LONDON–There’s something furtive-feeling about taking public transportation to the Dorchester. The storied Park Lane hotel is more a chauffeur kind of place, you see. But last night, a clutch of East London’s hardest-working young designers looked wide-eyed and happy to have made it there any way they could, as they sipped Laurent Perrier and hobnobbed with Daphne Guinness to celebrate their status as finalists in the first-ever Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize.
Guests of honor included Louise Goldin, Mary Katrantzou, Chau Har Lee, Hermione de Paula and Thomas Tait. It was the judging panel, though, that really brought the star power: there was Guinness, resplendent in a floor-length sequin gown and a cream lace headpiece that she drew across her face like a veil; Yasmin Le Bon in a flippy little Alaia dress; Manolo Blahnik looking natty and correct in a grey suit and evergreen velvet slippers with swimming-pool-aqua bows; and milliner Stephen Jones, wearing a three-piece suit and green cap (dream client: Michelle Obama, because, “she’s not really a hat person”).
After models showcased the finalists’ designs and the judges retreated for some solemn judging, Lee demonstrated how easily she could assemble her flatpack Lucite shoe, while Katrantzou’s models formed a Beaton-esque tableau against a duck-egg blue wall, laughing and comparing canapés.
Judges chose 23-year-old Canadian designer Tait as the winner of the £25,000 prize. “He shows so much promise. He’s got a new aesthetic, he’s genuinely talented, and he could really do with the money,” Jones said.
“We’ve all had moments when we needed that leg up, and this was that for him. But all of them will achieve what they want to achieve,” Le Bon added, just before she ran backstage to start ordering.
Tait, relieved and elated, called his win “insane.”
“This definitely helps with the confidence and eases the process moving onto a collection,” he said. “It makes it much easier to continue doing what I do.”