#aboutlastnight: the fashion awards 2016
Aspiration and achievement were key words at the 2016 Fashion Awards last night in Royal Albert Hall where London's young designers were hailed alongside international industry greats.
Vetements. Photography Willy Vanderperre. Fashion Director Alastair McKimm. The Futurewise Issue, no. 343, 2016.
Creatures of habit had to watch their tongues last night as the British Fashion Awards morphed into the ceremony henceforth known simply as the Fashion Awards — emphasis on the. It was, nonetheless, still the jewel in the British Fashion Council's crown, and an initiative meant to raise funds for the education and promotion of emerging fashion talent. Demna Gvasalia of Vetements, who unsurprisingly took home the award for International Urban Luxury Brand alongside his CEO brother Guram, gave a shout-out to the hopeful designers of the industry, while Guram dedicated it to their young Paris studio, all of whom had joined them in London and cheered on from a box upstairs. This year the Fashion Awards were bigger, fancier, and more prominently attended than ever before, from Anna Wintour to Marilyn Manson and everyone in between. Bruce Weber and Ralph Lauren were both honored with achievement awards. The latter noted how, "I feel like I'm still 22, but I've been married more than 52 years. I've loved what I've done and I'm excited about what's coming," before he looked up at the boxes and added, "To the young people in the balconies: this is the beginning of a new era."
Because for all the pomp and circumstance that frame the Fashion Awards — and even if they are no longer officially British — London will forever be the fashion capital of emerging talent, of designer dreams and innovation. There was such a spirit for the support of that in Royal Albert Hall, where the awards had relocated to this year, echoed most thrillingly in the applause Molly Goddard received when she won for British Emerging Talent. Coming full circle on the celebration of young businesses around the industry, Goddard thanked her prolific publicist Daisy Hoppen, herself a young, hard-working power player on the fashion scene. Equal applause went to fellow members of the London youth club Craig Green and Simone Rocha when they took to the stage to accept their respective awards, Rocha noting how her dad, John Rocha, won that very same British Womenswear Designer award 23 years ago. She, like so many designers in London, is the product of a British designer support system unparalleled in other fashion capitals, and one that is so important to maintain.
"I'm happy to be here and not in Milan, which is a big mess," Franca Sozzani quipped in her acceptance speech for the The Swarovski Award for Positive Change, referring to the current financial situation in Italy. The Italian Vogue editrice has worked tirelessly on establishing schemes in Milan similar to those in London — NewGen being the most profiled of the bunch — for the support of emerging Italian designers. Not long ago, Alessandro Michele was one of them, quietly and anonymously toiling away on the design team at Gucci, the fashion world oblivious to the visionary mind hidden in that studio. When he took the reins at the Italian power house, he was quick to hail London as the city that had always inspired him most. This year, Michele won the Accessory Designer award presented to him by Gucci poster boy Jared Leto, who hilariously introduced his designer BFF as "my future ex-wife, the Italian stallion Alessandro Michele." Fashion could learn a thing or two from Hollywood about that kind of light-hearted roasting — whenever comedian Jack Whitehall, who hosted the awards, cracked a joke about the more formidable people in the Hall, some seemed almost scared to laugh.
Whitehall's finest moment was his likening of Erdem to other stars like Madonna and Sting, noting how a one-name stage name is always sure to bring success. On a serious note, Jaden Smith argued Hollywood could learn a lot from fashion, praising the industry for giving "two African-American siblings with dreadlocks" the award for New Fashion Icons, which he accepted on behalf of his sister Willow Smith and himself. "I wish other industries would behave that way," he said. Gigi Hadid, who had many a fashion queen swooning over her date for the evening, her mother Yolanda Hadid of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills ("I like to have fun but I don't play games"), won Model of the Year, and tearfully — in a speech worthy of an Oscar acceptance — expressed her gratitude to the industry for looking beyond her beauty and acknowledging her brains. The first Fashion Awards that weren't British were above all a celebration of fresh blood, but in its many lifetime achievement nods also a reminder of the aspirational value fashion couldn't live without. "I promise I will dream forever," Alessandro Michele said in his speech, "because fashion is a beautiful dream and I am a dreamer."
Text Anders Christian Madsen