The British Fashion Council’s 2021 Fashion Awards took place under sombre circumstances on Monday night, less than 24 hours following the news that designer Virgil Abloh had died of cancer on Sunday aged 41.
Actor Idris Elba opened the awards with a tribute to the late designer, stating that the fashion industry had lost a legend, before reading a Maya Angelou poem ‘When Great Trees Fall’ in front of screens displaying a portrait of Virgil Abloh.
The Off-White founder and designer was also named one of 15 ‘leaders of change’ at the awards, recognising designers, brands, creatives, and individuals who the British Fashion Council stated have “created positive change within the fashion industry this past year” to help the environment, people and creativity.
In a statement, the British Fashion Council said that Abloh was the “true embodiment of creativity” and that his work combined fashion, music, graphic design, architecture, and product design “without compromising on radiant human energy”.
“Throughout his career, he focused on inclusivity and philanthropy across these disciplines. With Off-White, Abloh reimagined what fashion design means, and at Louis Vuitton Men, he did not just made luxury relatable to culture, he made it culture,” added organisers.
Abloh was recognised under ‘creativity’ for making a global impact in the past year for both Off-White and Louis Vuitton Men, alongside Alessandro Michele for Gucci, Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga, Jonathan Anderson for JW Anderson and Loewe, and Kim Jones for Dior Men and Fendi.
For ‘environment’, the awards honoured Bethany Williams, Gabriela Hearst for Chloé and Gabriela Hearst, Phoebe English, Priya Ahluwalia and Stella McCartney, while in the ‘people’ category the awards recognised those who have led change by encouraging equal, diverse, empowered workforces including Vogue’s Edward Enninful, alongside Harris Reed, Kenya Hunt, Samuel Ross and Telfar Clemens.
Kim Jones wins designer of the year at The Fashion Awards
There was also a further accolade for Kim Jones, scooping the designer of the year award for his work at Dior Men and Fendi, which was timely as the designer is to showcase his Dior Men resort collection in London in December.
There was another big win for Nensi Dojaka. The emerging designer named the LVMH Prize winner in September has now scooped the BFC Foundation Award. While Simone Roche, whose label turned 10 this year, received the Independent British Brand award.
The awards at the Albert Hall also presented a number of previously announced accolades including the Outstanding Achievement Award to Tommy Hilfiger, the Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator to stylist and Dazed editor-in-chief Ibrahim Kamara, the Trailblazer Award to Alessandro Michele for Gucci, and digital label CSapphire won the newly added Fashion Award for Metaverse Design.
The evening also included several special celebrations that the British Fashion Council said: “showcased fashion’s role in culture at its best”. It recognised Chanel for its “pioneering commitment to arts and culture” with a special performance by dancer, actor and model Lil Buck.
The Fashion Awards also paid tribute to Fashion East, and its talent and community from the past 20 years, as well as founder Lulu Kennedy for being “ahead of the curve” when it comes to incubating, mentoring and platforming new design talent in a space with no divisible lines between fashion, nightlife, and art, as well as conversations on gender, race, and sexuality.