Stella McCartney was named designer of the year at the British Fashion Awards last night. She beat the other two nominees in her category, Luella Bartley and Anya Hindmarch, to scoop the most coveted award alongside 10 other leading fashion figures also honoured at the awards in central London.

McCartney's win signifies that she has matured into an acclaimed designer with the respect of the industry, but her famous name has also attracted disapproval and unwanted attention throughout her career. When she graduated from Central Saint Martins in 1995, she was criticised for upstaging her contemporaries by using her friends Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss as models.

In 1997 she succeeded Karl Lagerfeld to become the creative director at Chloé – one of the most high- profile positions in fashion. Once again, her appointment was received cynically, and Lagerfeld remarked that: "I think they should have taken a big name. They did – but in music, not fashion. Let's hope she's as gifted as her father."

McCartney's gift, it transpired, was for tapping into the desire of women to look simultaneously feminine and sharp. Her debut collection for Chloé exploited the duality, teaming romantic lace-trimmed camisoles with streamlined skinny trousers to create a modern silhouette.

This year the nominees for designer of the year were notably all female, and all designers that inspire a loyal female following. McCartney in particular is known as a designer who is sympathetic towards other women, and since she left Chloé in 2001 to focus on her own label, which is backed by Gucci, she has developed a signature appreciation of how to create clothes that are both flattering and easy to wear, but still have a contemporary edge.

In 2005 she designed a sought-after collection for the high-street chain H&M, and her clothes are much copied – this season's polar bear-knit Christmas jumper being no exception.

This year the McCartney label turned a profit for the first time, with operating profits of £395,000 and a rise in sales to £9.1m, compared with a £1.2m loss in the preceding 11 months. Although her parent company, Gucci, uses fur and leather, McCartney uses no animal products in her collections.

That accessories are an increasingly important part of a designer's portfolio was reflected in the nomination of the handbag designer Anya Hindmarch for designer of the year, while bags are also a key part of Luella Bartley's brand. Hindmarch lost out on the accessory designer prize to Tom Binns, who takes a rock '*' roll approach to fine jewellery, but she won the designer brand accolade.

The winners

Designer of the Year: Stella McCartney

Her own label turned a profit for the first time this year. Although she shows in Paris, she closed London Fashion Week last September with her Adidas by Stella McCartney Collection.

Retail Concept: Marc Jacobs

The New York designer opened his first British store in Mayfair in February, selling everything from wellington boots to party dresses.

Model of the Year: Agyness Deyn

Deyn, a quirky blonde Lancashire lass, shot to fame with contracts for Burberry, Armani and Mulberry. She beat Lily Cole and Irina Lazareanu to the prize.

Red carpet designer: Marchesa

With their label named after the eccentric European style icon, Marchesa Luisa Casati, the British duo Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig have dressed Jennifer Lopez and Scarlett Johansson.

Menswear designer: Christopher Bailey for Burberry

Under the direction of Yorkshire-born Christopher Bailey, Burberry has shed its "chav check" associations to once again become a cult British brand.

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