Purposeful innovation leads British Fashion Council award winners


“Purpose is the new luxury,” said Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans, at the British Fashion Council’s annual awards last night, which celebrated creativity and innovation from across the industry. 

He picked up the Special Recognition Award for Innovation, for his work recycling plastics recovered from the ocean into new products for brands including adidas, G-Star and Stella McCartney.

He echoed a theme that resonated throughout the evening focused on pushing for a positive revolution in light of climate change. “The planet is broken, the oceans are nearly dead and we need a dream of a magic blue universe that is well protected – something that we actually fight for together,” he said.

Also focused on this message was Dame Vivienne Westwood, who picked up the Swarovski Award for Positive Change. She used the occasion to give an impassioned speech about capitalism and the industry’s enormous responsibility to protect the planet.

Activism continued as a theme throughout the evening, with references made to Brexit, the Paris riots and even the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data scandal revealed earlier this year.

Miuccia Prada, on reception of the Outstanding Achievement Award, added: “Just a little note for fashion, I think more and more we should feel a responsibility for defending human rights and freedom.”

Dame Vivienne Westwood
Dame Vivienne Westwood

A surprise for guests meanwhile came when HRH The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, arrived on stage to present the British womenswear designer of the year award to Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy, who was of course the designer behind the dress for her wedding to Prince Harry.

Meghan took the opportunity to reference female empowerment: “As all of you in this room know, we have a deep connection to what we wear. Sometimes it’s very personal, sometimes it’s emotional. But for me, this connection is rooted in really being able to understand that it’s about supporting and empowering each other, especially as women. When we choose to wear a certain designer, we’re not just a reflection of their creativity and their vision, but we’re also an extension of their values, of something in the fabric, so to speak, that is much more meaningful. I recently read an article that said, ‘The culture of fashion has shifted from one where it was cool to be cruel to now, where it’s cool to be kind’.”

Other awards during the evening went to Craig Green as menswear designer of the year, Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga as accessories designer of the year, Marco Bizzarri for Gucci as business leader, and Virgil Abloh for Off-White, in the Urban Luxe category. Gucci won the brand of the year, while Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino picked up the overarching designer of the year award.

Emerging talent accolades went to Samuel Ross for A-COLD-WALL* and Richard Quinn, while Kaia Gerber picked up model of the year. There were also special recognition awards to Kim Jones as the 2018 trailblazer and to Mert & Marcus, who won the Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator.

This year also marks the first time the awards have celebrated a young global creative community with the launch of the“NEW WAVE: Creatives”, which recognized 100 of the most innovative and inspiring young creative talent from around the world.

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