The Walpole Awards 2018: Celebrating British Luxury

Actor Jason Isaacs played host at the 17th British Luxury Awards as Manolo Blahnik, Mulberry, Erdem and other worthy winners were praised for their outstanding contributions to the industry

Guests included Lady Kitty Spencer, Jason Isaacs, Yasmin Le Bon, June Sarpong MBE, Cressida Bonas, Jodie Kidd and Alice Temperley 

Last night, 375 of luxury’s movers and shakers descended upon The Dorchester in Mayfair, the gentlemen dashing in black tie and the ladies dazzling in floor-skimming gowns. Champagne flowed, conversation buzzed, and we discovered not only that Lady Kitty Spencer and Jodie Kidd, wearing versions of the same dress, have similarly impeccable style but also that Jason Isaacs is very funny.

The Walpole British Luxury Awards were established 17 years ago to celebrate Great Britain’s successes, creativity and inventiveness; those who have demonstrated this over the last year were given gongs and glory for their efforts, both in Britain and abroad. The British luxury sector is worth a staggering £32 billion to the UK economy, and Walpole is committed to promoting, protecting and developing the industry’s unique qualities through mentoring programmes, events, research and public affairs with the British government and in Europe.

Walpole’s CEO, Helen Brocklebank welcomed guests and praised the British innovations over the centuries that "changed the game for everyone". There’s “a raging enthusiasm” worldwide for British luxury, she declared, and although we’ve “still got Brexit, the gift that keeps on giving…!”, she reassured guests, with a smile, that she’d consulted an astronomer and it would be “much more exciting and brilliant than we think it’s going to be. The future belongs to the optimists.” 

Guests including Lady Kitty Spencer, Yasmin Le Bon, June Sarpong MBE, Cressida Bonas, Jodie Kidd and Alice Temperley sipped Laurent-Perrier champagne followed by a lavish three-course meal, before the awards ceremony kicked off – and host Jason Isaacs strode onto stage, kitted out in a Henry Poole dinner jacket. He joked he was here for the “swag”, adding that in fact Walpole has donated his appearance fee to the Red Cross, and that we should all read up on its outstanding work.

Here are the well-deserving winners of the Walpole British Luxury Awards 2018:

British Luxury Brand of the Year: Belmond

Award presenter and model Jodie Kidd waxed lyrical about her recent Belmond adventure in Botswana, praising the company for having moved from luxury travel brand to true luxury player. The hotel, train and river cruise operator operates across 24 countries and is opening its first London hotel, the Belmond Cadogan, early in 2019. Charmingly CEO Roeland Vos had to learn the word ‘quirky’ in reference to his own brand, but one he now loves. It was “such a big wow!” even to be shortlisted and Belmond is very proud to be the first hospitality brand to win this prestigious award. 

Luxury Legend: Manolo Blahnik

The word luxury can get bandied around in the fashion industry, as can genius, pointed out award presenter Yasmin Le Bon, but luxury footwear designer “Manolo Blahnik really truly is a genius. He never ceases to excite and beguile… and he inspires endlessly.” When asked about his remarkable four-decade career, she added, he will modestly downplay it as ‘one thing led to another’. Mr Manolo accepted the “great honour” and dedicated it to two people he adores, while our ever-wittier host mulled over the fact the shoe designer could also reasonably be referred to as a ‘leg-end’…

Luxury Leader: Alison Loehnis, President, NET-A-PORTER and MR PORTER

Emilia Wickstead presented this award to Alison Loehnis, who was unsurprisingly wearing an incredible dress, for her interdisciplinary, creative leadership skills across fashion, business and digital. Touchingly, Emilia choked up as she introduced her friend: “How empowering it is to know you. You are inspiring and an absolute leader”. Alison accepted graciously, praising her team for delivering seamless service and adding fashion magic to everyday lives.

Luxury Maker Of The Year: Mulberry

This award was also hotly-contested by worthy nominees Church’s shoes, Ardberg whisky, The Gleneagles Hotel and James Purdey & Sons. Mulberry’s Johnny Coca bounded on stage to accept the award from Cressida Bonas, pretty in a purple Mulberry look, declaring “I’m really, really happy!” Mulberry has demonstrated excellence in and a commitment to the development of craft and skills; its two Somerset factories are home to a 600-strong team of makers and its apprenticeship scheme is thriving.

British Luxury Overseas: Fortnum & Mason

Ewan Venters, in the role of CEO for six years, accepted this award from Lady Kitty Spencer, at a time when Fortnum & Mason is “enjoying extremely fabulous growth across the world”. Walpole praises 'the English brand with a global palate' for introducing its wonderful products, stories and legacy to a wider audience.

Creative Collaboration: Royal Ballet x Erdem

Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country Justine Picardie was delighted to announce the winner of this award, honouring the Corybantic Games, which premiered in March this year as part of The Royal Ballet’s Leonard Bernstein centenary celebrations. Erdem designed the costumes and enthused in his acceptance speech that the whole experience was “a dream collaboration”.

Luxury With A Heart: V&A: Fashioned From Nature

Curator Edwina Ehrman collected this award on behalf of the V&A, presented by young actor Henry Lloyd Hughes (keen, we'd say, to demonstrate he has as much charisma as Jason Isaacs). It is given in recognition of those making the world a better place. The exhibition highlights fashion’s dependence on the bounty of the natural world for inspiration, energy and raw materials, highlighting the need to design “a vibrant but more responsible fashion system that respects, protects and celebrates the natural world”.

Cultural Contribution: Cliveden Literary Festival

Chairman and co-founder Natalie Livingstone collected this award from June Sarpong MBE, for having made a significant impact on the cultural landscape of the UK, particularly when it comes to attracting an overseas visitor (or as Jason Isaacs quipped, visitors plural, unless it’s a very, very rich one, he conceded.) The Cliveden Literary Festival evokes the spirit of writers past and aims to restore it as a sanctuary for lovers of literature.

The Brands of Tomorrow Award for Emerging Talent: DeMellier & Rory Dobner

Even a nomination in this category can provide a fledgling luxury brand with a springboard to success and invaluable mentoring. Past winners of a Brands of Tomorrow award include Charlotte Olympia, Orlebar Brown, Astley Clarke, Shaun Leane, Bremont and Emilia Wickstead. Nominated this year were DeMellier (handcrafted handbags), Rory Dobner (illustrator and homewares), Luke Edward Hall (interiors) and The Vampire’s Wife (womenswear). DeMellier and Rory Dobner scooped awards presented by actor Finn Cole.

Off to the Dovetail Cocktail Club after-party? the winners and their entourages chorused. Why ever not? Congratulations to all the nominees and winners, and to Walpole for another splendid night.


Jodie Kidd


Cressida Bonas and Mulberry creative director Johnny Coca


Yasmin Le Bon


Ashley James & Charlotte de Carle


Lady Kitty Spencer

Henry Lloyd-Hughes