McCartney twice took to the British Fashion Awards podium at the Savoy Hotel, also receiving the designer brand of the year award for a label that this year has been worn on every red carpet and copied on every high street.
The accolades were an appropriate end to a triumphant year for McCartney. Dressed in a black taffeta jumpsuit of her own design on the podium, the designer described 2012 as "the best year to be British … and one of the most incredible years of my life." Her first London catwalk show in 16 years, in Mayfair in February, was favourably reviewed – but her contribution to the Olympics did most to boost her domestic approval ratings.
McCartney emerged the winner from a close three-way contest, with Christopher Kane and Mary Katrantzou also nominated. Kane, whose name has been linked with the prestigious design post at Balenciaga, recently vacated after the surprise departure of Nicolas Ghesquiere, had strong support from within the British fashion industry, while Katrantzou had vociferous champions on the international voting committee. It is a second designer of the year award for McCartney, who received it in 2007.
This was a night in which the breadth and depth of talent in the British fashion industry was rewarded at the expense of some of its most famous names. Neither Burberry, Alexander McQueen nor Mulberry were recognised, though there was a nod to the influence of Burberry in the model of the year award for Cara Delevingne, star of the label's advertising campaigns.
A stellar year for Roksanda Ilincic, with her dresses worn by Michelle Obama and the Duchess of Cambridge, was reflected in her beating stiff competition from McCartney and Victoria Beckham to win the red carpet award, her first British Fashion Award.
The ceremony was a testament to the huge success of the British fashion industry's concerted campaign to raise its profile and status by forging connections with other areas of British public life. McCartney's Olympic connection was a prime example, granting fashion a place at the top table at a time of national triumph. In her speech, McCartney noted how far British fashion had progressed since the time when her decision to leave Chloe and launch a London-based fashion label was met with bemusement and derision by French bosses who told her there had never been a global brand bearing the name of a British woman.
Samantha Cameron, fully signed up as an "ambassador" of the British Fashion Council, presented the new establishment award to Erdem, a designer whose dresses she favours. Princess Beatrice's appearance, handing the special recognition award to departing British Fashion Council chairman Harold Tillman, reflected post-royal wedding ties between fashion and the royals – the Prince of Wales recently hosted a reception in honour of London menswear catwalk shows. Architect Zaha Hadid presented the outstanding achievement award to Manolo Blahnik, architect of many of the audience's high heels. Music and film were also represented, with Ronnie Wood, Lily Allen and Salma Hayek among the presenters.
In the only award voted for by the public, Alexa Chung scored a hat trick, claiming the British style award for a third consecutive year.
Designer of the year Stella McCartney
New establishment Erdem
Red carpet award Roksanda Ilincic
Designer brand Stella McCartney
Accessory designer Nicholas Kirkwood
Menswear designer Kim Jones for Louis Vuitton
Emerging talent award – ready to wear JW Anderson
Emerging talent award – accessories Sophie Hulme
Emerging talent award – menswear Jonathan Saunders
Model Cara Delevingne
Isabella Blow award for fashion creator Louise Wilson
Outstanding achievement in fashion Manolo Blahnik
British style Alexa Chung
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