The biggest ever Vogue Fashion Prize came to a head at a socially distanced yet still glamorous industry event on December 17 at the Armani Hotel. Open to Arab designers around the world, the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize, powered by NEOM saw 250 applications across 20 countries. However, after much deliberation by the prestigious jury, only four out of the 10 talented finalists were selected to be the winner and runners-up of this year’s edition of the prize.
Hailing from Morocco, Mohamed Benchellal of Amsterdam-based couture house Benchellal took home the top prize, with Karim Adduchi from Morocco, Sarah and Siham Albinali of Lurline from Saudi Arabia, and Lama Jouni from Lebanon taking home the first and second runner-up prizes respectively. The collective cash prize shared among the winners is US $250 000; all 10 finalists will be present at the Vogue Arabia Fashion Prize showroom during Paris fashion week in March; and Benchellal, the winner, will be carried by Net-A-Porter.
The thrilling event brought together the who’s who of the fashion industry, including designers Rami Al Ali, Mariam and Yasmine Yeya, Dima Ayad, Reema Al Banna, Zeena Zaki, Hatem Alakeel; presenters Diala Makki and Mahira Abdelaziz; as well as models, influencers and regional It girls Ameni Esseibi, Abla Sofy, Hala Abdallah, Rania Fawwaz, Nadya Al Hassan, Rhea Jacobs, Ola Farahat, Hadia Ghaleb and Dima Al-Asadi.
With the evening rife with anticipation for the announcement of the Arab world’s next big designer, guests sat down as hors d’œuvres were served. MC Enjy Kiwan took the stage dressed in a dazzling white Maison Yeya creation to welcome everyone, before Shashi Menon, Nervora CEO and publisher of Vogue Arabia, addressed the guests with a speech on the importance of community, and the reason behind launching the Fashion Prize. “At the centre of it all, is a really deeply held belief that small groups of passionate people can truly change the world,” he said. “Past Fashion Prize finalists have already gone on to achieve great things, and we believe that we will see the same from this year’s class. But to do so, the wider support of our industry is a critical and necessary enabler.”
Punctuating the evening with an enthralling performance was internationally acclaimed Lebanese composer and pianist Guy Manoukian. Later, Reemami designer Reema Al Banna, the 2016 Fashion Prize winner, made an appearance via video to have a conversation with sustainability editor-at-large Livia Firth on slow fashion. “When you invest in a garment, you invest in your life, with the idea to pass it on,” commented Firth. “Durability is the core of sustainability,” she added.
The event came to a close with the announcement of the coveted prize’s winners, but not before Vogue Arabia editor-in-chief Manuel Arnaut gave a moving speech on this turbulent year’s impact on the fashion industry, particularly, the one in Lebanon. On the aim of the Fashion Prize, Arnaut said, “More than ever, it is crucial to support what is local, and to offer a platform to the young talents of the region. We are here to help these designers bring longevity to their businesses and to also invite them to think in a more sustainable way.”
The announcements of the winners were followed by heartfelt speeches from the designers, who thanked the Fashion Prize, the selection committee, and their families. Accepting his prize, Benchellal expressed, “We need to celebrate Arab fashion. An initiative like this is so needed.” He dedicated his award to all the women who feel empowered, elegant, and beautiful dressed in his brand, stating, “It’s proof that sustainability, creativity, and beauty should live on the same planet.”
Click through the gallery above to see the A-list crowd of attendees.