Bethann Hardison (pictured above, left) and Ruth Finley (pictured above, right) are names you may not immediately recognize, but in fashion, they are legends, each standing for something important, but far too often overlooked. So it is a wonderful moment to see that they will be honored along with the more famous designer names, like Tom Ford and Raf Simons, when the Council of Fashion Designers of America hands out its annual Fashion Awards June 2.
In selecting them, the CFDA, which announced the honorees and nominees Tuesday night, has acknowledged two women who have worked tirelessly to make the industry a better place, and held it accountable for its mistakes. Hardison, a model agent and once a model herself, has done more than anyone to promote diversity on the runways, an issue she has championed for more than a decade. Last year, she singled out several designers who had failed to use a single non-white model in their runway shows, prompting many of them to change their casts, and introduced a social media campaign at balancediversity.com to continue the discussion. And in February, she noted there had been a marked improvement in the castings of several shows, like Moschino and Prada.
Finley, now in her 90s, has occupied a thankless role in fashion for more than 70 years, as publisher of the Fashion Calendar, a listing service for runway shows and other events in New York. For most designers, Finley is the first person they call when they want to know when and where they should have a show, and the Fashion Calendar is the first place editors and retailers look when planning their Fashion Week schedules. (“God bless anyone who can keep this industry together,” Donna Karan once told me.) While the now enormous scale of the New York collections has overwhelmed just about everyone else, Finley maintains a constant composure and can still be found in fashion’s front rows with a delightful grin on her face.
Other special award winners are Tom Ford, who is receiving the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, Raf Simons for the International Award, and Paul Cavaco for the Media Award. As for the nominees for the designer of the year awards, there were no major shakeups or surprises, but then, there rarely are. The full list of nominees follows:
Menswear Designer of the Year
Maxwell Osborne & Dao-Yi Chow for Public School
Marcus Wainwright & David Neville for Rag & Bone
Swarovski Award for Womenswear
Shane Gabier & Christopher Peters for Creatures of the Wind
Swarovski Award for Menswear
Shayne Oliver for Hood by Air