Annual Awards Gala Raises More Than $1.5 Million, Honors Four Visionaries

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On April 13, FIT hosted its 2022 Annual Awards Gala fundraising event at The Shed in New York City, raising more than $1.5 million for the FIT Foundation, which helps nurture the next generation of the college’s students.

The multifaceted visionaries who were honored included:

  • Serena Williams, 23-time Grand Slam champion and entrepreneur: Fashion Icon Breakthrough Award, presented by Jamie Singleton, CMO of Signet Jewelers
  • Aerin Lauder, founder of AERIN, style and image director of Estée Lauder: Business and Entrepreneurship Award, presented by Michael Kors (FIT alumnus)
  • Debra Martin Chase, television and film producer: Vanguard in Entertainment Award, presented by Pearlena Igbokwe, chairman, Universal Studio Group
  • Brandice Daniel, FIT alumna, founder and CEO of Harlem’s Fashion Row, and advisory council member of the Social Justice Center at FIT; Outstanding FIT Alumni Award, presented by Daniel Day (Dapper Dan), fashion designer, businessman

The event was co-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.

Notable attendees included: Carolyn Murphy, Ivan Bart, Wes Gordon, Francisco Costa, Dapper Dan, Pearlena Igbokwe, Fern Mallis, Sela Ward, Richie Shazam, Simon Huck, Veronica Webb, Alina Cho, Laya DeLeon Hayes, DJ Mad Marj, and Maxwell Osborne, among others. FIT Foundation Board members and FIT Board of Trustees that attended can be found HERE.

Highlights from the evening included:

  • Co-hosts and FIT alumni Nina Garcia and Michael Kors entertained the crowd and shared their favorite memories from their years at FIT. Kors also remarked that he was happy to gather again in person, noting, “It’s so nice to see everyone’s full look…screw those Zoom tops and slippers!”
  • FIT President Joyce F. Brown opened the program by toasting the new Social Justice Center at FIT. She also announced that FIT will build its first new academic building in 40 years, opening in the fall 2023.
  • Serena Williams accepted the Fashion Icon Breakthrough Award remotely and said in her video acceptance, “When it comes to fashion, whether it’s getting ready for a red carpet event or finalizing designs for a new collection, I always feel like it’s super important to celebrate your inner power through your exterior statement and make that a fashion statement. It’s your confidence speaking to the world…I only hope to pay this forward by encouraging the next generation of queens or kings of their court by being bold, unstoppable, and unconventional like the students we are supporting tonight at FIT.”
  • Brandice Daniel accepted her award and encouraged the audience to continue to support diversity in the industry explaining, “I had a dream to do something meaningful in fashion. My mentor told me that my idea didn’t have to be a side hustle; it could be a real company. Students have to feel like there is hope for them in this industry.”
    • Joyce F. Brown surprised Daniel with an honorary degree following her award acceptance.
  • Debra Martin Chase accepted her Vanguard in Entertainment Award saying, “Success in what I call the creative businesses– fashion, entertainment, the visual arts–is inherently extremely difficult. But as we all now acknowledge, racial, ethnic and gender discrimination has historically increased the barriers to entry and the obstacles to success for many people.”
  • Michael Kors saluted his good friend Aerin Lauder and presented her with the Business and Entrepreneurship Award. In her acceptance, she reminisced about their old times, late nights partying, and mutual love of Diet Coke. She said: “Since launching AERIN, I have always looked to showcase new designers and inspiring young talent. FIT is an institution committed to supporting up-and-coming talent, and it is a mission I believe in so strongly. It is the spirit of mentorship that allowed me to learn from pioneers like my grandmother and Michael, and innovators like Jane [Hudis].”


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