The CFDAs, which took place this year under the big blue whale at the Natural History Museum, are usually a good snapshot of what’s happening in the fashion industry. As with any awards show, who wins means nothing and everything at the same time. Willy Chavarria, a former designer at Calvin Klein and the most compelling menswear designer working in the U.S. at the moment, took the prize in that category—a win for independent brands and thinkers, alike.
In womenswear, it felt like the room was pulling for the establishment’s favorite daughter, Tory Burch, whose brand has morphed into something new over the past few years. But that award went, for the second year in a row, to Catherine Holstein, the designer behind Khaite, whose Stripes-backed label is a shooting star in retail. Coincidentally, Holstein recently hired Brigitte Kleine, a Stripes operating partner and one of the most important early architects of Tory Burch, as her C.E.O. If Burch is the Ralph Lauren of her generation, perhaps Holstein will be the Tory Burch of hers.
The popularity of Tory Burch and Khaite demonstrate that talent is important, obviously, but capital makes all the difference—as does having a real C.E.O. that knows how to deploy it. Domenico De Sole, who was also honored that night, remains the platonic ideal, having twice made fashion magic with Tom Ford. In his speech, Domenico reminded the audience that it’s a combination of both factors, plus good timing, that truly allows brands to flourish. “It’s better to be lucky than smart,” he said, downplaying his own achievements.