NEW YORK (AP) — Fashion rules are made to be broken, Rihanna told a glittering crowd of fashion industry leaders on Monday, and her outfit dramatically conveyed that message: a sheer fishnet gown, sparkling with thousands of embedded crystals, that left little underneath to the imagination.
The singer cemented her role as a fashion luminary by receiving the 2014 Fashion Icon Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Her trophy was presented by Anna Wintour, the powerful Vogue editor, who said that with Rihanna, "the point is to be audacious — even jaw-dropping or button-pushing."
Accepting the award, Rihanna spoke of her origins in Barbados, where "I didn't have a lot of access to fashion." But, she said: "Fashion has always been my defense mechanism." Even as a child, she told the crowd, she used to think: "She can beat me, but she can't beat my outfit."
"I can compensate for all my weaknesses with my fashion," she said, adding: "There are rules, but rules are meant to be broken."
Also honored at the annual CFDA ceremony at Lincoln Center were a number of top designers. Joseph Altuzarra won the womenswear award, and the menswear prize went to Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, the duo behind the Public School label. Sisters Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen of The Row won the accessories award.
The international award went to Raf Simons of Dior, and the CFDA lifetime achievement award went to designer Tom Ford, who quipped that he hoped it didn't spell the end of his career.
"Please have me back in another 25 years," Ford joked. "I promise I'll wear a toupee and walk with a cane."
An emotional high point of the ceremony was the bestowing of the prestigious Founders Award to Bethann Hardison, a former model and modeling agent who has been a vocal champion for diversity on runways.
She was introduced by model Naomi Campbell, who choked up when she described her admiration for Hardison. When Hardison came onstage to accept her trophy, so did 16 models of color, standing behind her and smiling. She spoke passionately of the need for diverse runways — "just let them model," she said — and added that things were improving throughout the industry on that score.