On a chilly night at the beginning of December, the Fashion World descended on London for the annual British Fashion Awards at the Royal Albert Hall. Essentially the Oscars of the fashion industry and the closest the UK has to a Met Gala, the stars pulled out all the stops. This is a red carpet where *almost* anything goes. Unlike film industry award ceremonies, where the big hitters tend to be gowns in pastel hues or classic silhouettes, this night comes with a free-pass to be bold and show off your fashion credentials.
Upcoming and lesser-known British brands were well represented. Lila Moss, a nominee for Model of the Year and daughter of Kate, wore KNWLS. Tilda Swinton wore a striking gown and coat by British designer Charles Jeffrey Loverboy. Bridgerton’s Simone Ashley dazzled in a crystal embellished, hooded gown from on-trend 16Arlington. Meanwhile, representing the heavyweight fashion houses were The Crown’s Elizabeth Debicki who looked sharp in Dior and Alexa Chung in Prada.
Sparkles were there aplenty. Naomi Campbell, Stella Maxwell and Irina Shayk were just a few of those shimmering. Tulle was another popular choice, Erin O’Connor wore Erdem and Lily James opted for Rodarte in a departure from some of the slinkier designs she’s been sporting as of late. It was also exciting to see some of the younger crowd on the carpet representing vintage, including model Mia Regan and Heartstopper’s Sebastian Croft, both in outfits sourced from Vestiaire Collective.
Whereas last year the naked dress was all the rage, this year’s biggest trend was the train. Adut Akech, Jourdan Dunn and Munroe Burgdorf all adopted this more-is-more sensibility. As did Florence Pugh, arguably the biggest star of the night, who owned the red carpet in a backless Valentino gown. After a number of stunning sheer moments this year, this classic look was brilliant and unexpected.
The only thing well and truly missing from the night was Balenciaga. Fresh from scandal, the French brand was nowhere to be seen as their recent advertising campaign provoked accusations of child exploitation. A favourite of Kim Kardashian and a major player in the fashion industry for over 100 years, it remains to be seen whether they will ever recover from this.
The ceremony itself was presented by Jodie Turner-Smith who repeatedly changed outfits, each look delivering more drama than the one before. The winners of the night were Pierpaolo Piccioloi for Valentino who won Designer of the Year, S.S. Daley won the BFC Foundation Award and Wales Bonner took home the Independent British Brand Award. Other awards included the Metaverse World & Gaming Experience Award, won by Burberry; the Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator, won by Katie Grand; and the Outstanding Achievement Award, won by Yvon Chouinard.
And then there was the Model of the Year Award, perhaps the most illustrious and, in my view, the most predictable. Having previously been awarded to the likes of Cara Delevigne, Naomi Campbell and Gigi Hadid, this year it went to Bella Hadid. Receiving the award in a pre-recorded video message she expressed her gratitude and thanked her agent and mother, but the moment didn’t feel as special as it might have otherwise. The nominees made for a diverse group: Chasinghorse is an Indigenous model and activist, Elsesser is a plus-size model and Akech is a refugee from South Sudan. It felt disappointing that the Council didn’t take the opportunity to champion a more inclusive beauty standard. Bella Hadid may have made headlines around the world with her recent Coperni spray-on dress moment, but I worry this award category risks depreciating in value as it fails to appreciate lesser-known talent in the way the other award categories do.
A memorable moment was one of commemoration for the Queen. Following a performance from the Royal Hussars, the ringed carpet of the Royal Albert Hall turned to a catwalk as each designer from the London Fashion Week schedule sent out a look from their latest collection. Falling right after the Queen’s death, London Fashion Week was effectively cancelled in September as big name brands, such as Burberry, pulled their shows. Not only was this a clever and poignant tribute, it also felt right for London to have the big fashion moment it missed out on.
By Fleur de Bono