When Howard Koda asked me to present his lifetime achievement award, I was delighted. He is an old pal and we have collaborated on many projects over the years. In writing my speech, I focused on noteworthy Koda quotes, of which there are many:
On his own shyness:
“When I sit with friends in New York and listen to their banter, I always feel like a eunuch because I don’t have the edge they have. I was raised in Hawaii where there are no threats and no natural predators.”
On Diana Vreeland:
“With Mrs. Vreeland you had this grand and ambitious personality. There are people who still channel her. I’m not one of them. I’m an observer. An academic, very boring.”
Harold is, of course anything but boring. When I recall the extraordinary exhibits which this allegedly boring person has created, my mind reels. I am fortunate to have seen all of them. Literally.
There are too many to mention, but here are a few favorites:
At FIT: Fashion and Surrealism; Plaid; Jocks and Nerds; Three Women.
At the Met: Chanel, McQueen—Savage Beauty; Poiret; Jacqueline Kennedy—The White House Years; Dangerous Liaisons; Schiaparelli and Prada—Impossible Conversations; Goddess; Punk—Chaos to Couture; Charles James; y mas y mas.
Harold—humble Harold—will be the first to tell you that these were all collaborative projects. Harold is, in fact, an avid collaborator, and his knack for finding fabulous people with whom to collaborate—Diana Vreeland, Richard Martin, Andrew Bolton, and of course Anna Wintour.
When pressed to describe his contribution to the world of fashion and costume Harold said, “My real interest is as a sales person. I am selling culture.”
Harold insists that his goal has always been “to invent alternative approaches in order to expand the demographic.” Harold is a working class boy from Hawaii whose mission has always been to deconstruct the elitism of high fashion and bring costume, history, and style to the widest possible audience.
Based on the endless lines of visitors at the Met —to mention nothing of the global frenzy surrounding the Met costume ball—I would say he has achieved his goal.
Please join us in offering congratulations to Harold Koda on his years of service to the fashion industry.