The 2021 Virtual AAFA American Image Awards, which benefit the Fashion Designers Council of America Foundation, on Monday honored companies and individuals who are committed to diversity, inclusion, innovation and global reach.
This year’s recipients were HanesBrands as Company of the Year; Walmart as Retail Innovator of the Year; Gabriela Hearst as designer of the year; Black in Fashion Council as Fashion Maverick, Sustainable Apparel Coalition as Eco-Responsible of the Year (a new category) and ShopShops as Digital Innovator of the Year.
The 43rd annual ceremony was hosted by Segun Oduolowu, who noted that “incredible work is being done by these incredible organizations and especially in this past year of new challenges and new realities. But tonight, it’s about seizing new opportunities.
Stephen Lamar, President and CEO of AAFA, which represents more than 1,000 brands globally, spoke from the National Mall in Washington, DC and welcomed attendees, saying: “It’s is indeed a summer of recovery for many people. , families and communities. We have come this far thanks to the heroic efforts of so many in our country and around the world.
He added that “while our work is not done and COVID-19 remains a very real threat around the world, I have no doubts that we have the purpose and the determination to meet the many challenges that lie ahead. He also noted that AAFA aims to help businesses thrive, fight the toughest battles, end trade wars, and protect brand integrity.
For the past five years, AAFA has partnered with the CFDA Foundation as a recipient of the American Image Awards. The gala will return next year at the Plaza Hotel on April 26.
In a recorded conversation with CaSandra Diggs, President of the CFDA, Lamar said, “This year we have jointly advocated on a number of political fronts, both those related to COVID-19 and those that are not. “
According to Diggs, the American Image Awards partnership has supported industry investment and the CFDA Foundation in all of its programs, most recently in its work on diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Collectively, these investments have helped support CFDA’s ability to better manage the future of our industry,” said Diggs, noting that the highest levels of leadership must play a role in the ultimate culture change. The CFDA launched the IMPACT program and increased financial support for the Designer Hub, which identifies and supports under-represented designers and fashion professionals. As a result, she saw an increase in the volume of investments in color brands, with six of the Fashion Fund’s 10 finalists coming from the Designers Hub and $ 1 million awarded through a CFDA donation to Icon360. She has also seen promotions and hires of professionals of color to key positions in leading organizations.
Colin Browne, Chief Operating Officer of Under Armor and Chairman of AFOA, said: “The expression that we may all be in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat, is so true. The past year has truly amplified the inequalities that exist in our society. We need leadership, purposeful and purposeful leadership. We have to be nimble, adaptable, but most importantly to be vocal. We have a responsibility to be a force for good, ”said Browne.
Additionally, Browne said that over the past year the industry has evolved in very unexpected ways and has happened much faster than they ever expected: “Consumers and their expectations have changed. They expect us to be sustainable. They expect us to be citizens of the world… We have the opportunity to lean in and embrace these changes. And I believe that is the strength of this community.
Accepting the Fashion Maverick Award, Lindsay Peoples Wagner, co-founder of Black in Fashion Council, which was founded last August, said: “We are incredibly honored to be part of the many changes that have taken place in the industry. We really wanted to work hard and make sure there were measurable and lasting changes in the industry. We have a long way to go. Sandrine Charles, the other co-founder, added that she envisions a day where blacks are represented and amplified at all levels.
Amina Ravzi, Executive Director of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, accepted the first Eco-Steward Award. SAC is a global, multi-party, not-for-profit fashion industry alliance. It is made up of more than 250 leading clothing, footwear and textiles brands, retailers, suppliers, service providers, trade associations, non-profit organizations, NGOs and academic institutions working to reduce environmental impact and promote social justice while along the global value chain.
Ravzi said it was a 10-year journey and that she is incredibly proud to have their work recognized by AFOA. In May, they launched their new transparency program that will help companies communicate their sustainability performance to consumers and stakeholders “helping them make more informed decisions as well as lead collective action and awareness. scale, ”she said. “Now more than ever, we must come together as an industry to solve systemic challenges that no organization can solve on its own,” she said. “We believe that partnership is the new leadership… there is so much work to do and no time to waste,” she added.
Receiving the Digital Innovator of the Year award, Liyia Wu, Founder and CEO of ShopShops, said, “I am honored to be recognized in such a difficult year. With the COVID-19 lockdown and so many challenges, I was happy to keep so many of my favorite brands afloat through direct selling … when physical purchases were not an option. She said there is no doubt that this past year has forever changed the way consumers shop. “I hope ShopShop can help preserve the art of shopping. Shopping is not just commerce, but discovery and entertainment.
Nina Garcia, Editor-in-Chief of Elle, presented Gabriela Hearst as Designer of the Year. “[Gabriela] is someone for whom I have great admiration both professionally and personally. She is a fellow Latina and a person who has become an inspiration to everyone in our community.
“She made it her mission to show us that sustainability is the real luxury we have. Gabby sets trends and not just those on the run, ”Garcia said. In 2017, Hearst was the first designer to host a carbon neutral show and was the first designer to use unsold fabric before it was in fashion.
Hearst, which was filmed in Paris, thanked AFOA for honoring itself and her team, expressing that this honor gives her company the fuel to focus on its sustainability mission.
Designer Brandon Maxwell, who won AAFA’s Designer of the Year award last year and is also the Creative Director of Walmart’s High Brands, introduced Denise Incandela, Executive Vice President, Apparel and Private Label at Walmart, which accepted the Retail Innovator of the Year on behalf of Walmart. . Maxwell said it was a dream for him to be carried by Walmart his entire life because he shopped there growing up and it’s a place he continues to shop.
Accepting the award, Incandela said: “It has been a year like no other. Bring your [Maxwell’s] The creative direction and incredible design talent of the Free Assembly and Scoop brand is certainly one of the highlights.
She also congratulated her fellow award winners: “You are an impressive group and your accomplishments are propelling the industry into the future at lightning speed. It’s a future we couldn’t have predicted 16 months ago, until we knew how a global pandemic would affect short- and long-term retail and buying behavior, from groceries to supplies. from pets to housewares, clothing and everything in between. We all worked hard to be there for our customers when they needed us most, ”she said.
Over the past year, she said they’ve expanded their grocery and pickup options; they launched Walmart Plus, which saves customers time and money, and partnered with federal, state and local governments to set up COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution at Walmart locations Across the country. “Looking back, it’s truly remarkable to witness the innovation born out of the need to go fast and be there for our customers,” she said.
But she also touched on the lighter moments: “We sold a lot of fantastic tops for these Zoom calls and we looked for loungewear and slippers all year round because our customers wanted to be comfortable in the room. House.” She said she has aggressively added national brands such as Champion, Reebok and US Polo Association and developed elevated exclusive brands such as Free Assembly, Soffe and Scoop. She said they are excited to partner with Maxwell to elevate their brands; that they partnered with ThredUp and acquired Zeekit, a virtual fit technology.
Mike Faircloth, Group President, Global Operations, US Casual Wear and E-Commerce at HanesBrands, accepted the Company of the Year award for HanesBrands.
Covering more than 40 countries and employing 61,000 associates, HanesBrands produces 70% of its clothing in its own factories.
“We sincerely appreciate that AFOA honors our company’s long-standing commitment to corporate stewardship and sustainability,” said Faircloth. “As with all businesses, Hanesbrands has had to quickly deal with the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, from the safety of our employees to navigation in an uncertain economic environment.” He said they were able to pivot their operations in a matter of weeks “responding to an urgent need at a critical time”.
He said the credit goes to his manufacturing associates, his supply chain team and associates across the company who have come together to work together under the most difficult circumstances and noted that “the sustainability is one of our main strengths and we have redoubled our commitment to this important space.
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