Backstage at the SS’14 show for CFDA awardee Joseph Altuzarra. Photo courtesy of Vogue.

Hilariously hosted by patron saint of misfits director John Waters, this year’s ‘Oscars of Fashion’ honored yet another impressive line-up of American designers – emerging and established – to carry forth the great legacy of art, design and creative vision in the United States.

With the staunchest of style icons attending – the likes of Anna Wintour, Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren and of course, CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg – Waters’ comedic presentation refreshingly reminded us of what fashion is all about. Unafraid to demonstrate his knowledge of the industry, nor resist poking fun at it, he was spot on in his implication that the heart of fashion will always be subversive in nature.

Our favorite designers are just that, never ceasing to be open-minded, to explore the world around them and unrestrained in challenging the status quo. Here are a few of the ones awarded that night that truly inspire us, whether their creations stay on their own lookbooks or end up on ours!

Women’s Wear Designer of the Year | Joseph Altuzarra

Photo courtesy of Nina Garcia.

Joseph Altuzarra is the scion of a Chinese-American mother and a French father. Raised in Paris and educated in New York, fashion and media capitals of the world, he was well prepared for the journey that lay ahead. Splitting his time between the two cities, he worked for big fashion houses Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, the former head of Rochas’ atelier and Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy. Armed with a fresh perspective and a refined vision, Altuzarra launched his own line in 2008, catering to the strong and fearless woman. After receiving an influx of funding from Kering (parent company of Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen) in 2013, he quickly rose to prominence, eventually earning the top honor at the CFDA awards this year.

Accessories Designer of the Year | Ashley Olsen & Mary Kate Olsen

Photo courtesy of The Row.

Before normcore was normcore, there were the Olsens. Established in 2006, The Row has since then continued to offer understated luxe basics inspired by the personal style of the twins themselves, as well as London’s Savile Row (a fashion house known for their exquisite fabrics and impeccable detailing). To encourage local job creation and craft cultivation, every piece is made in America – with the exception of their Italian-made handbags. This allows them to easily oversee the entire process, from creative concept to final production, and maintaining optimum quality and control for their products.

International Awards | Raf Simons

Photo courtesy of Christian Dior.

For the 2 years that unassuming Belgian visionary (and former furniture designer) Raf Simons has served French fashion beacon Dior with his insight, the brand has evolved into a radically different – and quite brilliant – creation. At the same time, his experience working for the fashion house has stretched, challenged and refined his own creative skills into something both unique and extraordinary.

One of my favorite pieces from this year is the reimagined eveningwear from the pre-fall collection, merging classic dresses with the band t-shirt decal, jacquard flowers and detailed landscapes. It is the perfect manifestation of his ability to infuse Dior’s historic house with the superb craftsmanship, precise design work and iconoclastic aesthetic he has developed over the years in designing menswear with the edge of youth. More on that subject is covered in his year 2005 book Raf Simons: Redux.

Menswear Designer of the Year | Dao-Yi Chow & Maxwell Osborne

Photo courtesy of High Snobiety.

Public School is really just the story of Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne living and playing in a city of convergence and restless energy – New York. Founded in 2008 with a mantra of “finding perfection in imperfection,” their designs demonstrate a pristine blend of high-low, with select reference points pulled from the arenas of art, music and fashion. Although design is done at their New York home base, fabrics are imported from the best of best in Italy, Japan and throughout the United States.

Young and fast, Chow and Oborne went from sole menswear brand chosen for CFDA’s fashion incubator program in 2010, to earning the Swarovski Menswear award in 2013 (and now, Menswear Designer of the Year). In February, they began their foray into women’s wear by showcasing their first female line on the runways of New York.

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