You know the British Fashion Awards has had a good year when the fact that Kate Moss, Harry Styles, and Kylie Minogue all presented awards is the least interesting part about the whole thing. Last night’s spectacle, held at London Coliseum, was a serious highlight of London’s fashion year — featuring a tearful Anna Wintour, a humble John Galliano, and a pantless Rihanna.
We’ll come back to Rihanna and her lack of pants in a minute. The biggest talking point of the evening was Galliano’s appearance to present the award for Outstanding Achievement to Anna Wintour. There had been rumors he’d be there, but seeing him at a fashion industry event after such a long time was still novel enough to cause a stir. He looked nervous, but was greeted with warm applause.
Galliano spoke at length about Wintour’s philanthropic work, and then moved on to her encouragement of young, talented designers. “In the early days, she would visit my studio and I’d be heating baked beans over a Bunsen burner to survive,” he remembered. “But then Anna’s been so supportive all through my highs and my lows. She reached out to me when I had become an outcast. With almost daily phone calls, inspiration, encouragement, and really practical help, this made all the difference. I wouldn’t be here today, healthy, happy, and embarking on my own new designer venture if it wasn’t for her. So there are really no words to adequately express my gratitude to Anna for all that she has done and continues to do for our industry and for the future.”
Then it was Wintour’s turn — and from her first words, her voice was trembling with emotion. She spoke passionately about the inventiveness and boldness of British fashion. “These are exactly the qualities that first drew me to John Galliano and his breathtaking and unexpected work … John for me has always been special,” she said, before paying tribute to Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen, Sarah Burton, Victoria Beckham, Tom Ford, and Mario Testino. But it was when the subject turned to family that her voice finally broke: “Thank you to my children, Bee and Charlie, by far my most outstanding achievement.”
Wintour wasn’t the only award winner to get tearful. Victoria Beckham took the coveted Designer Brand Award, and looked overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude. Suzy Menkes gave a glowing tribute to legendary runway photographer Chris Moore, “catwalking genius and my dear friend,” who won a Special Recognition Award for six decades of work in the industry. Nicolas Ghesquière won not one, but two awards, for International Designer and Creative Campaign, and joked, “I don’t regret my trip to London at all.”
The evening also included a poignant tribute to Louise Wilson, the Central Saint Martins professor who died earlier this year. Models wearing the designs of her dozens of famous students — including Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Roksanda Ilincic, Mary Katrantzou, and many more — gathered onstage while Samuel L. Jackson, on voiceover, read some of Wilson’s famously foulmouthed advice: “Believe in your fucking self. Stay up all fucking night. Know when to fucking speak up. Fucking collaborate! Get over your fucking self.” Wilson’s influence is felt so keenly across the British fashion world that she was thanked three times during the ceremony, in acceptance speeches from award winners Simone Rocha, Craig Green, and Marques Almeida. (Click here to see the complete list of winners.)
Kate Moss, Eva Herzigová, Karlie Kloss, Liya Kebede, Karolína Kurková, and Joan Smalls were among the models who presented awards. Naomi Campbell gave a long speech to introduce Edward Enninful, winner of the Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator. At the very last minute, she was quietly joined onstage by Rihanna, wearing only a Stella McCartney blazer and tights, to hand Enninful the award. Rihanna wasn’t announced, didn’t appear in the program, and didn’t speak a word while she was up there. Maybe she’s saving her voice?
Kendall Jenner also showed up, cuddling up for photos with Cara Delevingne — although this information obviously hadn’t reached the host of the event, comedian Jack Whitehall, who opened with a brutal joke about her sister. “This was the year that Kim Kardashian got out her bottom,” he began. “Wow, what a gifted woman she is. Is there no beginning to her talents?” As the audience cringed, he added, “It’s fine, she’s not here. I checked.”
Delevingne took home Model of the Year, and was rewarded with a speech by her sister Poppy, who called her “the brightest star in my galaxy.” J.W. Anderson and Erdem both won big with the Menswear and Womenswear Designer Awards, respectively — rounding off what felt like a triumphant evening for London.