LONDON — “I’m a bit in shock,” said Levi Palmer of Palmer Harding. “I’ve been feeling poorly today. I’ve been in bed with cramps. I’ve been doing my best to smile throughout the night.”
“We never feel like we’re going to win these kinds of things,” added Matthew Harding.
The design duo behind Palmer Harding joined Amy Powney of Mother of Pearl in being named winners of the annual British Fashion Council/Vogue Fashion Fund prize on Tuesday evening during an event held at London’s Hotel Café Royal. It was the first year that multiple candidates could claim the prize.
“Our business is going phenomenally well at the moment,” Harding said.
“This is going to help us build our infrastructure and to continue to run with that success,” Palmer said.
The brand recently was picked up by Neiman Marcus, Harrods and Liberty. The duo is set to launch a capsule collection in the coming weeks with Matchesfashion.com.
Meanwhile, Powney, the creative director for Mother of Pearl said she wants to take the brand up a notch. “We’re a small brand,” Powney said. “We’re doing incredibly well, but that injection will hopefully take us to the next level. We want to raise awareness and we have a global distribution. We want to nurture and take it even further.”
Huishan Zhang, Osman, Shrimps, Sophie Hulme and Toogood were among the nominees. The labels unveiled their business plans and collections to the judging panel, which included Alexandra Shulman, Caroline Rush, Helen David, Joan Burstein, Samantha Cameron, Mary Homer, Sarah Manley and Susanne Tide-Frater.
Powney, Palmer and Harding will each take a slice of the 200,000 pounds, or $250,000, fund for the first time. Usually, the prize goes to one winner. The money is earmarked for business development, and the winners will also receive mentoring under the BFC’s British Business Support team.
This year, the fund is asking winners to focus on human resources, and that the prize money be put toward a “full-time or consultant team member” to advise on areas such as accountancy, merchandising, business strategy, international growth, retail and e-commerce. The BFC has said it wants winners to “embrace the impact that hiring experienced talent has had on previous winners.”
The fund, which gave out its first award in 2009, is this year sponsored by Vogue, Burberry, Topshop, Harrods, Paul Smith and the online retailer Label. This is the eighth year of the awards, with previous recipients including Sophia Webster, Mary Katrantzou, Peter Pilotto, Erdem, Nicholas Kirkwood and Christopher Kane.
The BFC has said the new 2017 format was meant “to benefit multiple designers at a pivotal stage in the growth of their brand’s development.” It will serve as a test-run, and the BFC has said it would evaluate whether to do the same next year, or to return to choosing a single name. The overarching aim, it said, is to maximize the impact of the prize on building solid businesses.
Among the guests that attended the event included the fashion fund nominees, Peter Pilotto designer Christopher de Vos and footwear designer Nicholas Kirkwood.
“It’s a bit of déjà vu to be back in this room,” Kirkwood said. “In a good way. I’m so happy for the winners. I know exactly what it means for a brand to win this award. The money is extremely helpful plus the recognition it brings.
“The fashion fund is a great thing,” de Vos said. “It’s amazing how supportive how the BFC is and all these organizations are.”