FIT’s Annual Awards Gala, benefiting the FIT Foundation, will honor a group of multifaceted visionaries whose achievements create purpose-driven, sustainable solutions for the new creative economy: television and film producer Debra Martin Chase; FIT alumna Brandice Daniel, founder and CEO of Harlem’s Fashion Row and an advisory council member of the Social Justice Center at FIT; Aerin Lauder, founder of AERIN and style and image director of Estée Lauder; and Serena Williams, 23-time Grand Slam champion and entrepreneur.
The black-tie gala will take place Wednesday, April 13, at The Shed in New York City and will be hosted by FIT alumni Nina Garcia, ELLE editor-in-chief and Project Runway judge, and Michael Kors, chief creative officer of the Michael Kors brand.
Debra Martin Chase will receive the Vanguard in Entertainment Award for rewriting the rule book in Hollywood. She has broken barriers by becoming the first Black woman to produce a movie grossing over $100 million (The Princess Diaries) and to have a major studio producing deal (Disney) while consistently creating film and television that empowers women, shatters stereotypes, and promotes diversity in the industry. Her reboot of The Equalizer franchise starring Queen Latifah was the number one new television show last season.
Brandice Daniel will receive the Outstanding FIT Alumni Award for her groundbreaking work in creating a platform for designers of color during New York Fashion Week and supporting women in building thriving businesses.
Aerin Lauder will be recognized with the Business and Entrepreneurship Award for the entrepreneurial spirit, business acumen, and creative vision that has helped build her eponymous brand AERIN into a globally recognized luxury lifestyle brand.
Serena Williams will receive the Fashion Icon Breakthrough Award for her boundary-breaking achievements both on and off the court, from investing in companies that embrace diversity to launching her own clothing line, S by Serena, and a collection with Signet Jewelers, Serena Williams Jewelry, available exclusively at Zales, that helps empower young women.
“We are so proud to recognize these outstanding leaders—women who have made a profound impact in their respective industries spanning fashion, beauty, sports, and entertainment,” said Dr. Joyce F. Brown, president of FIT. “Each one—in her creativity, determination, drive, and self-confidence—serves as a role model for FIT’s talented students who are inspired by their many achievements.”
The annual gala benefits the FIT Foundation, which helps nurture the next generation of the college’s students. In addition to facilitating programs and developing new initiatives, the foundation provided scholarships totaling more than $3 million in 2021.