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 Icon award, Kanye West took the opportunity not just to praise his friend, but to express 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."
Pharrell, in turn, thanked many fashion figures who've been influential in his career and in his personal style, and concluded by saying: "I'm not a style icon. I'm just inspired. And I'm OK with that."
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.
An ebullient Johnson, 72, treated the crowd to one of her signature cartwheels, and ended it with a split. She then called over her friend, presenter Kelly Osbourne, to help her up off the floor so she could give her speech.
Chelsea Clinton was another high-profile speaker, paying tribute to the late designer Oscar de la Renta, a good friend of her family. "I miss him every single day," she concluded. And 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."
The evening's top design awards went to sisters Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen for womenswear for their high-end, minimalist label The Row, and to Tom Ford for menswear. Ford noted that last year, he'd been given the lifetime achievement award, and said he was "so glad to know that there is still life after lifetime achievement."
The award for accessories went to British designer Tabitha Simmons. The annual Swarovski awards for emerging designers went to Shayne Oliver of Hood by Air for menswear and Rosie Assoulin for womenswear.
Also honored: Millard "Mickey" Drexler, CEO of J. Crew, with the founder's award, and Valentino designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccoli with the international award. James Corden of CBS' "The Late Late Show" hosted the evening, making frequent jokes about the healthy length of many of the speeches.