The Dorchester Collection of hotels, which is facing serious backlash from the fashion industry for the implementation of Sharia Law by its owner, the Sultan of Brunei, in his country, will not award its annual fashion prize this year.
This story first appeared in the June 2, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
A company spokeswoman said Sunday that the decision was made at the beginning of this year, “due to other newly created similar awards.” She also noted that the prize was created in 2010 “to nurture young fashion talent.”
As of Sunday afternoon, the Dorchester Collection’s Web site did not indicate that the prize had been suspended. The Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize’s Facebook page also remained active with the most recent post being one from May 28 congratulating its inaugural winner, Thomas Tait, for last week clinching the LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize awarded by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
The Dorchester’s decision to suspend the prize came to light after WWD inquired about a plan by the Human Rights Campaign to encourage designers and industry leaders to not participate in the Dorchester Collection’s Fashion Prize. As the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization in the U.S., HRC intended to put the word out to its 1.5 million members today.
An HRC spokesman said Sunday, “It wouldn’t be surprising if the backlash among the supporters of women’s and LGBT rights has caused the Sultan of Brunei’s company to publicly abandon plans for this year’s Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize.”
He continued, “Ever since the Sultan of Brunei announced a horrific new series of laws that could lead to the violent repression of women and LGBT people, his company has given no indication that it wasn’t proceeding with this year’s prize.”
Asked to explain why The Dorchester Collection’s Web site and the Facebook page for its fashion prize do not indicate that the prize has been suspended, the company spokeswoman said, “We are considering options of new initiatives involving supporting young talent from a variety of sectors. As and when a decision is reached an announcement will be made. The Facebook page is a tribute to previous winners and fashion trends.”
In recent years, the Dorchester Collection has made a concerted effort to appeal to the fashion pack, many of whom are repeat customers at its two properties in Paris, Le Meurice and Hôtel Plaza Athénée, as well as the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan. The Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize was an annual competition and awards ceremony that the Sultan of Brunei-owned company organized and hosted in the fall at one of its worldwide locations.
In addition to Tait, Anndra Neen, Augustin Teboul and Huishan Zhang have won the prize over the years, which as of last year was a $42,000 award. Fashion historian and consultant Bronwyn Cosgrave presented the idea of the fashion prize to the Dorchester Collection but parted ways with the company in 2012. Manolo Blahnik, Daphne Guinness, Stephen Jones, Kenzo Takada, Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, Francisco Costa, Rupert Sanderson, Elizabeth Saltzman and Derek Blasberg are among those who have served as judges for the prize.
Last week, Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and Glamour editor in chief Cindi Leive joined François-Henri Pinault, the Saint Laurent fashion house and other companies by vowing not to stay at any Dorchester properties during this year’s fashion shows. HRC had said it was taking action in response to “the widespread condemnation of the Sultan of Brunei’s decision to begin implementing a new series of draconian penal code reforms that could lead to the violent repression — and even stoning — of women and LGBT people.”
Also last week, actress Rose McGowan hosted an event at the Dorchester Collection-owned Beverly Hills Hotel, which was attended by Ruffian designers Brian Wolk and Claude Morais. They said in a joint statement released Saturday, “We, like many, are horrified by the Sultan of Brunei’s policies, and fully support and understand the boycott in which many are participating. As a gay couple, we saw a more proactive form of protest in the form of a ‘kiss in’ as a great way to express our solidarity with the LGBT of Brunei who do not have the luxury of showing their affection publicly. We also wanted to show our support to the staff of the hotel who are suffering collateral damage from the boycott in the form of lost tips.”