It was Pharrell Williams who was being honored as a fashion icon, but it was another music superstar who got a lot of the attention at the annual Council of Fashion Designers of America awards on Monday night.Introducing Pharrell, the producer-singer-songwriter who was receiving the evening's Fashion ıcon award, Kanye West took the opportunity not just to praise his friend, but to express some frustration at the fashion industry for, he suggested, its cool reception to his efforts to be a serious fashion designer.
"It is very difficult to break perception," West said. "Fashion had to be the hardest high school I ever entered. At least I had a big brother," he said, referring to Pharrell, who "talked me through it and kept me going" in the face of criticism over his fashions. West called Pharrell "my style idol."
Pharrell, in turn, thanked many fashion figures who've influenced his career and his personal style, and concluded by saying: "I'm not a style icon. I'm just inspired. And I'm OK with that." Forgoing his famous shorts and tall hat for a very casual ensemble of lived-in jeans, a blue leather jacket and a beret-style cap, he spoke at length about his dual loves of music and fashion, and their relationship to each other. He also made a point of thanking the fashion world's leading arbiter, Vogue editor Anna Wintour, for giving him some key visibility in her magazine a decade ago.
The emotional highlight of the evening, which honors the year's top designers, was when Betsey Johnson, whose colorful, whimsical designs have been gracing the fashion world for more than 50 years, came onstage to accept her lifetime achievement award.
Chelsea Clinton was another high-profile speaker, paying tribute to the late designer Oscar de la Renta, a good friend of her family. Clinton called de la Renta "the man I would have chosen for my grandfather," and told a story about how he helped her gain confidence, when she was young, with the gift of a stylish brown dress. "I miss him every single day," she concluded.
Kim Kardashian presented the media award to Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom, who repaid the favor by calling her, in his speech, "the Queen of Instagram." Earlier in the evening, Kardashian had spoken on the red carpet about the transition of her stepfather, Bruce Jenner, to womanhood and the stunning Vanity Fair cover photo of Caitlyn Jenner in a strapless corset.
James Corden of CBS' "The Late Late Show" hosted the evening, making frequent jokes about the healthy length of some of the speeches. He opened the show with a sometimes naughty musical roast of the fashion world "The Unsewable Dress," to the tune of "The impossible Dream."