To really get a handle on the big trends of the festive season, I’ve always found the Fashion Awards to be a fine place to start.
Certainly, the British Fashion Council’s all-singing-all-dancing Albert Hall shindig — traditionally held on the first Monday in December — has long served as a precursor to a month of seasons and, as a trend prompter, with the most indelible looks of the night considered beacons of inspiration for those planning their Christmas party ensembles.
It is particularly cheering, then, that the takeaway message from last night’s bash wasn’t about a new flash-in-the-pan trend, but about the new-found appeal of clothes that cost (almost) no money at all — with a host of red-carpet regulars looking to rental services to kit them out for the occasion. This idea succeeded in making its presence felt in amongst the excess, with borrowed gowns peppering the room like beacons of hope pointing to a less wasteful age.
High-profile borrowers included model Arizona Muse, who wore a stark white tuxedo by sustainable fashion label Deck, and Lady Mary Charteris, in a pre-loved gown by Giambattista Valli. They were joined by a further 80 influencers, recruited by a luxury borrowing site to sidestep something new in favour of something sustainable.
The development was staged by My Wardrobe HQ, the designer rental service that is currently undergoing a transformation under high-street retail superwoman turned sustainability pro Jane Shepherdson. It marks something of a sea change for the British fashion industry, which has for so long considered the notions of newness and cutting-edge style to be inseparable ideas.
While the borrowing culture has long served as big business in New York it has never really found its groove on this side of the Atlantic, with most Londoners just as keen to own the content of their wardrobes as they are their homes. The most memorable looks in the room last night were proof that opinions are shifting, with more and more of us happy to borrow from back catalogues — or archives, as they are known in the trade — than to seek out newness at any cost.
Undoubtedly, there is real beauty in clothes with a story to tell — a point exemplified by Bollywood sensation Amy Jackson, who made her presence felt last wearing a dress by Hardy Amies previously owned by our absent woman of the year, Princess Margaret.
Swarovski seemed equally keen to capitalise on the pomp and splendour of the evening to pen a new story focused on sustainability. In collaboration with Stella McCartney, the jewellery specialists created dazzling pieces created from upcycled gemstones. That they were worn by a super model line-up that included Joan Smalls and Karen Elson only helped their cause.
On a night when the industry came together to present the Award for Positive Change to the signatories of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, the emergence of pre-loved and upcycled fashion as a viable and well received addition to the red carpet came as something of a relief. Undoubtedly if the world’s best known fashion players truly want to make a difference, the change must begin in their own wardrobes.