triumphant returns and big emotions at the BFAs 2014

From Galliano to Erdem, Marques'Almeida to Craig Green, teary speeches and poignant praise, i-D celebrates the winners of this year's BFAs.

by Anders Christian Madsen
02 December 2014, 12:49pm

John Galliano and Erdem Moralioglu. They may sound like an unlikely match, but they were nonetheless the ultimate stars of the show at last night's British Fashion Awards, hosted by Jake Whitehall at the Coliseum. It was the British Fashion Council's grandest and most thrilling staging to date, not just because the venue - now on its sophomore year - is proving entirely suitable for this intimately massive orchestration, but because it had all the blockbuster elements of a great story.

Marques'Almeida accepted an early Emerging Womenswear Designer nod followed by Craig Green on the men's front, cementing the future-centric heart of London fashion. (If you want to know just how big a job this city does for its young designers you need only count the amount of winners last night, who thanked Sarah Mower MBE, the BFC's Ambassador for Emerging Talent, personally.) Fusing London's fashion history with the glitz we've almost become relatively known for these days, a typically chipper Sarah Burton was given the award for Red Carpet designer. "Quite something to win an award for something I'm personally so bad at," the Alexander McQueen sovereign quipped.

Then, family bonds were retied on stage courtesy of Poppy Delevingne's girly and endearing speech to her sister Cara, who won Model of the Year. "You told me at the age of four, in the bath tub, that you wanted to be Claudia Schiffer," Poppy reminisced, before Cara and her statuette were shipped off to this evening's Chanel show in Salzburg. It was a delightful emotional rollercoaster, which kept ascending until the evening reached its most nostalgic moment, Suzy Menkes OBE's speech to the legend that is Chris Moore, who was given the Special Recognition tribute.

Ahead of her formal memorial in February 2015, the late Professor Louise Wilson OBE was honoured throughout the show with designer's dedicating awards to their teacher, who died in May this year. But it was the BFC's tribute to the mother of (almost) all new-generation London designers, which really managed to capture the Professor's ferocious, no-nonsense spirit. As images of Wilson's contributions to British fashion flashed across the screens, the voice of Samuel L. Jackson could be heard reciting the poem meme, Believe in your fucking self. "Stay up all fucking night. Fucking collaborate. Keep fucking learning. Find fucking inspiration everywhere. Question fucking everything. Learn to take some fucking criticism. Make me fucking care. Do your fucking research. Sketch more fucking ideas." It summed up Wilson's philosophies and language to perfection, and the crowd went wild.

British pride was in the air, underscored to American standards when Naomi Campbell presented Edward Enninful with the Isabella Blow Award, reeling off a Hollywood-worthy introduction speech that was only matched in Oscar-moment value by Enninful's poignant acceptance speech, in which the mega-stylist thanked i-D founders Terry and Tricia Jones for launching his career at age sixteen, and Simon Foxton for discovering him on the Hammersmith and City line. Rihanna suddenly materialised on stage as if out of nowhere and got a 'thank you' on the way, but it was the industry friends that Enninful grew up with in fashion, who got the biggest accolades.

He praised Naomi Campbell and John Galliano CBE and talked about his generation's "British sense of risk-taking" before calling Kate Moss - also in the audience - "the high priestess of grunge". Then, he glanced down at his occasional boss Anna Wintour OBE, and reminded her of their runaway hit, The September Issue. "You asked me to lift the glamour," Enninful said, referring to the famous scene in the documentary. "I think the glamour is in the room tonight." Touché. "If there are any kids out there, who think it's impossible to get ahead in the fashion industry because of their colour or their creed," Enninful finished off solemnly, "believe me, if I can do it so can you!"

With the motivational dream moment having reached its climax, only spontaneous emotion could top it. When Jack Whitehall introduced John Galliano, a kind of rush went through the Coliseum that could only be described as awesome. As the designer walked down the catwalk to the microphone, you could literally feel the emotion in the room; all of those people's feelings for this legendary designer, who fell from a grace that is now finally being restored. He looked perhaps unsurprisingly humble in a very normal tuxedo and a low ponytail, and as he stood there in all his underplayed magnificence you couldn't help but wish for him - and for the rest of us - that he could once again dress the part of fashion emperor.

But patience is a virtue, and attending his first public event in years was a huge step for Galliano and for fashion. His appearance on stage was the absolute pinnacle of the evening: a kind of glory moment in the story of this year's BFAs. "She reached out to me with daily phone calls," Galliano said of his friend Anna Wintour, who came to his aid after the media scandal three years ago, before presenting her with the Outstanding Achievement Award, given last year to Terry and Tricia Jones. Wintour, who's obviously the most important person in fashion and therefore generates a certain vibe in the room just by taking to the stage, praised Hussein Chalayan and Galliano "for their breathtaking and challenging work," highlighting them - as well as Lee McQueen - as British fashion's proudest children.

A moving speech followed in which Wintour talked about her expat findings - "Americans drink coffee instead of tea and they exercise at any possible opportunity" - and flew the flag for a fashion industry of designers, who want to do more with their work than sell clothes, much like the Vogue editrice has used her status for humanitarian work and the preservation of the arts herself. "I urge everyone here tonight to use the platform of fashion to think how to help," she said. "We have been given a great gift. It's one we should use wisely." For Wintour, who's known as one of the toughest cookies in the business, her perhaps most memorable moment of the evening was when she thanked her children, "Bee and Charlie, my by far most outstanding achievements," her voice trembling over the words.

Needless to say, it caused a spontaneous "aw" from the audience, who got another star moment of the evening as Victoria Beckham appeared on stage to accept the Brand award. She talked about how she was proud to be British, and gave a shout-out to "Mel and Tracy - we've come a long way since the Spice Girls dressing room!" Harry Styles presented Emma Watson with the British Style Award, which sounds like 'the British Styles award' when you say it lots of times fast, and Thea Bregazzi and Justin Thornton of Preen were given a much, much deserved Establishment Designer award before Erdem closed the show, very appropriately taking the Womenswear Designer of the Year title after what has been some of the most incredible seasons of the designer's career.

Out of the evening's many spectacular moments - Nicolas Ghesquiere, for instance, got two awards for his work at Louis Vuitton - the show belonged to Erdem and to John Galliano, who have both spent their very different careers doing exactly what Anna Wintour asked us all to do: using their platforms for more than just a trade show. Both are makers of dreams, of fantastical universes and magnificent characters, and both instil a kind of inspiration in their spectators that goes way beyond what they'll be wearing next season. It was a huge moment, seeing the return of one great king and the coronation of another.


Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography courtesy The BFAs

craig green