The 2021 Fashion Awards took place in sombre circumstances on Monday night following the news that the designer Virgil Abloh had died on Sunday aged 41.
The actor Idris Elba opened proceedings by paying tribute to Abloh, who was named one of 15 “leaders of change” at the awards, accolades that were decided weeks before the ceremony and which celebrate individuals who have “created positive change within the fashion industry in the past year”, said the British Fashion Council.
Its CEO, Caroline Rush, and chair, Stephanie Phair, praised Abloh as “a creative force of change, who throughout his career focused on inclusivity and philanthropy across fashion, art, music, design and architecture, making him one of the most influential designers of his generation”.
Following last year’s digital-only ceremony that saw 20 individuals honoured for their contribution to creativity, their communities and the environment, this year’s event marked the return of the ceremony to the Royal Albert Hall with the number of awards cut by half from 16 to eight since the last live event in December 2019 before the pandemic.
Following in the footsteps of the Brit Awards, which announced it was removing gendered categories last week, the British designer of the year menswear and British designer of the year womenswear awards have been dropped, keeping only designer of the year, which was won by Kim Jones for his work at Dior Mens and Fendi, where he designs womenswear.
Elsewhere, the model, business leader, fashion icon, accessories and emerging designer awards were absent from proceedings.
Other recipients on the night included Simone Rocha, who won the independent British brand award, and this year’s LVMH prize winner, Nensi Dojaka, who was given the BFC Foundation award. British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, author Kenya Hunt and designers Harris Reed and Telfar Clemens were among the other 14 industry figures honoured in the leaders of change lineup.
The remainder of the awards had been announced in the run-up to the ceremony, which was hosted by the Emmy award-winning actor and singer Billie Porter. Former GQ editor-in-chief Dylan Jones won the special recognition award for culture commentary, editor-in-chief of Dazed magazine Ib Kamara won the Isabella Blow award for fashion creator, Tommy Hilfiger accepted the outstanding achievement award, and Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele took home the trailblazer award for reversing the fortunes of the legendary Italian label. Michele appeared as an avatar to announce cSapphire as the winner of the first ever Fashion Award for metaverse design in collaboration with Roblox.