking out the red carpet, where there were more than a few fashion statements made on Wednesday. Case in point? Kid Cudi, who once again trolled those who object to his penchant for dresses by appearing in a custom bridal gown by ERL, designed by Eli Russell Linnetz, who accompanied Cudi on the carpet.
This wasn’t just any bridal gown, either. Cut from delicate white lace, the dress featured gloved sleeves and an ankle-length bell skirt; completing the look was a tuxedo jacket with ivory lapels, cream-colored sneakers embellished with glittering crystal flowers, and finally a veil. Meanwhile, the designer himself accompanied Cudi to the event in a classic black-and-white tuxedo—and in a cheeky nod to the bride and groom theme, even lifted Cudi’s veil before they held hands in front of the gathered photographers.
We love a provocateur; especially one with a fearless outlook on fashion. To see the rest of the Black excellence on last night’s CFDA red carpet, check out our slideshow below.