Since 1981, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) has been hosting the most influential American design awards. In 2018, the CFDA Fashion Awards were presented at New York’s Brooklyn Museum on June 4. The presentation ceremony, conducted in partnership with Swarovski, was hosted by Issa Rae, creator of the web series Awkward Black Girl and star of HBO show Insecure.
Since 1996, the CFDA Fashion Awards has included fellowships for young designers and programs to support fashion design students building their fashion design portfolio. In 2018, for the second year in a row, Susan Zienty and Cameron Orland, students from the School of Fashion, won two out of the five CFDA scholarships.
After receiving the Liz Claiborne Scholarship Award in 2017, Zienty (BFA Fashion Design) was awarded the 2018 Kenneth Cole Footwear Innovation Award and a yearlong fellowship at Kenneth Cole, supported by an annual stipend of $50,000. Cameron Orland (BFA Knitwear Design) was awarded the 2018 Liz Claiborne Design Scholarship Award of $25.000.
Here’s more about the honorees and their award-winning projects.
Q: Tell us about your project for the CFDA/Kenneth Cole Footwear Innovation Award.
Zienty: “The foster children of my personal past and recurring future heavily inform Adolescent Anonymous’ [the title of her submission for the awards competition] silhouette—a modernist approach to a controlled, compartmentalized form, in which one appears to move simultaneously between hesitancy and haste. The vitality of a strong support system needed in a foster child’s life is indicated through the continual use of sturdy platforms and block heels. The expressive, explosive hues and impulsive, agitated line qualities influence the unrestrained, impetuous creation of textiles. Exploration and experimentation of material is impacted by the resilience of the child’s imagination and constant desire for tactility despite facing life-altering obstacles. The use of salvaged materials and precious stones secured within a substance is in loving memory of my relationship with my longest-lasting foster sister.
Q: What is your favorite memory of being in the School of Fashion?
Z: “Spending 15 hours a day in the fifth-floor studio working on a collection with all of my friends.”
Q: Tell us about your project for the CFDA/Liz Claiborne Scholarship.
Orland: “My collection consisted of an essay, a bio, a resume, a video and a 44-page portfolio. The portfolio contained sketchbook development, as well as presentation boards of eight looks, garment draping, flats and details.
“A big aspect of my collection was the concept: In this time of inclusivity, why don’t we celebrate aging? When wrinkles that mark a lifetime of wisdom are deemed unfavorable, and freckles, hyper-pigmentation and vitiligo are concealed only to show an empty and undecorated canvas, we present a shell of who we are, unwilling to share and present the true qualities that are the hallmarks of age.”
Q: What was the inspiration behind your project?
O: “My inspiration started with an image I was drawn to…a nude figure wrapped in sheer cloth. I noticed how her skin was folding and pulling, and I wanted to mimic that same effect with knitwear.
“I looked to the great [French fashion designer] Sonia Rykiel and her words of wisdom for guidance: ‘Clothes should be so well-adapted to you, that you should be conscious of the way you fit into them, so that they are a second skin. They should be as tender on you as a lover or a friend. Knits are made to feel like they grow on you…. From the very beginning I’ve said to women not to follow the fashion rules blindly, and to adapt clothes to suit who they are, and not the contrary…. I think that there are so many women who understand nothing about clothes, and they should try and understand themselves before they start putting on disguises. They should stand in front of the mirror for a day, two days or three, and find out what they have that is beautiful, interesting…. I love how clothes can express who you are, but how can you express who you are without understanding yourself? I find that the women with the best style are those who truly know themselves, and appreciate their own beauty.’
“This wisdom was the basis of my inspiration. I found that my passion for knitwear in combination with my deep love for my heritage mixed to produce the collection is it today.”
Q: What is the best advice you received from an instructor in the School of Fashion?
O: “My best advice came from Chris Li who once told me, ‘Work smart, not just hard.’ It was a reminder that spending hours on end in the lab was meaningless if I didn’t stop and plan towards my goals and how I can best achieve them. As artists, we like to nitpick and can spend years developing the tiniest of details. Working smart and not just hard reminded me of my purpose.”
Q: What advice would you give students who want to apply for the CFDA Liz Claiborne Scholarship?
O: It’s scary—I know it is! And you’ll have no idea how great the reward is and how monumental the experience will be even to simply compete. Look to yourself. I think what got me where I am [is that] I stuck to the things I value and shared my narrative. CFDA wants young talent and a special point of view, so bring your unique voice to the table, play to your strengths, and remember you are capable of succeeding.”