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Vera Wang, John Varvatos picked as year's best fashion designers

NEW YORK (AP) _ Stars of stage, screen and music have worn Vera Wang's gowns to accept top awards for years, but Wang picked up her first trophy as the year's top womenswear designer Monday night.

``I'm really incredibly honored,'' Wang said. ``Even at my age dreams in life can really come true.''

The Council of Fashion Designers of America also selected John Varvatos as the best menswear designer.

Supermodel Kate Moss received an award for her fashion influence, following in the stiletto steps of previous winners Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicole Kidman. She wore a nude-colored strapless corset dress with a black lace overlay as she accepted her award from David Bowie.

``She dresses in a way that means something. What Kate wears, others wear. And it's really Kate choosing it, not a stylist,'' Peter Arnold, the CFDA's executive director, said before the award show began at a black-tie gala at the New York Public Library.

Moss is probably best known for her super-slim figure, but she's also credited with popularizing the now ubiquitous Ugg Australia boots and the much coveted Balenciaga handbag. She's modeled for many of the top fashion houses, including Chanel and Burberry.

Diane von Furstenberg wore one of her signature wrap dresses as she was honored for her three decades in the fashion business. ``I feel very nice about my peers honoring me,'' von Furstenberg told The Associated Press. ``You compete with each other but we're also colleagues. We help each other and we cheer each other.''

Lubov Azria, who shares design duties with her husband Max on the ready-to-wear line BCBG and their couture collection Max Azria Atelier, said her pleated sea green gown was a collaboration. ``We ask what do we need to do to make this dress really special, and we go from there,'' she said.

The Azrias also custom designed the chocolate brown gown with silver beads that actress Sarah Michelle Gellar wore. It complemented her new brown hair.

``The dress matches me,'' Gellar said. ``My husband had friends over when I was trying it on and I didn't want to take it off. I started cleaning up glasses wearing it.''

Other celebrity fashion fans at the CFDA ceremony included Joan Allen, who wore a silver beaded slip dress by Michael Kors; Nicole Ritchie, who wore a blush beaded gown by Kors; and a pregnant Heidi Klum, who wore a clingy black jersey gown by Donna Karan.

Karan joined Sean ``P. Diddy'' Combs to present the award for emerging talent. Combs challenged each of the winners to dance on stage like he did last year when he won his first CFDA award.

Womenswear winner Derek Lam told the audience _ which also included Mandy Moore, Iman, Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren _ that, unfortunately, the two things he didn't feel comfortable doing in public were speaking and dancing. But he did a little jig with Combs, anyway.

Alexandre Plokhov won the Swarovski-Perry Ellis Award for emerging talent in menswear and jewelers Anthony Camargo and Nak Armstrong took the trophy as up-and-coming accessory designers.

Marc Jacobs was named accessory designer of the year for the third time. ``I don't think of accessories as being different from fashion. It's all one thing,'' he said.

Other winners at the 24th annual awards included Elle publication director Gilles Bensimon for ``shaping'' fashion visually and Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz, who was given the International Award for making an outstanding creative contribution to the world of fashion. Norma Kamali, who said she was fully to blame for the shoulder-pad craze of the late 1970s, received a special tribute from the CFDA's board of directors.

Winners are selected by more than 450 fashion designers, press, retailers and stylists.
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