The Lloyds Bank British Fashion Awards, despite being the highlight of the fashion claendar, used to be a fairly low-key affair. Until two years ago the ceremony was conducted in one of the catwalk tents outside the Natural History Museum where guests, dressed in their finest designer clothes, would sit in plastic chairs to witness the prizegiving. The awards moved to the Royal Albert Hall in 1996 where velvet seats better suited the occasion and 1,500 members of the public had access to a frock 'n' roll happening for the first time.

Last year's ceremony proved a turning-point. The trusty "...and the winner is ... X" followed by a bit of back-slapping and champagne-drinking was replaced with a little known all-girl group called The Spice Girls performing while models paraded clothes for the best High Street Retailer award, Mick Hucknall posing in a zoot suit, and Frank Skinner and David Baddiel looking uncomfortable in theirs. In fact, the only thing missing was Jarvis Cocker jumping on stage to do a moonie.

This year he might have reason to. Channel 5 and the production company which put together the Brit Awards have taken on the British Fashion Awards for three years. They have signed up "big acts" and "top celebrities" for the 1997 ceremony which takes place a week today. On Friday 24 October Channel 5 will televise it as a 90-minute prime- time show, hoping to elevate the awards to a glitzy BAFTA-esque presentation . This sure beats the 20 minutes of edited highlights previously offered by The Clothes Show.

The tension is already building. Who will carry away the most coveted award? In the running for British Designer of the Year this time is Clements Ribeiro, Hussein Chalayan, Antonio Berardi, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood. A prestigious line-up that will leave most of us guessing until the last minute. Other categories include New Generation, Street Style, Retailer, Glamour, Classics and Accessories. A new addition is the Menswear Design award. The evening promises to be full of surprises, and as always will provide the movers and shakers of British fashion with the perfect opportunity to practise what they preach - and look absolutely fabulous.


We've got five pairs of tickets to give away for the British Fashion Awards on 22 October. To win, simply answer the following question: Who won the British Designer of the Year Award last year? Send your answer on a postcard with your name, address, and daytime number to: Independent/Channel 5 Competition, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5DL. Entries must arrive no later than Monday 20 October. Winners will be notified by phone, and must make their own way to and from the Royal Albert Hall.

To buy tickets at pounds 10, pounds 20 or pounds 35 for the event call the Royal Albert Hall Box Office on 0171-589 8212 or 0870 122 2222.