This year's Fida Awards ceremony took place at Conde Nast College of Fashion and Design in London last Tuesday, only its second live awards event in the organization's four year history due to pandemic disruption. Simultaneously shown via Zoom to all the international members who couldn’t be present the event was introduced by co-founder Patrick Morgan who began by reflecting on the successes of the past year. Among these were Fida artist collaborations with Halston, NYC’s National Arts Club and Fashion Institute of Technology, Italian luxury accessory company Rodo, jeweler Elsa Peretti, Fashion Scout and London Fashion Week, as well as the recent launch of a virtual fashion art marketplace.
Among the jurors this year was Connie Gray, founder of Gray MCA, the leading international art gallery in the specialist field of original fashion illustration focusing on 20th century masters which this year presented both Legends Only featuring the work of David Downton, Artist in Residence at Claridge's hotel, and The Art of Elegance, an exhibit of illustrations by Dior Artist in Residence Bil Donovan. Said Gray, “Fida provides an inspiring platform that unites and celebrates the diversity and vitality of contemporary fashion illustration. Through attitude, texture, subtlety and line, fashion illustration today is more versatile and exciting than ever.”
The aim of the awards is to elevate the field of fashion illustration and to highlight the major role its illustrators plays in the creative arts industry. Other members of the judging panel included Betty Morgan, Director Kenneth Paul Block Foundation; artist Howard Tanguy; Courtauld Gallery’s fashion historian Rebecca Arnold; contemporary illustrators Piet Paris; and Jessica Bird; and CFDA member designer, Jeffrey Banks, who echoed Gray’s commitment to the field of fashion art. “I have always believed in the art form known as illustration. Despite the fact that the world is so engaged in technology, for my money, nothing beats the artistry, elegance, and beauty of illustration,” he said. “We are on the precipice of a new and exciting renaissance in interest in illustration. From the historical legacy of illustration giants like Alphonse Mucha, Toulouse- Lautrec, Aubrey Beardsley, and Maxfield Parrish, to J.C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, Kenneth Paul Block and Antonio Lopez, Fida is leading the way for the next generation of illustration greats."
The evening would evolve into joyful mingling, professional catch-ups and champagne sipping. But first to the purpose of the glamorous central London gathering, and that first category, the always popular Portrait award. Morgan described portraiture as "a space which fashion illustrators have mastered and in which they truly are leaders.” The winning work he described as a somewhat controversial choice according to the judges’ feedback before presenting it to Hana Tischler for her charcoal portrait. “It was not typically fashion but danced between art and culture,” said Morgan, adding that “it had the command of a National Geographic cover.”
The Beauty award also strayed into experimental territory won by Belen Rodriguez for her defiantly dreamy pink watercolor portrait. Caroline Riches was present to receive her Still Life award and explained how as a fashion educator at Leeds University she celebrated her 20-year teaching anniversary by painting a ghostly rendering of a toile by designer Rei Kawakubo which she left deliberately unfinished. The multidisciplinary award went to French illustrator Ludivine Josephine whose charming animation was an homage to femininity and the art of dressing up.
Student awards went to Parsons School of Design student Leo Qian, SCAD's Jiyoung Park and to Cailyn Kurdys for her multidisciplinary textile entry combining quilting, beading, and patchwork.
In the end controversy emerged victorious as Hana Tischler’s poignant portrait also earned her the overall winner award of 10,000 pounds. Said Morgan, "The jury wanted mold breakers, not artists that fit into the establishment."