British fashion Awards

I was struck last night at the British Fashion Awards by Samantha Cameron’s appearance to present the New Establishment award to Erdem Moralioglu (that’s them, below). This marks Mrs C’s third time at the awards — she’s actually officially an “ambassador” for UK fashion — a record that is unequalled by any First Lady in any other country; certainly, any other country where fashion represents a meaningful part of industrial exports. So here’s what I wonder: why hasn’t Mrs Cameron had more impact on fashion? Or rather, on the global perception of UK fashion?

 

British Fashion Awards 2011 - London. Sarah Burton with the Designer of the Year award. Credit: Ian West/PA Wire

Sarah Burton, Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards 2011. Ian West/PA Wire

Take a wild guess who won the designer of the year award at the British Fashion Awards last night. Yup, it was Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. A well deserved win, given her acclaimed royal wedding dress and the sensitive way in which she has interpreted Alexander McQueen’s legacy, but not really a surprise. It was the first of many not-really-a-surprises at the awards, held in London’s Savoy hotel, which is probably a good thing, indicating that there is a consensus behind which British names are ones to be confident about.

Mary Katrantzou, who won the Emerging Talent – Womenswear award, is fast becoming a highlight – if not the highlight – of London Fashion Week. Not only are her bold and unusual prints arresting, they are also tailored to be highly wearable and fairly commercial. The question of when a designer is no longer deemed to be emerging can be a problematic one though; there’s often no clear moment when they become – like a butterfly from a chrysalis – fully formed. 

The answer to the above question — what’s wrong with British fashion — is summed up for me in today’s announcement that Christopher Kane has won the 2011 BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund award. 

The 2010 British Fashion Awards just took place, and guess who won? Well, Burberry, for Digital Innovation; Mulberry, for Designer Brand; and — drumroll please — for Designer of the Year: Phoebe Philo for Celine. Oh, and Alexander McQueen, with that Lifetime Achievement thing. In other words, a large chunk of the major international brands that can be linked to the UK (and that advertise globally).  

The canonization of Lee Alexander McQueen continues apace. Tomorrow is the actual British Fashion Awards, aka the Oscars of the UK fashion industry, but perhaps to get the buzz going the BFC has announced they are bestowing a gong for Outstanding Achievement in Fashion design on Alexander McQueen.