Burberry miracle-worker beats Hollywood hero to win design award

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The Independent Online

So it was appropriate that the designers Roland Mouret and Burberry's Chris Bailey received top honours at last night's British Fashion Awards. Bailey, Burberry's creative director, has seen sales increase five-fold since 1997 to £164m this year and, when he picked up the prestigious designer of the year prize yesterday, it was viewed by many as his due.

"He had a very clear vision about sticking to the traditions of the house and also making something quite young and modern," said Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue. "It's great that he's been recognised because he's a low-key person, but he's done a big job very well."

Bailey is the creative half of Burberry's "dream team", opposite the outgoing chief executive, Rose Marie Bravo. While he oversees all Burberry products, his top-of-the-line Prorsum collection, which is shown on the Milan catwalks, rarely contains more than a glimpse of the iconic check pattern, although he often re-interprets the house's signature beige gabardine trenchcoats. Bailey has seduced buyers and editors on both sides of the Atlantic with the English look of his designs for Prorsum.

The company was one of a number to drop Kate Moss from its advertising when she became engulfed in a drugs scandal, but yesterday Bailey said the company continued to have a good relationship with the model. "It is all nonsense. Is Kate still a part of our family? Absolutely," he told London'sEvening Standard.

He also hit out at critics who have sneered at Burberry's association with "chav" culture. "The chav thing is patronising. I hate anything that's patronising. I'm working-class; I'm from a very ordinary background. As somebody from that background, why shouldn't I wear designer clothes?" he said.

The 34-year-old Yorkshireman last night fought off competition from two other prominent London-based designers, Sophia Kokosalaki and Mouret. The expectation had been that Mouret would win the overall award, in recognition of his popularity among A-listers including Rachel Weisz and Cameron Diaz. In the event, Mouret, whose form-fitting "Galaxy" dress has become a cult, picked up the Red Carpet Designer prize.

Other winners at the "Fashion Oscars" included Karen Elson, named best model. When she started modelling, red-headed Elson was dubbed "Le Freak". Now a multimillionaire, she recently married Jack White of the White Stripes in a ceremony in the Amazon jungle.

The fashion editor of The International Herald Tribune, Suzy Menkes, received an outstanding achievement award, while shop of the year was won by the Dover Street market in London.

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