Laurence Fox, David Walliams, James Nesbitt, Lady Kitty Spencer and Max Irons were among guests at the 2019 Walpole British Luxury Awards, honouring Britain's finest burgeoning and established brands
This year's British Luxury Awards had a lot to celebrate: the British luxury sector has grown 49% in the past year and is now worth a staggering £48 billion. "You've not let Brexit stand in your way," declared Walpole’s CEO, Helen Brocklebank. "All of our winners and nominees are fired by the ambition to be the best and to make British luxury a byword for brilliance the whole world. And if that isn't worth a celebration, I don't know what is."
And celebrate we did: a Laurent-Perrier champagne reception at The Dorchester was followed by a three-course meal with Berry Bros pairing wines. Laurence Fox, dressed in Dunhill, hosted the award ceremony, where Dame Zandra Rhones was declared a British Legend and Bentley was recognised for its deft pairing of heritage and innovation. Under neon-bright lights (inspired by Zandra Rhodes) and fuelled by Royal Salut cocktails, the after-party continued until late, with DJ duo Pablo:Rita on the decks.
The annual awards ceremony is the only event of its kind dedicated to celebrating the very best high-end products and services from a diverse range of British businesses, spanning multiple sectors: from fashion, fragrance and fine jewellery to hotels, automobiles and accessories. 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.
The Winners of the Walpole Awards 2019
The Brands of Tomorrow Award for Emerging Talent: FLOWERBX
Presented by David Williams, FLOWERBX was recognised for disrupting the floristry industry as the world's first international flower brand. Founder Whitney Bromberg Hawkings, who previously worked as Tom Ford's assistant for 12 years, launched the brand in 2015 after recognising the demand for a slick digital service for sending flowers globally. Referred to as the NET-A-PORTER of floristry (Natalie Massenet is an investor), every order is cut in Holland and delivered direct to the consumer, impeccably packaged in a namesake box.
Future Legacy: Bentley
In July 2019, Bentley reached its centenary. To celebrate its milestone, the Crewe-based creator of world-renowned GTs and sumptuous limousines released the EXP100 GT, a visionary concept of what motoring could like in the future. The Future Legacy category, new for 2019, commended Bentley on the power of its heritage to build a visionary and relevant story for the future, with innovation and purpose at the heart of what that legacy aims to achieve.
Cultural Contribution: Josie Rourke
Beating off stiff competition including the Dior Retrospective at the V&A; Anish Kapoor at Pitzhanger Manor; the Macallan Visitor Experience in the Highlands and Chelsea in Bloom, English theatre-turned-film director Josie Rourke was awarded the Cultural Contribution award for her direction of 2018 BAFTA-nominated historical drama Mary Queen of Scots, starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie. Against a beguiling, misty backdrop of the Scottish Highlands, her adaptation powerfully recounts the passion and betrayal of Mary Queen of Scots, during one of the most tumultuous periods in British history. A visual feast, the film was praised for its lavish costumes, diverse casting and daring direction, which reflects Rourke’s distinctly feminist eye.
Luxury with a Heart: Burberry
This award is given to a brand dedicated "to making the world a better place." The prestigious accolade was bestowed upon Burberry for its commitment to building a more sustainable future. In August, the British luxury brand joined The Fashion Pact - a global alliance between 32 of the world's leading fashion companies committed to protecting the environment and addressing climate change. Further deserving nominees include Selfridges, NET-A-PORTER and De Beers.
Creative Collaboration: Manolo Blahnik x The Wallace Collection
Manolo Blaknik's Enquiring Mind exhibition within The Wallace Collection has been one of this year's most talked-about exhibitions, lauded for its curation of storied shoes from Mr Manolo Blahnik's private archives, set against the stunning backdrop of the 18th-century museum at Herford House in Marylebone. Blahnik has long been fascinated and inspired by The Wallace Collection and chose the museum for its unique, quintessentially British opulence. Placing 'masterpieces beside masterpieces', Blahnik's signature bejewelled mules and ornate booties were positioned beside Rembrandt and Velázquez paintings.
British Luxury Overseas: Smythson
British Luxury Overseas is awarded to the brand that has excelled in introducing British luxury goods and services overseas, and in attracting overseas visitors to the UK. Under new Creative Director Luc Goidadin and new CEO Xavier Rougeaux, Smythson has accelerated its growth and consolidated its vision, exporting its signature combination of meticulous craftsmanship with a quirky sense of British sophistication all around the world, particularly in the US and Japan.
British Legend: Dame Zandra Rhodes
Hilary Alexander OBE presented the 'princess of punk' Dame Zandra Rhodes with the prestigious British Legend award, marking 50 years in the fashion. Recognisable by her signature hot pink hair, Rhodes thanked her small team of four, with whom she creates hand-printed pieces from her London studio, including an exclusive line for Liberty. A retrospective exhibition, Zandra Rhodes: 50 Years of Fabulous, is on display until January 2020 at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum.
British Luxury Brand: Dunhill
A fitting example of a successful revival, Dunhill was awarded ‘British Luxury Brand’ for their global impact in terms of sales and exposure in the last year. Mark Weston, the brand’s Creative Director, said that prior to working for Dunhill, he saw the ‘potential’ of what the ‘brand could be.’ Our host for the night, Laurence Fox, was very dapper in a two-piece by Dunhill.
Luxury Maker: Church’s
The line between luxury and craftsmanship is inseparable, and nowhere is this more evident than Church’s commitment to invest in its people. The company continues to produce men’s and women’s collections in Northampton, where Church’s shoes are a byword for craftsmanship and timelessness. Through apprenticeships and education, the art of British shoemaking lives on and is admired the world over.
Luxury Leader: Ewan Venters
As he stepped onto the stage, Fortnum & Mason's much-respected CEO Mr Ewan Venters reminded some of the younger members of the audience that it sometimes takes time to get recognised. Since Venters took the reins at Fortnum & Mason seven years ago, it has tripled in size. For him, luxury means ‘inclusivity’ paying tribute to the extraordinary people based in the Piccadilly HQ. The renowned store is poised to open its first standalone store abroad in Hong Kong this week. Fingers crossed.