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Unsung heroes join the big players in our awards spotlight

On Thursday evening this week, it was a case for eyes down on a full house - but this was nothing to do with bingo.

At the Drapers Footwear & Accessories Awards, it’s almost impossible not to cast a glance towards the floor to check out what the guests are wearing for the shoe industry’s Big Night Out. You will be able to see some of the finest efforts - and the most imaginative accessories - in our extensive coverage online and in next week’s issue.

All the runners, riders and winners are listed in our special awards supplement in the centre of this week’s magazine. It was a coincidence of the judging process, albeit a very pleasing one, that the 14 different awards went to 14 different retailers and brands this year. It was very satisfying for me personally and good for the vitality of our industry to see that those that came out on top ranged from the mighty Clarks, which has been around since 1825, and backpack phenomenon Mi-Pac, which appeared on the scene barely two years ago. Oddly enough, they are both based in the West Country.

The long process of sifting through the many entries, asking for more information from possibles, visiting contenders and then chewing everything over with our panel of expert judges always serves to remind me - as if I needed reminding - of how much great work goes on largely unsung in our industry. Alongside giants like Asos and Primark, which both deservedly added to their trophy cabinet on Thursday, it is encouraging to witness the brilliant work of the creative entrepreneurs behind winners like Lily and Lionel, Lele PyP and Alexia.

While week in and week out the big players attract the attention of the national press, at Drapers we are proud to showcase in every issue some of the many hundreds of small- and medium-sized enterprises that keep our industry turning.

The only double winner in Thursday’s celebrations was Daniel Rubin, who deservedly picked up the Lifetime Achievement accolade while his splendid creation Dune was named best footwear multiple. Rubin’s reflections on his near-40-year career in shoes and his insightful take on the footwear world are included in our interview with him.

Everyone who has dealt with Rubin (who, incidentally, is not related to that other footwear dynasty, the Rubins of Pentland) remarks on his honesty and integrity. Those two adjectives could not be readily applied to the major participants in the astonishing collapse in February of the womenswear chain Internaçionale.

Perhaps the forensic accountants in the industry could explain to me how this blighted business, which had gone bust twice before, could run up debts of almost £50m in a few months. The entire episode underlines that there is a distasteful side to our industry.

On a happier note, I am very pleased to applaud the promotions for three of our editorial colleagues - James Knowles, Graeme Moran and Emily Norval. It is particularly pleasing that Graeme and Emily started their Drapers careers as interns. As part of our ongoing expansion and reorganisation of the title, I am also happy to welcome new arrivals Brooke Balza on the production desk and Olivia Gagan on the news team, and further new staff will be joining us shortly. As part of the reorganisation, I am delighted to report that we are starting a new delivery system for Drapers from this issue, so we hope that fans of the printed product will find it reaching them a little earlier than usual recently. But for instant gratification, if you are a subscriber remember to register for full access to our much-improved website.

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