Simone Rocha named British womenswear designer of year at The Fashion Awards, 23 years after father John won the award

Irish-Chinese designer, who launched her own fashion label just six years ago, follows in Hong Kong-born father’s footsteps with accolade. Jayden and Willow Smith, Gigi Hadid, Sarah Burton, Demna Gvasalia also pick up awards

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2016, 11:26am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2016, 11:26am

Only six years after launching her label, Irish-Chinese designer Simone Rocha was named British womenswear designer of the year at The Fashion Awards in London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Wearing a voluminous white dress from her own collection, she reminded everyone that 23 years ago her father, the Hong Kong-born, Ireland-based designer John Rocha received the very same award, making this a unique achievement for one family.

However, as her very proud father pointed out after the ceremony: “I was 40 when I got mine, Simone has done it at 30.”

The talent: Simone Rocha

The young designer, who three years ago won the emerging talent award in what were then the British Fashion Awards, also thanked her team and family for encouraging her to “make the clothes I want to make on my own terms”.

The other big winner of the evening was the luxury fashion empire Kering. With “British” dropped from the event’s name, it has taken on an international flavour, with top global brands up for the accolades, of which Kering’s stable of luxury labels secured several.

Alessandro Michele of Gucci was awarded international accessory designer of the year, having received the international ready-to-wear designer award last year. The recipient of that title this year was Demna Gvasalia, who, like Michele at Gucci, has had a dramatic impact at Balenciaga. Meanwhile, Michele’s boss, the very astute Marco Bizzarri, who has long-term ambitions of doubling the Gucci business, was named international business leader.

Fashion's new faces: Demna Gvasalia, Bouchra Jarrar, Willow Smith

Francois-Henri Pinault, president of Kering, presented the award to Bizzarri, saying: “We have spent 10 years working together and I couldn’t think of a better winner.” Kering’s other winner was Sarah Burton, who heads Alexander McQueen – named British brand of the year.

While Ralph Lauren picked up a lifetime achievement award and Bruce Weber, the photographer who created so many of his campaigns – set either in cowboy country or New England stately homes – received the Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator, the emphasis of the evening was on youth.

This was the inaugural gala hosted by the British Fashion Council to raise funds for an education foundation to support future fashion talent with scholarships. As if to emphasise that, Jayden and Willow Smith (actor Will Smith’s teenage children) received the fashion icons award. Jayden looking pretty cool in a Gucci suit and dreadlocks as he collected the award. “My sister is in Paris with Karl at the moment,” he said later, to explain her absence.

Meanwhile, Gigi Hadid’s 26 million Instagram followers (many of whom sounded as though they were filling the Royal Albert Hall), will be delighted she was crowned model of the year, beating her sister Bella and Kendall Jenner. Hadid owns the catwalk and she owns social media, but was tearfully overwhelmed by the occasion.

Surrounding her at the event were stars of the catwalk past and present: Kate Moss, Amber Valletta, Karlie Kloss, Eva Herzigova. It is one of the best-dressed evenings of the fashion calendar. Donatella Versace and Franca Sozzani dresses in gold stole the show. Lending their idiosyncratic style to the occasion were Jared Leto, Marilyn Manson and Lady Gaga.