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Rocha takes the prize for fashion's finest

JOHN ROCHA was last night named British Designer of the Year. Past recipients of the Lloyds Bank Award include Vivienne Westwood and Rifat Ozbek.

Rocha, born in Hong Kong and living in Dublin, has been in business 10 years. But it was his acclaimed return to the catwalk last season, after an absence of five years, that is responsible for earning him the coveted award for which the other hot contenders were the design duo Flyte Ostell.

Last Sunday afternoon, long after the ballot was closed, Rocha proved himself more than a one-season wonder when he presented an assured and cohesive collection of loose linen separates and chiffon shifts.

As a counterpoint to the relaxed silhouette of pyjama-style trousers and stone-coloured knitwear, Christy Turlington wore a sheer long shift splashed with a large hand-painted poppy and Naomi Campbell flounced up the catwalk in a natural-toned patchwork mini-skirt and cropped vanilla suede blouse.

Despite the doom merchants wailing about the weak state of the British fashion industry, Rocha has found commercial success.

Now backed by Brown, Thomas Group, he has managed to increase his turnover to pounds 5m.

(Photograph omitted)