The spotlight was on the shoe industry Tuesday night at the FN Achievement Awards, where executives, designers and their famous friends gathered to honor footwear’s best.
Held for the first time at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the glitzy ceremony drew heavy hitters from companies such as Brown Shoe Co., Lord & Taylor, Foot Locker and Steven Madden, who mingled over cocktails with celebrities including Olivia Palermo, Blake Lively and Jessica Alba.
Alba helped kick off the awards portion of the evening, presenting the Brand of the Year honor to Toms Shoes. Company founder Blake Mycoskie thanked retailer partners and everyone who bought a pair Toms shoes for contributing to the brand’s success, but he also had a special request for the crowd: “We ask the industry to keep us humble and accountable for everything we do.”
Sebastian Manes, director of accessories for Selfridges, accepted the Retailer of the Year award on behalf of his company, and recalled the many days and sleepless nights that went into the creation of the department store’s massive new Shoe Galleries.
Taking home the Independent Retailer award was The Tannery for its sleek new Boston flagship. Co-owner Tarek Hassan told the crowd it couldn’t have happened without the hard work of his team, especially his uncle Sam Hassan and brother Talal.
Vibram USA President Tony Post accepted the Brand of the Year award, alongside a surprise guest: Marco Bramani, grandson of the inventor of the Vibram soles. “We didn’t have Jessica Alba,” quipped Post, who added that it was refreshing to see an industry that rewards risk-takers.
Real estate and newly minted fashion mogul Ivanka Trump took the stage to receive the Launch of the Year award, saying, “This is such a true validation of our vision.” And though Trump tried to lure brand partner Marc Fisher onto the stage, he declined, shouting back, “No, you look much better up there by yourself.”
Hall of Fame inductee Jack Minuk was introduced by department store president Blake Nordstrom and cheered on by what Nordstrom called Minuk’s many retail “disciples.” Minuk, who retired this year from Nordstrom, said he was humbled to be in the company of the evening’s honorees, and missed many of his friends in the industry very much.
Nabbing the Marketer of the Year honor was Reebok for its cheeky ad campaign and brand turnaround. Jim Gabel, president of North America, said, “Three years ago, who would’ve thought we’d be here, but there were a lot of believers in the marketplace.”
British designer Charlotte Olympia Dellal was named the Vivian Infantino Emerging Talent, a recognition that she said “made such a difference for a growing brand.”
The Philanthropy Award went to the Soles4Souls organization, which gave away 1 million pairs of shoes in Haiti in just nine months this year, according to founder Wayne Elsey. “Even your customer returns … are making a difference,” he said.
Hall of Fame inductee Burt Tansky was introduced by Manolo Blahnik USA President George Malkemus, who spoke of Tansky’s shoe-dog tendencies and preference for “bar-stool” heels. For his part, Tansky admitted to loving women’s shoes, but quickly added, “No, I don’t have a shoe fetish.” One thing he did believe, though, was that “no woman has enough shoes.”
With his mother at his side, Designer of the Year Brian Atwood talked about the psychic’s prediction that foretold his current success. And though he said he was warned not to cry, Atwood got choked up while talking about his team. “Tonight, I want to celebrate the people around me.”
In accepting the Company of the Year award, Jones Group CEO Wesley Card pointed out the significance of the event location, inside an art museum. “I often think with our industry, we make a basic necessity, but we make it with beauty, elegance and grace,” he said.
Finishing out the night was the Person of the Year award, which went to designer Christian Louboutin. After an enthusiastic introduction from Lively (who said she had so many of his shoes she “should be institutionalized”), a teary Louboutin took to the stage to explain his personal philosophy. “I am a person before I am a designer,” he said. “There is no boundary between my personal and professional lives. I take the same passion with me in everything I do.”