Donatella Versace helped out a young Christopher Kane with fabrics for his MA collection. Kane has gone on to design her Versus line

Fashion doyenne Donatella Versace leads the way in fashion funding and awards

Harriet Quick reports on the rise of fashion awards and mentoring schemes for promising young designers

The business of fashion funding and awards in London is enjoying a major boost with boldface names and businesses devising ingenious new schemes to help support the talent that the capital is famed for worldwide.

Donatella Versace has contributed £20,000 towards Central Saint Martins' newly launched 20:20 Fashion Fund, which will go help finance new resources and equipment for the famous fashion college.

"I am delighted to be able to do something to help the next generation of talent," said the designer at a reception given at The Connaught Hotel in London last month with MA course leader Louise Wilson, who is signing up a further 19 sponsors including Net-a-Porter. Donatella has had a long standing relationship with the college and once helped out a young Christopher Kane with fabrics for his MA collection. Kane has gone onto design her Versus line in a win win scenario. 

The recently-announced nominees for this year's prestigious British Fashion Council/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund include E. Tautz, Richard Nicoll, Osman, Peter Pilotto, Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders, as well as shoe designers Nicholas Kirkwood and Charlotte Olympia. The award is worth a handsome £200,000 and last year was won by Erdem. The fund is remarkable not only in its generosity but also in its structure - it includes financial assessment and mentoring from leaders in the field to help grow emergent businesses into global players. While young designers might have made a mark on trends and established their names, it is the crucial growing period when sound strategy and investment is needed that makes the long-term difference. Cash flow, distribution, manufacturing, expansion into accessories, and hiring bigger studio teams all need to be addressed. 

Another new award is the Dorchester Fashion Prize which has been spearheaded by Bronwyn Cosgrave who has successfully linked the luxury hotel group with a panel of experts including Stephen Jones and Daphne Guinness. The winner of the £25,000 prize this year is Thomas Tait, the Canadian born designer known for his noir-ish chic. Tait has also recently designed a capsule collection of accessories for ASOS.

Getting onto the catwalk ladder is often a worrisome issue with shows costing an average of £50,000 to produce. Fashion East has provided a funded platform sponsored by Topshop. Founder Lulu Kennedy, known as the fairy godmother of British fashion, scours new talent supporting three designers a season in what now has become a must-see show. Exposure at this level can lead to New Generation sponsorship and help build reputations and businesses to the point where they can apply for the bigger awards. 

It’s exciting to see such incentives in place and schemes which work from student level up to grown up labels. Britain has sure got talent.


Harriet Quick is the Fashion Features Director at Vogue