BACK IN ACTION: “London is on fire,” was the consensus of British luxury industry players who got together at The Dorchester Hotel for the first time in more than two years to celebrate the winners of the annual Walpole British luxury awards.
The energy was palpable, and the atmosphere decadent. Even if the cloud of COVID-19 uncertainty and Brexit’s aftermath still loom over U.K. businesses, the message remains that creativity and innovation will get everyone through.
“Perhaps now we are on the other side, and we can see that the most beautiful and valuable paths are formed from the ugliest, grit of an oyster, I predict those pearls will be quite priceless and the future will herald a renaissance of extraordinary creative and cultural relevance in this country,” said Helen Brocklebank, chief executive officer at Walpole.
She added that there are “thick hurdles to overcome, and the recovery is bringing its own set of frustrations.”
This year’s awards ceremony — presented by “Game of Thrones” and “Hunger Games” actress Natalie Dormer — looked at the luxury brands leading the way to recovery, through their designs, technological innovation, sustainable solutions or commitment to the Made in the U.K. label.
Among them was Richard Quinn, who won the Great Creative Briton award — a new category — for his flair for experimentation and internationally acclaimed designs.
“It’s great to see British creatives getting together and bringing craft back into the U.K.,” said the young designer, whose striking floral prints adorned the curtains of The Dorchester’s ballroom and the Royal Salute whiskey bottles that were passed around at the end of the evening.
British pop star Rita Ora, dressed in a heavily embellished minidress by Quinn, was a winner of the British Artistic Icon award. She was presented the award by her partner, Taika Waititi, the Grammy-, Emmy- and Academy Award-winning director and actor, who added plenty of humor to his on-stage speech.
“Isn’t it great getting together to celebrate Britain being relevant again? I’m from New Zealand. You probably haven’t seen one of us in a while, you came, took over everything – and then forgot about us,” he said. “Excuse me, there was a lot of wine before dinner.”
Anya Hindmarch took home the Visionary award, while watchmaker Bremont was given the Made in U.K. award for “taking on the Swiss, and bringing watchmaking to the U.K,” as TV presenter Jason Fox put it.
The Best of British Award was given to vaccinologist Dame Professor Sarah Gilbert, in recognition of her work in developing the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine against COVID-19.
Burberry’s Pam Batty received the award alongside Gilbert, with Walpole highlighting the brand’s effort to support the research and development of the vaccine and use its facilities to provide masks and PPE for health care workers.
“I have nothing to do with the world of luxury, all I’ve done for the last 22 months was talk to my computer. But with a little practice I could get used to this,” said Gilbert in her acceptance speech, which closed the evening.