On Monday the Council of Fashion Designers of America will hand out its annual awards. They're like the Oscars of fashion — a rather big deal. In case you're not an encyclopedia of fashion knowledge, we've compiled a handbook on this year's nominees and honorees to help you understand why they're so important.
Womenswear Designer of the Year
• Marc Jacobs: Personal life notwithstanding, Marc Jacobs has had quite a year. Despite irking many fashion editors by showing his spring collection more than three hours late in September, he showed right on time in February. His lingerie-inspired spring collection and his seventies-inspired fall looks won critics' favor.
• Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein: This was a big year for Costa as well. With a vivid red-carpet presence and its highly publicize campaign with recently rehabbed Eva Mendes, Costa won Calvin Klein much acclaim with his fall collection.
• Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler: We thought their spring collection was all the rage, but then their fall collection came and let's just say we're still trying to come up with something greater than the phrase "all the rage" to describe it. Truly gorgeous.
Menswear Designer of the Year
• Tom Ford: Tom Ford may have done amazing things with womenswear at Gucci, but he has no desire to return to that label or ladies' clothes. His suits are adored by Daniel Craig (a.k.a. James Bond), and he's in the midst of serious global expansion. But we'll always remember Tom for his heartfelt ode to male nudity and his racy, controversial ad campaigns (aside from his chest hair, of course).
• Thom Browne: Thom Browne's circus-themed fall show was one of the most memorable this past Fashion Week. Cathy Horyn put it best in the Times, writing, "[Browne] offered the long-awaited thrill of seeing two men share the same trouser leg." Sigh.
• Michael Bastian: Intent on perfecting American sportswear, Bastian creates looks that maintain a downtown feel. His spring collection was inspired by eighties beach bums, and his fall collection by JFK Jr.
Accessory Designer of the Year
• Marc Jacobs: Jacobs gave us the endlessly delightful too small heels and the Über-popular daisy ring with fragrance inside.
• Michael Kors: Propelled by his increasing Project Runway–fueled popularity, Kors is rapidly expanding into accessories. He's not just for socialites anymore — teenagers across America love him too. Watch our video tour of his showroom here.
• Tory Burch: Like we even need to mention her ubiquitous flats. Burch's line skyrocketed in popularity in just three short years, and judging from the number of gold plates in the shoe section at Bloomie's, we suspect she's not going anywhere anytime soon.
Swarovski Award for Womenswear
• Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte: Critics love the Rodarte gals for refining their techniques season after season. Their Japanese-horror-movie-inspired fall collection was a hit with critics. The designers tend to stay out of the spotlight, but this year they let Vogue help them get fit for an article in the mag's shape issue.
• Alexander Wang: Alexander Wang gave us vampy grunge for fall with ripped tights and distressed denim. And it was hot. He also made his first appearance at the Met Costume gala earlier this month and launched a highly anticipated capsule collection for Uniqlo last week. Though his fans remained calm here, we hear people were injured in Japan when the line launched there.
• Thakoon Panichgul: Panichgul just made his runway debut in 2005 after stints that included merchandising at J.Crew and writing for Harper's Bazaar. Fashionistas go wild for his feminine, versatile creations.
Swarovski Award for Menswear
• Scott Sternberg of Band of Outsiders: Sternberg is a former Hollywood agent, and West Coast influences are clear in his men's line.
• Tim Hamilton: For spring Hamilton took a risk with lightweight fabrics, including calfskins, and vivid colors. His fall collection was even riskier, inspired by Japanese street style.
• Patrik Ervell: Ervell's sportswear is slowly gaining popularity in America, as this year's nomination proves. His fashion-forward designs tend to sell better in Japan and Europe.
Swarovski Award for Accessory Design
• Philip Crangi: Crangi designs jewelry for men and women. He works with nontraditional materials, mixing gold with wrought iron and steel.
• Joy Gryson: What fashionista doesn't love Gryson handbags? This past year the designer did a much-anticipated smash-hit capsule collection for Target solidifying her mass-market popularity.
• Justin Giunta for Subversive Jewelry: One of our Tastemakers, this young designer also did a capsule collection for Target this year drawing inspiration from the planets, the desert, and the birds and the bees, among others. He told us he digs through "dirt, oil, and grease" for his materials to use in his intricate designs.
• Dries Van Noten: This man knows how to work a floral print. His spring collection is a favorite at boutiques like Jeffrey. He stuck with the prints for fall, presenting an even more refined collection. A modest fellow, he prefers to live out of the spotlight in his native Belgium. A foodie, he had food from twelve different chefs at his recent 50th-birthday party.
Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award
• Carolina Herrera: For fall Herrera did some amazing things with feathers in her riding-inspired line. One of the classiest ladies we've met, she told us earlier this year she's a firm believer in only casting healthy models and isn't afraid to speak up when she encounters girls who look unwell.
And the final honorees…
Board of Director's Special Tribute
• Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg: The mayor is going to make sure New York Fashion Week gets a good home after the tents must depart from Bryant Park in 2010. At least, that's the hope.
Eugenia Sheppard Award
• Candy Pratts Price of Style.com: Let's just say if you haven't seen CandyCast, you're, um, in for a treat.