The importance of legacy resounded Friday at the Night of Stars gala presented by the Dallas chapter of Fashion Group International, and not only because 81-year-old diversity activist Bethann Hardison was honored with a new Lifetime Legacy award. Celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Dallas organization at the black-tie fundraiser, organizers claimed that it produces the only annual fashion awards event outside of New York City.
The highlight of the evening, which raised funds for fashion and merchandising scholarships, was a glamorous runway retrospective of gowns by Christian Siriano culled from his 15 years in business.
“It’s so wonderful to be here among people I love,” Siriano told 270 guests seated in the Ritz-Carlton’s ballroom as he accepted the trophy for Achievement in Fashion. “I think my first trunk show was here in 2009. And then maybe Neiman’s and oh, they threw me out. But it’s fine. Neiman’s never paid their bill. Are they here? If they are, let me know.”
The crowd hooted, though there didn’t appear to be any Neiman’s executives in attendance.
Siriano, who sells directly to clients and through only one store, The Conservatory, said, “I have always said that having the clothes on people, on bodies in the real world is the most important thing to any designer. You will never be everything to everyone, but if you can be something to someone in their life on their special day, then that is all that really matters….If I can be someone for people like Michelle Obama or the vice president, for J.Lo, for Janet [Jackson], then you know what? That’s OK with me.”
Hardison was celebrated as one of the first Black models to walk runways beginning in the 1960s, for establishing her namesake agency that launched Ralph Lauren model Tyson Beckford and represented Iman, Veronica Webb and others, and for leaving her home in San Miguel de Allende for New York in 2013 to advocate for diversity on runways and in advertising.
Calling himself one of her achievements, Beckford introduced his mentor. “I learned so much from this woman,” he said. “It was like walking into another world when I walked into [her] office….Anytime someone says, ‘Would you like to come and honor Bethann?’ Hell yeah, because we need to learn to give people flowers while they’re here.”
“I find myself going to help the person who seems to be oppressed,” Hardison said. “The people who really needed help were the whites who were not understanding….I believed that they needed to recognize they were making a grave error.”
Author and former CFDA executive director Fern Mallis presented the Excellence in Media award to Elle editor in chief Nina Garcia, the first Latina to helm a major fashion magazine.
“I’m very moved but first I have to say one thing: I love Dallas,” Garcia said. “The women, the glamour, I love you.…To create a more beautiful world is my mission.”
Dallas Cowboys co-owner and executive vice president Charlotte Jones Anderson introduced pop artist Ashley Longshore. Honored for Exuberance in Art, Longshore has collaborated with a number of fashion and beauty brands and was the first female artist to have a solo show at Bergdorf Goodman.
“She is a cheerleader for her art. She is a cheerleader for passion. She is a cheerleader for life,” said Anderson, crowning her accolades by declaring Longshore “an official honorary Dallas Cowboys cheerleader,” and handing her a pair of white leather cowboy boots embroidered with a star as well as metallic silver pom-poms.