Hosted in some of London’s most iconic venues, the British Fashion Awards (BFA) is an extravaganza of British style. Celebrating the country’s emerging talent, as well as international innovators, the British Fashion Awards has been supporting designers in conjunction with the British Fashion Council (BFC) Education Foundation since 1989.
With countless cutting-edge labels – from Erdem to Stella McCartney – hailing from Britain, the nation’s fashion industry is thriving. The BFC contributes to the field's strength by nurturing new and established talent, backed by the government and a collection of quintessentially British fashion brands including Coach and Mulberry. It ensures sartorial boundaries continue to be pushed, fuelling the imaginations of future generations.
However, the BFA is not just about recognising designers. This prestigious event also champions individuals who have made an extraordinary contribution to the industry through prizes such as Model of the Year and the Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator.
A Career Kickstarter
The BFA has played witness to several success stories over the years. Many of the fresh new British designers provided with the BFA mark of approval – in the form of a shimmering Swarovski-crystal trophy weighing 15 kilograms – have made their mark internationally, with some receiving additional BFA accolades later in their careers.
J.W. Anderson is one such example. The first to be crowned Designer of the Year for both womenswear and menswear, the Northern Irish innovator was also tipped as an Emerging Talent for his directional ready-to-wear designs in 2012.
The trailblazer has continued to blur the lines between genders, spearheading new trends with fashion-forward collections. His ‘90s-inspired capsule collection for Versace Versus Resort 2014 received critical acclaim for featuring unisex pieces and a contemporary take on classic Versus dresses with the brand’s trademark medusa-head details.
Christopher Kane is another homegrown talent who has risen through the BFA ranks. As a result of his imaginative artistry, the designer went from winning British Collection of the Year in 2009 to becoming Womenswear Designer of the Year in 2013. His first award came soon after a memorable Planet of the Apes-influenced Spring 2009 ready-to-wear display where 3D scalloped trims brought texture and graphic-print primates added a fantastical edge to Christopher Kane skirts and dresses.
Paying Tribute to Talent
The BFA also acknowledges influential forces in British style and international fashion, honouring the likes of Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. Karl Lagerfeld's unparalleled contribution to the industry was lauded at the 2015 ceremony with an Outstanding Achievement Award.
Overcoming its hallmark check pattern’s unfortunate association with football hooliganism, British-bred Burberry has been honoured numerous times for combining heritage fashion with modern technology. The label has led the way in the digital arena with its creative advertisements, sending ripples through the media in February 2016 when it hired a teenage Brooklyn Beckham to shoot its perfume campaign.
The label’s Regent Street flagship store’s interactive mirrors transform into screens unlocking exclusive digital content such as the history behind each product. As well as reinventing the shopping experience for Burberry bags and trench coats, Christopher Bailey’s contribution as CEO of the prestigious brand has also been noted with a Designer of the Year award at the BFA.
Representing on the Red Carpet
The BFA’s Swarovski-encrusted red carpet – another less-than-subtle nod to its sponsor – is one of the world’s most esteemed. With the eyes of the industry’s most revered fashion experts scrutinising every inch of the gowns on display, the attendees certainly up the ante with their outfits each year. The BFA even marks red carpet creativity with a dedicated award, which has been bestowed upon designs by Tom Ford and Erdem.
Emma Watson walked the red carpet with her usual poise and grace ahead of receiving the Style Icon prize in 2014. She donned a dark Dior blazer, sleeves nonchalantly rolled up to her elbows, on top of a slouchy white halterneck jumpsuit by Misha Nonoo. The outfit was finished with a subtle Jacquie Aiche body chain, while a boxy Anya Hindmarch clutch brought a flash of colour to the otherwise simple ensemble.
Monochrome is a recurring theme at the ceremony. Jourdan Dunn opted for a floor-length Mugler dress with a cut-out back and sides when she picked up her second Model of the Year award in 2015. The high-neck sleeveless black bodice met a sweeping white skirt, while a thigh-high slit revealed the slim silver straps of her Jimmy Choo sandals.
Tthe British Fashion Awards officially becomes The Fashion Awards in a bid to solidify its international appeal. The event is already renowned for uniting the global design community, collectively honouring sartorial excellence of the past, present and future. But while the creative energy flows, it’s vital for British style to continue celebrating new milestones and its place in the world. After all, it could soon uncover the next Jonathan Saunders or J.W. Anderson.