Success for Ozbek in design awards

RIFAT OZBEK was named designer of the year last night at the Lloyds Bank British Fashion Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in central London.

The designer, 39, was the toast of Milan last week, where he showed a spring collection full of batik prints, Chinese brocades and lean tailoring. Mr Ozbek, who also won the award in 1988, said: 'I am extremely grateful for the tremendous support from the British press and buyers.'

This year's awards have been fraught with controversy. Paul Smith and Jasper Conran withdrew their nominations (Mr Smith denounced the event as 'self-congratulatory').

Mr Ozbek, meanwhile, was criticised for switching his production from the UK to Italy. The move has worked wonders for his sales. This year, turnover is expected to reach pounds 7.5m, and increases in orders from 200 stores world-wide have prompted the designer to forecast a turnover in excess of pounds 12m next year.

Robert Forrest, international marketing and merchandising director, said: 'We are still based in London, but it made sound commercial sense for our production to be handled through Italy.'

Other winners last night applauded Mr Ozbek's award. Monica Zipper, director of Monix, whose company won the 'more dash than cash' award for high street fashion, said: 'Designers have to go where they can find the right production.'

There was also criticism of the designers who turned down nominations. Amanda Wakeley, who won the glamour category, said: 'It is very sad that people have knocked the awards so much.'

Other winners included Flyte/Ostell in the new generation category, and Philip Treacy, the milliner who designs Mr Ozbek's hats, for accessories. Joseph won the knitwear category, and Mulberry, the Somerset-based company, picked up the classic design prize.

The late Sir Edward Rayne, former chairman of the British Fashion Council, received a special hall of fame award.

(Photograph omitted)