Meet the nominees for this year’s BFC Foundation award
This month, the London fashion crowd will be heading to the prom. On Monday, November 29, the British Fashion Awards will return to IRL, having taken a one-year hiatus after the physical ceremony at their iconic home, the Royal Albert Hall. In partnership with TikTok, we will see performances and presentations of cultural highlights from the past year, with awards given to those who have made positive changes in three central areas: environment, people and creativity.
The BFC Foundation award will return alongside the Designer of the Year award, a distinction that recognizes the outstanding achievements of emerging design talent who already receive funding and support from BFC. This year’s award will celebrate the work of nominees Bethany Williams, Bianca Saunders, Nensi Dojaka, Priya Ahluwalia and Richard Quinn, who not only faced the immense challenges of working as fashion designers throughout the pandemic, but also prospered in spite of themselves. Before the big night, ES Magazine meets them all.
For menswear designer Bianca Saunders, receiving her nomination was a career milestone, even in a year filled with incredible accomplishments. (Just a few months ago, Saunders won the Andam Award for Home Fashion and was shortlisted for the BFC / GQ Designer Menswear Fund.) âIt has always been a dream of mine to be nominated for an award. BFC even before studying fashion and launched my brand, âshe says. “It is also very exciting to see the awards again, as a British trendy year-round and to celebrate those special moments.”
Born in Catford, Saunders launched her first collection in June 2018 after graduating from the Royal College of Art. She immediately caught the world’s attention for her work, which draws inspiration from her dual British and Caribbean origins, and puts artful touches on sportswear to challenge notions of masculinity and gender. âI am constantly looking to elevate and improve the brand; I think back all the time, âshe says. This includes collaborations with some of London’s most talented black designers, including filmmakers and photographers such as Akinola Davies Jr and Ronan McKenzie. Saunders is currently working on his next collection, while also organizing his new studio space in east London. âI really need more storage! She laughs. “But I already feel settled here – it’s a place I can call my own.”
So what’s Saunders’ advice to young designers looking to follow in his footsteps? âDream big and have direct goals of what you want to achieve,â she says. âThis nomination for the BFC Foundation Award started as a mere thought in my head one day and now it really has happened. Things are more achievable than you might think. Just make sure you have an individual voice and focus on the job at hand. ‘
Richard Quinn of Eltham graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2016, founding his own label later in the year. Since then he has exhibited at London Fashion Week and even hit Main Street with a 12-piece collection for Debenhams (a collaboration that cemented Quinn in public consciousness as a designer
to concern). In 2018, he received the first Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design by none other than the Queen herself. But it was her AW21 ready-to-wear collection and accompanying 25-minute film starring another queen, Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK favorite, Bimini Bon-Boulash, which in part earned her a nomination for this year’s BFC Foundation Award.
It’s a collection that Quinn spent most of the blockages working on. âThis nomination means so much to us because we have worked so hard this year,â he said. “We always see our business on a global platform, and I think we’ve really achieved that with the people we’ve dressed and worked with.” Richard Quinn will always be recognized for his floral and wildlife designs and surreal silhouettes (which simultaneously recall S&M leather subcultures and the chintzy veneer of mesh curtains in the British suburbs). âBut our latest ready-to-wear collection really branched out into different territories,â says Quinn. “So it’s amazing to be recognized for that too.”
âIt’s just a great moment to be nominated for this award, as fashion returns to physical catwalks,â continues the designer. With several new launches in the works, Quinn plans to move to a larger studio to meet her future ambitions. “We will remain in South East London however, but we are definitely on the hunt.”
Priya Ahluwalia is no stranger to the British Fashion Awards, having been there twice already. âI was telling my team this morning that the first time I went, I was sitting high up in the gods; and then the next time I was in a box. And this time, I’ll be sitting there as a nominee! I really feel like I have a seat at the table – it’s a huge honor, âshe said. Born in South London, Ahluwalia studied for a Masters in Men’s Clothing at the University of Westminster and since graduation has received both the prestigious LVMH Prize, the H&M Design Award and the BFC / GQ Designer Menswear Fund. His studio is currently based at 180 The Strand, a creative hub that now attracts people from all over the world. “I’m pretty sure will.i.am showed up there the other day!” ” she says.
The designer’s work blends the elegant lines and structures of classic men’s tailoring with a sportswear touch, vibrant colors and prints. In an era when the environmental and social ills of fast fashion are in the spotlight, her pieces emphasize sustainability, often using recycled materials and dead clothing to create pieces designed and inspired by multicultural London and its own mix. heritage (his father is Nigerian and his mother Indian).
In 2021, Ahluwalia moved away from men’s fashion. She collaborated on a collection of tote bags and scarves with British heritage brand Mulberry and at the same time produced a series of films called Tools of Expression, celebrating Afro-Caribbean hair. Directed by Ahluwalia, the films starred model and activist Munroe Bergdorf; rapper Enny from Peng Black Girls; and rising east London musician Lancey Foux. On top of that, her first actual womenswear collection was released in collaboration with Danish fashion label Ganni, which featured gorgeous soft hues and prints, all reworked from Ganni’s 2020 collections. As for the upcoming awards show, is there anything in person that Ahluwalia is particularly looking forward to? ‘The dance! We’re working on a custom look for me – I love to dress up, so it’s going to be a fun night out.
âThis year has been really special,â says Nensi Dojaka. And it’s not hard to see why the womenswear designer has reason to rejoice: Not only did she win the 2021 LVMH Prize, but she held her first solo show outside of the Fashion talent incubator. East just a few months ago. âThe September collection felt very complete for the first time – there were more models, more colorsâ¦ big changes,â she explains of her departure from the monochrome color palette that is became his signature.
Born in Albania, Dojaka moved to London to study when she was just 17, graduating from the Central Saint Martins MA Fashion course. She also holds a diploma in lingerie technology from the London College of Fashion, which explains the diaphanous and erotic codes of her now cult brand, worn by Emma Corrin, Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid. Despite her rising star status, Dojaka has yet to attend a British Fashion Awards – and this year, she is nominated for the BFA Foundation Award. âI can’t wait,â she said, âespecially to see people wearing nice things again – we haven’t had too many of them lately. And also to hang out with all the creatives in the industry in real life. life.’
Dojaka would like to highlight the diversity of the nominees’ work this year: âI love all the brands I am nominated with and know a few personally. It’s inspiring to me because they all do something totally different from what I do. ‘ As for his own work? âI’m currently working on the next show. The brand is still shaping a lot along the way, so a lot is changing. Each collection is different and special to me in its own way. ‘
Receiving a BFC / Vogue Designer Fashion Fund award earlier this year, Bethany Williams is eager to make her return as a nominee for the BFC Foundation Award. This time, she can’t wait to party. âLast year it was all digital,â she says. âWe had to celebrate on video. Can’t wait to get back to the actual event. It’s so exciting. ‘ The designer, who grew up on the Isle of Man and now lives and works in London, holds a BA in Critical Fine Arts from the University of Brighton and an MA in Menswear from London College of Fashion. She founded her eponymous brand in 2017 with the belief that social and environmental issues are inseparable, seeing (as her brand’s Instagram biography reads) “fashion as a force for change”.
In addition to using waste, recycled materials and animal corpses in her work, Bethany Williams’ seasonal collections are created through a network of social enterprises, including a partnership with Making for Change, a project that has started seven years ago at HMP Downview to teach fashion and textiles to women. skills. âWe just moved into our new studio in Poplar alongside our manufacturer, Making for Change,â she says. âThis is now the secondary site for women, who will work in paid employment after their release. Recognizable for their athletic-inspired silhouettes, pictorial use of color and texture, and artisanal techniques, the Bethany Williams brand stands out for its innovation in style and substance.
âI was very honored to be among them,â said the designer of her fellow BFC Foundation Award nominees.
“I feel like we almost all grew up together and it’s a fantastic time to celebrate together.” While enjoying the present, Williams is busy planning for the future: a debut exhibition at the Design Museum, slated to launch in February. âThis will be linked to my new collection and free to the general public, as part of the 50th anniversary of the Crafts Council,â she explains. âI am really happy to contextualize my practice; when we present our work through movies or shows, it seems instantaneous. I’m so excited to really have the chance to show the depth of what we do at Bethany Williams. ‘