Fashion Awards: Catalysts of Change or Echo Chambers of the Elite?
Fashion awards stand as both celebrated beacons of achievement and subjects of critical debate. These events, embellished with the allure of high fashion and prestige, are pivotal forces within the industry when it comes to recognising emerging talents, setting trends, and celebrating innovation. However, simultaneously they often grapple with demands of progress in matters of inclusivity, sustainability and funding.
Acting as career catalysts for young designers, we saw the impact of The British Fashion Awards only last December. Maximillian Davis, appointed Creative Director at Ferragamo in March 2022, was recognised as British Womenswear Designer of the Year, and designers like Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena of Chopova Lowena, accepted the ‘New Establishment Womenswear’ Award. Providing these emerging talents invaluable exposure and opportunities to establish their presence in the competitive fashion arena.
As for the prestigious French owned ANDAM Fashion Awards, established in 1989, with prize funds that range from €100,000 to €300,000, they have been a crucial part of nurturing and financially empowering burgeoning talent. As we can see, economically, the impact of fashion awards is undeniable. They have the power to transform market perceptions, catapult emerging designers into the spotlight, and reshape consumer preferences. This economic influence extends beyond immediate sales boosts, affecting long-term brand positioning and partnerships within the industry.
But how do we define “emerging talent”? Is it Maximilian Davis, who started his namesake brand in 2020 and debuted in Spring 2021 under the Fashion East incubator, before quickly ascending to the prestigious Ferragamo as Creative Director? Or, Chopova Lowena, active since 2017, who spent six years forging a path to be recognised as a “New Establishment Brand”. These years of perseverance, marked by maintaining sales and profitability, is a challenge that many other aspiring brands face. Many, hoping for recognition at fashion awards, unfortunately don’t survive this journey due to lack of funding, support, and fluctuating demand for high-end luxury apparel.
The same could be said for The ANDAM awards with requirements to apply range from having to have “commercially marketed at least one season” to having “a minimum of two commercial seasons internationally distributed and a minimum of €100,000 turnover”. That’s not to say these awards don’t have a place in the industry, brands at every level of establishment deserve support. But, when reflecting on the reality of gaining recognition on such a stage, it raises a pertinent question: how effectively do fashion awards support and uplift the emerging talent of this generation throughout the journey to enable them to even get a seat at the awards?
While each of these awards – from the BFA’s to ANDAM – has its unique focus and contributions, they highlight the delicate balance between commercial viability and creative ingenuity, the importance of diversity and inclusion, and the preservation of traditional craftsmanship in an ever-globalising world.
It’s evident that awards are potent indicators and influencers of economic success, cultural trends, social hierarchies, and global interactions. To maintain their relevance and positive impact, maybe it’s time for the fashion awards to re-think on the ways of forging space for emerging artists. Ensuring that they serve as true catalysts of change rather than reflections of the pre-existing ‘elite’.