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‘An Air of Change’ – Fashion Moving Positively Forward

30-10-2020   


Fashion reporter Sophia Furtado Koumis attended the 2017 Fashion Awards and was struck by the optimism and drive towards positive change within the industry…

Monday 4th December marked the 21st Fashion Awards, the British Fashion Council’s annual event honouring talent and creativity within the global fashion community, and also serving as the primary fundraiser for the BFC Education Foundation. Notably this year, it was also celebrating change within the fashion industry, with many awards going to those who use their work to champion important messages.

With the likes of Dame Anna Wintour, Naomi Campbell and Selena Gomez in attendance, the Fashion Awards were an evening of glamour and sophistication; however, for those of us who are not a part of this exclusive world, tickets can be purchased to attend the event, with seats in the circle of the Royal Albert Hall. Everyone with tickets socialised in the lobby and took pictures on the red carpet before being ushered to their seats. As the lights dimmed, comedian Jack Whitehall emerged on stage, hosting the ceremony alongside model Karlie Kloss, who wore seven different outfits throughout the night, with stand-out pieces including a vibrant Gucci dress and a shimmering Vintage Versace number. The humorous pair received plenty of laughs from the crowd, but as well as being an entertaining event, it was also such an inspiring night.

(Images top to bottom: 2017 Fashion Award winners included: J.W. Anderson, Adwoa Aboah and Stella McCartney.)

There was markedly “an air of change”, as Jonathan Anderson put it, whilst collecting his award for British Designer of the Year. There was an evident celebration of progression, with many people being recognized for their activism, including Maria Grazia Chiuri for her feminist designs, Adwoa Aboah, who is an advocate for female empowerment, and Stella McCartney, who aims to decrease the ecological impact of the clothing industry.

Maria Grazia Chiuri, the creative director of Dior, won the Swarovski Award for Positive Change, in recognition of her runway collection calling for women’s equality. The award was created for “individuals who have made a positive impact on society, the environment or both, and forms part of Swarovski’s efforts to promote a more sustainable future” and is celebrating the “We should all be feminists” t-shirt that graced the catwalk last year as part of Chiuri’s Dior debut. Chiuri is Dior’s first female creative director in its 70-year history, and so it is significant that she used her first collection to promote gender equality, because it tells the world that Dior stands for feminism.

Erykah Badu, presenting the Model of the Year award, hilariously forgot her glasses and could not read the name of the winner, but eventually announced that Adwoa Aboah had won, which resulted in the loudest eruption from the audience of the night. Adwoa has dominated the industry in the past 12 months, fronting advertising campaigns for Versus Versace, Calvin Klein and Topshop, gracing the covers of top fashion magazines, being named GQ Woman of the Year and walking for Chanel, Dior, Fendi and Marc Jacobs to name but a few. But what sets her apart is her feminist activism and mental health advocacy. Adwoa founded Gurls Talk, an online platform for women to openly discuss and share their experiences with mental health, addiction, sexuality and body image, letting each other know that they are not alone. She was also recently appointed as the BFC’s Positive Fashion Ambassador for Model Health and Diversity in order to inspire the young generation. Adwoa accepted her award in a sequinned mini dress by Halpern, paired with a glittering turban and Christian Louboutin wedges and declared how happy she is “to be in an industry that is now at the forefront of making a change.” 

Stella McCartney was honoured with the Special Recognition Award for Innovation, recognizing her contribution to sustainable and ethical fashion, which has always remained integral to her brand. McCartney refuses to use fur, leather, skins or feathers in any of her designs, leading her product development team to create sustainable alternatives to these materials, including vegetarian leather, yeast-based silk and viscose made from sustainable forests. The current methods of designing and manufacturing fashion have huge environmental impacts and as the first recipient of this accolade, McCartney proves that designers do not have to compromise style in order to create sustainable fashion. She insists that the only way forward is to “use less water, less energy, use our land, our resources and the planet’s resources in a more efficient way.” The BFC have followed suit by launching the Fashion SWITCH to Green campaign this September, calling for fashion businesses to convert to using a green electricity supplier or a green energy tariff.

Clearly there is a transformative force advancing through the fashion industry. Many awards were won by women who are making an impact in the world: Donatella Versace as Icon of the Year, Pat McGrath as Creative Force of the Year, and of course the aforementioned Maria Grazia Chiuri, Adwoa Aboah and Stella McCartney. This year has been one of positive change, and the Fashion Awards 2017 were celebrating it. The creation of the Special Recognition Award for Innovation signifies the changes present in the fashion industry, because it praises the efforts of those seeking to make a difference. It was wonderful to see such an influential industry awarding and supporting the rights of women and ethical fashion, and it encourages progression towards a better future.

Words by Sophia Furtado Koumis

Images: Getty Images for the British Fashion Council

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