Put away your sweatpants for just one night: It’s the CMA Awards

—In a tough year, the annual gala provides a welcome opportunity to get dressed up and celebrate the industry, says Stephen Brown—

I realize that the world is dealing with much bigger issues than my disdain for everyone wearing sweatpants for eight months. But with the CMA Awards just around the corner, I feel now is the perfect time to snap out of our collective fashion malaise, even if it’s just for one night.

When I was a young ‘un in this industry, it was such a fun experience to get all dressed up for the many marketing and ad industry awards shows. There was always buzz around the office about what to wear. It was the ’90s and early 2000s, and people still believed in style that meant more than wearing a $400 plaid shirt and acting like it was a Value Village find.

Over the past 20 years, as the industry has embraced business casual at the office, our awards shows have simply gotten more casual. Period. Trying to figure out who are the “suits” and who are the “creatives” is virtually impossible today (until you look at their shoes. That’s how suits get outed).

However, the CMA Awards is the one hold-out. And it’s a hold-out for the better.

It’s the last awards show where a classic suit properly paired with polished shoes, a matching belt and a bold tie come out of men’s closets; and the most stylish dresses and killer heels magically appear on women (or men… we’re refreshingly past needing to align our wardrobe with our gender). And I, for one, love this.

And then COVID arrived: A pandemic of both health and style. Of course, the awards are still going ahead because our industry continues to work as hard as ever, producing amazing work under extraordinary circumstances.

But does that mean we should just rotate out our grey sweats for our black and slimming Lululemon’s? How about taking a shower on the given evening?

Come on now. We are celebrating our achievements, we are acknowledging our best work. Shouldn’t we at least pay homage to our hard work and creativity by paying a fraction of the same attention to what we wear? (That’s rhetorical: OF COURSE WE SHOULD!!!)

I’m attending this year’s CMA Awards for a few simple reasons.

One is because Fuse is up for some awards for work we’ve done on behalf of Ricola and CIBC, so I’m eager to see how we do. I’m there to support my team’s achievements, and all their passion and hard work. Secondly, I’m there to support the CMA, the industry association that does so much for the betterment of our industry—client, agency and vendor sides all included.

Lastly, and let’s not pretend to be above this, I’m attending to see who the competition is and whisper with my team (texting this year will have to do) about other agency’s work—revealing my envy even if it’s buried in sarcasm.

The fact is, COVID can’t stop our industry from being passionately creative about what we do. We’ve made it through eight crazy months of high emotions, client budget cuts and virtual shoots, all while hearing about chaos from the election down south. Oh, and we’ve done all this without a single glass of cheap Canadian red wine and rubber blocks of cheese at some industry schmooze-fest.

We have the strength to persevere. We’ve proven that. So now I ask of you… no, I beg of you… go to the dark recesses of your closet and put on something that, from the waist up at least, illustrates you still have the style and grace our industry is famous for.

I look forward to seeing everyone—dressed in their finest—at the 2020 CMA Awards on Nov. 19.

Stephen is CEO and one of the founding partners of Fuse Create, and an avid supporter of The Message. As last year’s CMA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, and former chair and gala emcee for the association, Stephen is ready for this year’s CMA Awards Show & Gala… COVID-style.

David Brown