For more than 25 years, Drapers has been celebrating the best of the fashion industry. In that time, it has given awards to some of fashion’s biggest names.
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The Drapers Independent Retailer of the Year Awards launched in 1991 under then editor Sally Bain, and in time expanded to include multiples and department stores. Today, Drapers recognises excellence across the entire industry with the Drapers Independents Awards, the Drapers Footwear Awards, the Drapers Digital Awards and the annual highlight of the main Drapers Awards. Here, we pick out some of the past winners from a cross-section of categories, including Best New Store, Brand of the Year, Top Buyer and Lifetime Achievement, and find out what happened to them after they received their awards.
Matches, Retailer of the Year 1992
In the early days of building its current, reputation as a world-class multichannel retailer, Matchesfashion (or Matches of Wimbledon, as it was known then) was the overall winner at the second Drapers Awards in 1992. Founded by husband-and-wife team Tom and Ruth Chapman in 1983, today it has four stores in London and a global ecommerce business that ships to 167 countries. Last summer, Matchesfashion.com doubled the size of its London headquarters and moved from Clapham to impressive offices at The Shard at London Bridge. In March, it posted a record 61% jump in full-year turnover to £204m.
But it doesn’t stop there. Matchesfashion.com opened the first store for its own brand Raey in London’s Notting Hill this spring. It is also planning to open a new retail space in London this autumn, which will bring together its physical and digital shopping experience. We knew we were on to a winner!
Olsen, Brand of the Year 1997
Two years after it was founded in Germany in 1995, womenswear brand Olsen scooped the prize for Brand of the Year at the Drapers Awards. With its focus on the “modern classic” segment of the market, Olsen quickly positioned itself as a bread-and-butter brand for relevant independents across the UK and Ireland. The brand was acquired by Dutch womenswear business Veldhoven Group in 2013, who went on to sell it to German private equity firm Nord Holding last December. Today, Olsen employs 480 people in Germany, Canada, Poland, the UK, Russia and France. In 2016, its turnover increased by 6% year on year to €70m (£59m).
Debbie Taylor, Selfridges, Top Buyer 1999
Debbie Taylor began her buying career at Selfridges in 1985 and spent 20 years at the retailer in a variety of roles. She is now course leader for buying and merchandising level four at the Fashion Retail Academy. Here, she reflects on what it felt like to win the Top Buyer award in 1999.
“I remember it very well as I was heavily pregnant with my son, Fin, when I was nominated for the award. I actually missed the award ceremony as I was about to give birth, so my award was collected by Susanne Tide-Frater [then creative director of Selfridges] on my behalf. It meant everything to me as I started with Selfridges as a graduate trainee and worked my way up. I was the buyer manager of contemporary womenswear at the time and we had just opened the Design Lab, which in 1999 was considered to be very revolutionary. Selfridges taught me to think outside the box, challenge and take risks. I stayed there for another five years, then left to start a career in teaching.
“I started at London’s Fashion Retail Academy in 2006 as a part-time lecturer and have been here since. Watching this amazing concept grow from the tiny cohort we started with to the position we are now in has been an honour.”
Giulio, Cambridge, Designer Store of the Year 2002
Nestled in the heart of Cambridge, designer independent Giulio has been serving up the best in luxury branded fashion for 35 years. In 2002, its “stunning-looking” store caught the eye of our judges, who praised the attention to detail in the product offer and the high levels of customer service. Today, Giulio still trades from that flagship store, as well as selling online via Farfetch and its own website.
“Being one of the winners in the early days of the Drapers Awards was definitely motivating,” says owner Giulio Cinque. “It’s always nice to know that people appreciate you in the industry.”
George Davies, Lifetime Achievement 2003
George Davies created some of the UK retail industry’s biggest names. He launched the first Next stores in the 1980s, George at Asda in the 1990s and Per Una at Marks & Spencer in the 2000s. In 2003, the outspoken and influential Davies won the inaugural Drapers Award for Lifetime Achievement. But he didn’t stop there – his latest venture, FG4, is rapidly expanding in the Middle East.
“I love the pace of it,” Davies tell Drapers, explaining where this drive comes from. “It’s getting the sales through every night at 8pm and looking through every store, seeing if it is high or low. Every day is important – when people buy, they are making a comment on you.”
Asos.com, Etailer of the Year 2005
By 2005, Asos had already begun its evolution from being a one-stop shop for celebrity-linked items to a global etailer selling own-label and third-party branded fashion. It seems appropriate that this ground-breaking business, which is still a market leader when it comes to fast fashion, won Drapers’ inaugural Etailer of the Year award in 2005. Judges said its lifestyle magazine format was “perfectly targeted to its customers”. Today, Asos is a £1.4bn-turnover business.
Primark oxford street
Primark, Oxford Street, Best New Store 2007
The opening of Primark’s first flagship on Oxford Street caused a sensation among the retailer’s fans. The store’s managers were forced to open 15 minutes early because of the number of people queuing outside, and there was a stampede as people desperately tried to get in – partly because there was a rumour all prices would be slashed to £1 for the opening (which turned out to be false).
That aside, the store at 499-517 Oxford Street marked a turning point for the business, which was founded in Ireland in 1969. By 2007, Primark was developing a reputation for fast, cheap fashion that earned it the nickname “Primani” – helped by this huge, prominent store. The flagship has since been joined by another large store at the east end of the street.
Hilary Alexander, Outstanding Contribution to Fashion 2011
Hilary Alexander remains one of fashion’s best-known characters, celebrated for helping to shape the industry and champion new talent for more than 30 years. The New Zealand-born journalist moved to the UK and became fashion editor of The Daily Telegraph in 1985. She moved up to fashion director in 2003, a role she finally retired from in 2011 – when Drapers took the opportunity to recognise her contribution to the industry. But Alexander hasn’t slowed down since leaving the paper: she was given an OBE for services to fashion journalism in the 2013 Queen’s Birthday Honours, remains editor-at-large of Hello! magazine’s monthly fashion supplement, and this year became a judge on Britain’s Next Top Model.
The Chapar, Best New Business 2014
Men’s personal styling service The Chapar impressed our judges in 2014 with its combination of technology and old-fashioned service values. It allocates each customer a stylist who finds out about their lifestyle, likes and dislikes, size and body shape, and sends them a “trunk” of clothes to try – simple, but effective. The Chapar has gone from strength to strength since winning Best New Business, and in June of this year raised £1.3m in capital after launching a crowdfunding campaign. It plans to invest the money in new member acquisition.