Following Monday’s CFDA Awards—which saw plenty of bold-faced names dressed to the nines and taking home their accolades—the CFDA, Vogue, and Saks proved they were not done celebrating emerging American fashion. Thursday night, in the warm, wood-paneled chalet bar inside L’Avenue at Saks, many designers reconvened—it was a chance to warm up before the holiday shopping season begins as well as a brief moment to decompress. 

The night welcomed the finalists of this year’s class of the 2022 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund; Jacques Agbobly of Black Boy Knits, Felisha Noel of Fe Noel, Lauren Harwell Godfrey of Harwell Godfrey, Taofeek Abijako of Head of State, Conley Averett of Judy Turner, Colm Dillane of Kidsuper, Pia Davis and Autumn Randolph of No Sesso, Omar Salam of Sukeina, Jackson Wiederhoeft of Wiederhoeft, and Elena Velez, who took home the CFDA Award for emerging designer. 

“We’re here to celebrate the next generation of American designers. Take this evening to connect with one another, the Vogue team, the CFDA team, and you can also ask some of those uncomfortable retail questions to us,” Saks Fifth Avenue fashion director Roopal Patel told partygoers standing alongside her colleagues, including chief merchandising officer, Tracy Margolis 

“I’m feeling exhausted but validated, and it just makes all of the stress and all of the hustle really worth it,” Velez told us, joined by her husband and two children, who enjoyed the eatery’s many luxurious snacks. “We’re now trying to locate the resources, the funding, and the human element, and I’m hoping this recognition makes that process a little bit easier so I can continue to serve as a pipeline to the industry for a lot of the other collaborators whose work I really believe, like Morph Design Studio out of Chicago; Nelson Kies from Milwaukee Wisconsin (where I’m from); all of the welders and machinist and fabricators from the midwest; all of my friends over at Gallas Metalworks. That’s very much the heart of the brand, so I come [to New York] as the professional outlet for what I do, then I go home to really reinforce the authenticity of the brand.” 

Playing matchmaker in the crowd was Stephen Kolb, who could be seen connecting the dots among buyers, Vogue editors, and designers in hopes of fostering the next chapter in the storied list of the names that have emerged from the fund within the last decade, including Thom Browne, Telfar, Proenza Schouler, Aurora James, and Joseph Altuzarra. “I woke up the next morning and felt super proud,” Kolb mused to Vogue about Monday night’s awards. “I know what we did to get the industry to be thinking differently, and it was obvious on Monday night that we’ve started to accomplish that.” 

With the Q4 retail sprint and Q1 planning meetings looming for many in the coming weeks, it would soon be back to reality for everyone, but in the meantime, a glass or two of bubbly and a few miniature hamburgers were just what the doctor ordered. “Monday, I felt like a princess, today I’m a designer; the glass slipper fell off,” joked Jacques Agbobly. “I’m incredibly grateful to be here, and to have this celebration to round off the past six months of incredible opportunity and mentorship and support from people that just want to see you do great things.” 

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