2011 October 21

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards Take Pier 60

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Roxanne Mesquida, Gilles Mendel, Linda Fargo Roxanne Mesquida, Gilles Mendel, Linda Fargo
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(NEW YORK) When you're filling Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers with over 600 brilliant minds at the forefront of design, from landscape architects to typographers, the stakes are considerably higher when it comes to a decor scheme . Well, the planning powers behind the Cooper-Hewitt's National Design Awards didn't disappoint. A profusion of giant zingy numbers marked each table in shades of teal, lime, and mustard, and the whimsical, industrially chic place settings consisted of large spools of tape with guests’ names scrawled in Sharpie. Categories for the creative crowd spanned the gamut from interior to interaction design, and corporate & institutional achievement to communication design—but the fashion flock turned out to fete Gilles Mendel, who beat out Jason Wu and Prabal Gurung for this year’s fashion design honors.

As guests dismantled the caramelized onion, potato, and blue cheese tartlets accompanied by yam pear bisque shooters and tangles of walnut-studded frisee, presenter Linda Fargo recalled Mendel as the "elegant Frenchman that appeared in the Bergdorf Goodman coat department,” who went on to revamp the fur landscape by treating luxuriant pelts “with the light ease of fabric.” Or, as Mendel put it when he rose to accept his award, “At J. Mendel, we make furs that don’t keep you warm,” much to the (initial) chagrin of his father. Tournedos of mushroom-crusted boeuf followed as Sigourney Weaver presented an award, and a few categories later, Weaver got an Avatar-related shoutout from Pharrell, who co-presented the lifetime achievement award to Matthew Carter, whilst guests tucked into cylindrical semi freddos of chocolate and banana deliciousness for dessert.

Turns out, Fargo’s connection to the Cooper-Hewitt runs pretty deep—she drooled over the Van Cleef baubles back in the winter not once, not twice, but three times! While Fargo can spout off a dizzying list of designers across disciplines that have tickled her fancy lately, there’s one answer when it comes to the best-designed woman around. “Iris Apfel is very, very high on my design list. There’s no one like her.” 

But back to the museum chatter—everyone has a humiliating or harrowing museum tale or two, non? “Searching desperately for bathrooms” tops Mendel’s list of museum woes, Paper’s Kim Hastreiter recalled an Ann Magnuson elevator performance in the Whitney Biennial during the ‘80s as “the most fun I’ve ever had in a museum,” while Fargo had a more traumatic memory in mind.  “I got locked in the coal mine exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry as a child, alone and separate from my parents, and it was frightening!” Fargo recalled. As for ideal, not dreadful, occurrences for the museum-bound bucket list? “I’d like to see Oscar de la Renta do his shows at the American wing at the Met—they’re a perfect synergy for me.” Fingers crossed come February...

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