• DVF Awards ceremony honors women leaders with courage
  • Designer calls for support of Hillary Clinton for president

Allison Williams, the actress who plays Marnie on the HBO series "Girls," pulled off a British accent Thursday night as she introduced the playwright and performer Sarah Jones at the DVF Awards.

"She thought it would make her sound more distinguished," said Williams, sounding and looking a bit like Kate Middleton as the audience tittered. A moment later she dropped the affectation and confessed, "I am very, very American."

Diane von Furstenberg and Allison Williams
Diane von Furstenberg and Allison Williams
Photographer: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

With that, the seventh annual ceremony and dinner for the DVF Awards was underway to "honor women who have had the courage to fight, the power to survive and the leadership to inspire," according to the program. The event took place in a stylishly outfitted room at the United Nations with white couches, floral-print pillows, and guests including The Standard’s Andre Balazs and model Liya Kebede. Barry Diller and Wendi Deng hit the buffet together.

The awards were started by Diane von Furstenberg and are funded by the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation and presented with Vital Voices Global Partnership and Women in the World, the media and events company founded by Tina Brown. Each recipient receives $50,000 to give to charities of their choosing.

While the gathering had an international feel, Jones herself was responsible for the largest number of dialects heard in the shortest period of time. Known for performances that play with concepts of racial and ethnic identity, Jones brought forth several characters with distinct accents as she accepted her award.

Sarah Jones
Sarah Jones
Photographer: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

And so: Jones’s old Jewish lady worried she might have a heart attack from kvelling. Her fast-talking Dominican trilled about "global women like the women of the world and everything -- Hi Tina!" Millennial Bella took a selfie with the crowd and explained, "I was named for Bella Abzug, who’s a famous feminist from like, history." And finally, in the lilting voice of an Indian woman, Jones said, "we want you to know we have been wrapping the sari for a very long time so we so appreciate the wrap dress."

Brown also spoke about DVF’s iconic garment. "It’s hard to believe that all this positive change-making energy started with a suitcase of figure-hugging wrap dresses in 1970," Brown said -- in an authentic British accent.

Von Furstenberg said that starting the awards was her son’s idea, and initially she felt shy about it. "I have really grown to love these women and these girls -- they become part of my family," she said in an interview. "When I speak to these women I feel so humbled, I feel like I haven’t done anything. I don’t have anything to teach them, really, but I’m glad I can help to give them exposure and money."

Von Furstenberg, in front of the crowd, asked for support of Hillary Clinton. "We want her as our president," Von Furstenberg said. She also talked of architect Zaha Hadid, who died last week, leaving behind "the most majestic and amazing buildings."
 

Martine A. Rothblatt
Martine A. Rothblatt
Photographer: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Dr. Martine Rothblatt, a transgender woman, received the Lifetime Leadership Award and will use it to support, among others, Black and Pink, which helps transgender women in prison. The International Award went to Agnes Igoye, Uganda’s Deputy National Coordinator for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons, and Maria Pacheco, who co-founded Wakami, which sells products like handmade bracelets made by Guatemalan women.

Emily Greener, Nora O’Donnell, Isha Sesay and Agnes Igoye
Emily Greener, Nora O’Donnell, Isha Sesay and Agnes Igoye
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Emily Greener, co-founder of I Am That Girl, received the People’s Voice Award for raising standards for how girls treat each other and themselves. It’s work that prepared her for posing in a DVF outfit in front of a scrum of photographers.

"I could obsess -- did I stand right, did my smile look fake?" said Greener. "I am trained in my own self-worth, so I won’t. But the majority of girls can and would."

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