11 Style Takeaways From The Fashion Awards 2019
Rented dresses, big names and even bigger winners: Bethan Holt and Charlie Gowans-Eglinton share their AAA guide to British fashion’s biggest night of the year at London’s Royal Albert Hall
The hostess with the mostess (outfits)
It’s true that the host sets the dress code — but when the host is Tracee Ellis Ross, we’d like to see anyone, even the biggest A-list names in the business, meet the challenge. The American actress (and daughter of Diana Ross) wore not one but five outfits, and none of them could be described as understated.
First, on the red carpet, was bright white Loewe (designed by creative director Jonathan Anderson from Belfast). Ellis Ross stepped on to the stage in a technicolour floral caped dress by young British designer Richard Quinn, but if that silhouette seemed dramatic, it was nothing compared to Erdem’s green and black jacquard tiered cake-topper of a frock, complete with matching hat. Two sequined dresses — ruby red Simone Rocha and silver Gucci — completed her fashion Tour de Force — and if the latter’s sequins were near-blinding, well, Tracee could just keep her Gucci sunglasses on...
While the Fashion Awards was rebranded from the British Fashion Awards in 2016 to reflect its increasingly global perspective, it’s a very British knees-up, hosted in the Royal Albert Hall. Accordingly, four of her frocks were designed by Brits, and the host declared her love for all things British (including Marks & Spencer) in her opening speech. It’s her party, and she’ll wear five looks if she wants to. CGE
Back to black
With stylists competing to find the most standout frocks for their clients to wear, and so make best-dressed lists the following day, black doesn’t get much of a look in (which, along with its severity, made it the natural choice for 2018‘s MeToo red carpet protests, as it was such a break from the norm). But while some guests opted for brights and festive sparkle, the standout trend of the night was the little black dress. A classic, but classic needn’t mean boring, as this lot proved. Yasmin Le Bon eschewed new for vintage sparkly Armani Privé; Alexa Chung designed her own sequinned column with white collar and cuffs; and Naomi Watts’s velvet Burberry brought the drama. All in all, great news for any woman who already has a black dress in her party arsenal. CGE
Grande dame double acts
There was a time when every woman needed a walker (a dapper, often gay, gentleman) on her arm if she was off to a glitzy fashion do, but the new vogue is to come with a woman as fabulous (and famed) as yourself and bask in your shared gorgeousness.
First up, the Fashion Awards gave us Dame Anna Wintour offering her most ostentatious Public Display of Affection of all time by entering stage left with her arm draped around the shoulder of Lady Amanda Harlech, united in their admiration for Karl Lagerfeld and both clad in regal Chanel couture (“this feels to me like an Elizabeth I vs. Mary, Queen of Scots moment,” noted Tim Blanks) to announce a scholarship in the late designer’s name. The Anna arm and a tilt of the heads towards one another as they exited created an unusually tender moment amid the usual mwahs.
On to Janet Jackson’s homage to Rihanna, who has gone from topping the charts with Umbrella to being the first black woman to lead her own luxury design label as part of the LVMH conglomerate and thus winning the evening’s Urban Luxe award. “You’re loved for your style, your boldness, and your strength as a woman,” Jackson said, wrapped up in a fuzzy black coat and brooch-adorned beret. Cue genuine hugs.
La pièce de résistance of grande dame double acts was Julia Roberts and Cate Blanchett, out in force to present their “lovely, beautiful, sweet friend” Giorgio Armani with the Outstanding Achievement Award. Blanchett mused on how both she and Roberts had spent their first pay cheques on Armani suits, while Roberts later gave the ultimate recognition of their mutual legend status by Instagramming their place settings beside one another — it’s the new selfie. Blanchett had such a jolly time with Roberts and Armani on stage that she walked off blissfully arm-in-arm with them and had to rush back on to introduce the Eric Clapton performance she’d forgotten about. As you do. BH
Bottega sweeps the board
Some nominees may have been wondering why on earth they had bothered to turn up, given that Bottega Veneta swept the board, taking four awards (Brand, Accessories Designer, British Designer Womenswear and Designer of the Year, in case you were wondering). It’s a remarkable feat for British designer Daniel Lee, who showed his first collection for the house less than a year ago after being plucked from relative obscurity, to become creative director of the Italian luxury house, prompting a 500 per cent rise in sales of the brand on Net-a-Porter alone and a @newbottega Instagram fan account with nearly 150,000 followers. The question is, can it last? Never mind, Monday evening was Lee’s first big moment — the boy from Bradford done good. BH
The celebrity rumour mill has been in overdrive about the possible end of Lily James and Matt Smith’s relationship. So she did the most elegant thing and opted for a divine Valentino couture gown decorated with a giant bow and smiled her way down the red carpet — a wonderful distraction technique, I’m sure you’ll agree, but also — how could you not smile in a dress this beautiful?
That’s the lovely thing about this season’s bowmania look; it’s both joyful and super sophisticated, a rather rare combination. Also having a bow-ment was model of the year, Adut Akech, also in Valentino, and looking very Christmas tree-ish in emerald green — hers was a maxi bow at the waist, which, of course, a model can do effortlessly.Others had ideas more suited for adopting ourselves: Laura Carmichael’s Ralph and Russo was artfully arranged at the hip and Lady Amelia Windsor’s Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini gown came with a sweet little bow belt.
I liked how Lily’s went right across the bust — an interesting way to swerve the issues that area can often present. If Valentino’s not in your price range, Zara has bows galore right now. BH
The one and only Naomi — and her style icons
Unlike the rest of the night’s winners, Naomi Campbell has known for several months that she’d be celebrated with the Fashion Icon award at Monday evening’s ceremony, so consequently had plenty of time to prepare her acceptance speech. Allusions were naturally made to her unique approach to timekeeping and, er, sparkling temperament, as well as the activism and charity work to which she now dedicates most of her time. She described seeing the Royal Albert Hall from the bus she’d catch from Streatham, wondering what it was like inside... and now she was there as the centre of attention. And there was an emotional tribute to her mother, Valerie.
The highlight, though, was the now-official style icon (in exquisite Alexander McQueen for the night) giving a roll call of her own style icons. “Grace Jones, Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt, Donyale Luna, Bethann Hardison, Naomi Sims, Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross, Diahann Carroll, Janet Jackson, and Tina Turner... I could go on and on,” she told us. Some may be more familiar to most of us than others, but all offer serious style inspiration: I’m moodboarding Dandridge’s pencil skirts and off-shoulder top looks and Luna’s maximalist earrings immediately. BH
While there were a few standing ovations and more than a few standout moments, the best winner’s speech of the night was undoubtedly Adut Akech’s. The 19-year-old winner of the Model of the Year category accepted her award from Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli and British Vogue’s editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, naming them as two of her three greatest supporters within the industry (the third being Naomi Campbell).
In her moving speech Akech, who was born in war-torn South Sudan and lived in a refugee camp in Kenya before being transferred to Australia, offered her own story as proof to anyone watching who felt under-represented, or had been told that they couldn’t do something, that they could. She also spoke for more diversity, saying: “It is important for all of us to remember that someone like me winning this award is a rarity.” CGE
Red carpet rentals
Usually, the red carpet is a Petri dish of the latest fashion trends, with celebrities borrowing clothes directly from the catwalk long before they’ve even arrived in stores (like Tracee Ellis Ross’s wardrobe snapshot of next summer’s biggest trends). But the shift towards conscious consumption in fashion is a powerful one, and its effects could be seen on the red carpet of one of the glitziest nights of the year.
Fashion rental website My Wardrobe HQ hired a double-decker bus as transport to the event, filling it with 80-odd editors and influencers (including Stella magazine’s deputy editor Naomi Greenaway) all wearing rented fashion to walk the red carpet. You might not have a red-carpet event in the calendar any time soon, but renting could mean finding the perfect dress for that Christmas party or winter wedding.
Rather than making a wear-once purchase, renting can bring usually out-of-budget designers into your price range — Millie Mackintosh’s pistachio-green Emilia Wickstead would cost £1,015 ($2036) to buy, but can be rented for £118 ($236) — which might seem steep, but could be worth it to have a stunning “new” dress worthy of that extra-special occasion. CGE
Pockets and practicality
Julia Roberts offered up the most relatable tribute imaginable to Giorgio Armani, thanking him for making her a jumpsuit with pockets for the night, which obviously drew a cheer — it’s all women really want, isn’t it? Well, that and sleeves, which Julia’s look also did nicely. Side note: love that she had her specs on.
Cate Blanchett also went on to praise Armani’s genius at giving women the best bits of masculine tailoring. Accordingly, some of the evening’s chicest looks were either by Armani or were Armani-esque. Special shout-outs to Lauren Hutton in a dream of a velvet jumpsuit, Stella Tennant in a tufted tulle masterpiece and Michelle Dockery in a black sequinned column gown; a reminder that sometimes simple, practical and timeless elegance will do perfectly — grazie mille, Mr Armani! BH
This year saw the introduction of a brand new award: Designers’ Designer, inviting British fashion designers to vote for their peers. The designers in the running needed to have boosted their brand’s perception over the last year, but there was also an element of personal feeling here — many designers working in London today will have been classmates at university. The popularity of the winner, Scotsman Christopher Kane, was made clear by the sheer volume of the cheering in the room when his name was announced. Kane, who founded his eponymous brand in 2006, was presented his award by a Kane-clad Kylie Minogue. CGE
Korean-born, London-based designer Rejina Pyo was visibly shocked to win the award for British Emerging Talent in the womenswear category. This was her third year as a nominee — and, she joked, the first year that she hadn’t prepared a speech. Pyo funded the launch of her eponymous label in 2014 with the prize money from a fashion competition she’d won, but was dangerously close to closure before sales took off. She’s quickly become a highlight on the London Fashion Week schedule, known for her unexpected colour combinations and sculptural silhouettes. CGE
— The Daily Telegraph