BROOKLYN, United States — “If you’re not optimistic, you shouldn’t be in fashion — it’s about joyfulness, creating beautiful product and exciting people,” said Pierre-Yves Roussel, special advisor at LVMH, on Sunday night. The industry’s top designers, executives, editors, entrepreneurs, models and activists gathered at the #BoF500 Gala dinner at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge to celebrate the people shaping the global fashion industry, presented in partnership with JHSF.
It was an evening of conversation, celebration and optimistic energy for old friends and new connections. Comedian Tiffany Haddish, who accompanied stylist and new #BoF500 member Law Roach, briefly took to the microphone, urging guests to take their seats for dinner. Earlier, she embraced Gigi and Bella Hadid, the supermodel sisters just after they did the BoF tie-dye pink carpet together. Elsewhere, designer Tory Burch and editor Carine Roitfeld caught up in front of a 500 logo emblazoned on a photo wall. And, after dinner, designer Brandon Maxwell and Bergdorf Goodman’s Linda Fargo got up to dance as young musician Amber Mark gave a soulful surprise performance. Cheering her on from the sidelines was pop music sensation Troye Sivan, who introduced himself after the performance.
Other attendees included Winnie Harlow, Silvia Venturini Fendi, Tommy and Dee Hilfiger, Jason Wu, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Taylor Hill, Lily Aldridge, Skai Jackson, Grace Elizabeth, Karen Elson, Hanne Gaby Odiele, Halima Aden, Derek Blasberg, Paloma Elsesser, Alexi Lubomirski, Teddy Quinlivan, Caroline Issa, Ruth Chapman, Charlotte Stockdale, Katie Lyall, Christine Centenara, Steven Kolb and Collier Schorr Together, they hailed from more than 30 countries, and came from as far away as Brazil, Japan, China, India, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Australia, as well as the UK, France and Italy.
After dinner, guests proceeded upstairs where, against a backdrop of cinematic views of the Manhattan skyline, Rina Sawayama took the stage for an intimate performance.
With so much tumult in both the fashion industry and the wider world, the gala was a celebration of the pioneers, activists, disruptors and innovators making positive change. This was also the focus of BoF’s latest special print issue — featuring François-Henri Pinault, Virgil Abloh, Kalpona Akter and Yara Shahidi — which was released for the first time at the event.
“For the 6th annual #BoF500, we focused on the change agents building and shaping a better fashion industry,” said Imran Amed, founder and chief executive of BoF. "There’s no doubt it has been a challenging time for the fashion business, a time for reflection. But, as we discovered in putting this issue together, there are many positive stories to tell and we are very happy to tell them.”
Members of the BoF 500 agreed.
“I’m optimistic about the post-millennials and the next generation of young designers,” said casting director James Scully. “It’s exciting to see someone really want to represent something that they don’t see themselves in and just take fashion in a new direction.”
Other guests were excited to see that fashion is beginning to look beyond its own bubble for guidance and cultural cues. “I think mainstream fashion is heading in a direction where what we see in the pages of magazines and online is starting to reflect the real world more, and I think that’s so cool and so inspiring,” said Troye Sivan.
“Fashion is growing up and I think that’s a good thing,” said The Washington Post’s fashion editor Robin Givhan. “Designers, stylists — the fashion industry seems to have stepped outside of itself to really connect with things that are going on out there.”
BoF 500 guests also underscored the power of consumers to drive change. “I’m most optimistic about the idea that the answer is really already being told to us by the consumers,” said Drew Elliott, chief creative officer of Paper Magazine. “If we listen to them, we will be able to deliver something that will excite them, entertain them, that they’ll want to buy and that they’ll want to covet.”
“[Our industry] is always based around the future and around hope — maybe part of that is the essence of retailing, too,” said Pete Nordstrom, co-president of Nordstrom Inc. “You always think there are better days ahead, and I think for us, in particular, the fact that we are opening up in New York, there’s a lot to look forward to.”
Guests also reflected on what it means to be in the BoF 500. “Being a part of [the BoF500] means fashion is diversifying in a very rapid and cool and amazing way,” said model and activist Paloma Elsesser, adding that she was optimistic about the fact that more people of colour and different sizes and backgrounds are entering and becoming decision-makers in the industry.
“Fashion is a business driven by people,” said Steven Kolb, the chief executive of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. “And there’s more humanity now than ever. It’s about more than just selling clothes — look at Pyer Moss. People have authentic voices.”
“We’ve been seeing a lot of diversity on the runway, not just with race but with sizes — it always feels good to go somewhere and see someone who looks like you,” said Roach. “Fashion is really leading the conversation and pushing the conversation about diversity and inclusion. This fashion week has been more [diverse] than I’ve seen before.”
Explore the full #BoF500 here.