The Brit Pack

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It’s no secret that the fashion glitterati love a good party, so what better way to celebrate Britain’s finest fashion talent than by holding a lavish awards ceremony in their honour? Cue one of the most exciting events in the fashion calendar, the annual British Fashion Awards,  to be held on December 1st at the London Coliseum. However, whilst on the surface the BFA’s may simply masquerade as yet another excuse for the British fashion pack to dress up to the nines and tipple free champagne, when explored further the festivities in fact emerge as dynamic confirmation that British designers really are a cut above the rest. With this in mind, here is a closer look at the dazzling talent that constitutes this year’s nominees.

The category for Emerging Womenswear Designer is always closely monitored as an indication of the next big thing. Indeed, with previous winners including the likes of Christopher Kane and Simone Rocha, it is clear that a victory can secure a designer’s place in the British fashion elite. This year, if press chatter is to be believed, it seems that fashion’s designer of the moment, Thomas Tait, is the hot favourite to win the badge of honour. Having already secured LVMH’s much sought after Young Fashion Designer Prize – decided, no less, by the likes of fashion veterans, Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs and Riccardo Tisci – the Canadian native and Central Saint Martin’s graduate has not put a stitch wrong. With clean and understated silhouettes sashaying down his runways, Tait has demonstrated a unique and intelligent sartorial vision. Take his Autumn/ Winter 13 collection, for example, which offered a unique and original perspective on practical winter wear with padded puffer jackets, shaped like American football-esque protection, and transparent all in one ski suits. Nevertheless, Tait faces tough competition from boyfriend-girlfriend design duo, Marques’Almeida. Their collection was perfectly on trend this season, featuring models in denim ensembles finished off with beautifully soft fur collars in sumptuous colours. Their late-nineties/early-noughties infused looks have gained them a sizable band of followers in the past few years, suggesting that all is very much still to play for.

By contrast, in the Emerging Menswear category it is arguably Craig Green who has the slight edge after stealing the show at this season’s London Collections for Men. His purist vision prevailed as models walked down the runway barefoot, clothed in ensembles inspired by karate style uniforms in bright Japanese Kabuki colours. This alternative take on menswear design has certainly caught the eyes of fashion aficionados worldwide, and could well help him take home the prestigious accolade come December.

Meanwhile, J.W. Anderson looks set to capitalise on his success at last year’s ceremony, having been nominated in both the prestigious Womenswear and Menswear Designer of the Year categories. Whilst this may be a nod to his gender blending ways and his capacity to sink both collections, perhaps it is also an indication that he has not yet quite found his niche. Known for his experimental shapes and cuts, there’s no denying that there are pieces in his shows that are simply breath taking in their originality. However, his more innovative approach also produces some big misses which appear to lack clarity and care. Such a statement is arguably controversial given that Anderson only ever seems to attract the critics’ appraisal, but perhaps a little bit of criticism is in order to ensure that every garment he sends down the runway is completely en point.

Competing against Anderson in the Womenswear category is the undisputed master of beguiling floral dresses, Erdem, and the visionary, Christopher Kane. At his Spring/ Summer 2015 collection, Erdem once again showcased his skill in creating whimsical and delicate dresses; yet, unlike previous collections, this season had a darker undertone, with deep forest green leaf motives encasing the body like wild ivory, demonstrating his ability to evolve whilst still staying true to character. At the same time, Kane, whose collections constantly push the limits of expectation every London Fashion Week, experimented with using cord, rope and coils to embellish dresses and skirts, creating ‘controlled explosion dresses’ in luxe jewelled tones fit for any cutting-edge, fashion ‘It girl’. Without a doubt this category is one of the toughest to call, with each designer putting forward a good case. That being said however, perhaps Erdem’s quiet luxe and consistency will see him vanquish his rivals.

Equally competitive is the award for Menswear Designer of the Year which sees Christopher Bailey battling it out against the likes of adopted Brit, Tom Ford and fashion veteran, Paul Smith. On the one hand, maybe Ford played it a little too safe with his last collection of worn in leather and denim jackets paired with jeans to see him clinch the title this year. On the contrary, both Anderson and Smith played the maverick by giving classic tailoring their own distinctive twists. Both opted for more free-flowing suits complete with baggy trousers in pyjama-like silks and retro-inspired prints. Nevertheless, as was the case last year, the standout menswear designer has to be Christopher Bailey at Burberry Prorsum. In a year which saw velvet blazers in lustrous earthy hues, buttery-soft, waxy macs, enviously-soft, sheep skin aviator jackets and intricately painted silk scarves grace the runway, Bailey has had another formidable year in which his consistency and vision should be rewarded.

Whilst the aim of the evening is undoubtedly to celebrate home-grown talent, the BFA’s also recognise overseas talent in the form of the International Designer of the Year award. This year’s nominees include Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent, Nicolas Ghesquière for Louis Vuitton and Raf Simons at Christian Dior, interestingly all hugely iconic French fashion houses. Despite a killer collection at this season’s Paris Fashion Week, it is still early days for Ghesquière as he takes over the helm at Louis Vuitton. Arguably, the front runners in this year’s race are Simons and Slimane. In his latest collections, Slimane has perfectly encapsulated the French rock’n’roll vibe of the sixties, with velvet, baby doll dresses, tartan miniskirts and unashamedly glamourous fur coats fit for any Parisian wardrobe. However, it is arguably Simons at Christian Dior who has shown us the greatest ingenuity in his ability to redefine our concepts of modernity. By introducing a modern take on heritage pieces like the renowned New Look, Simons has created clean and crisp collections which appear almost otherworldly yet classic, making him our favourite contender for the title.

In an awards ceremony dedicated to the masters of British fashion then, it is difficult to proclaim with any confidence a clear front runner in any of the thirteen major categories, let alone the five discussed above. Whilst this renders the task of speculating and predicting somewhat more challenging, it is nonetheless exciting to see both emerging and established talent challenging our sartorial expectations. Indeed, whoever may be crowned victorious, the evening promises to be a fabulously fashionable British knees up. We, for one, cannot wait.

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Marques’Almeida A/W 14
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J.W. Anderson S/S 15
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Erdem S/S 15
Burberry Prorsum S/S 15
Burberry Prorsum S/S 15

Photographs: Style.com, Pinterest. 

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