The British Fashion Council (BFC) has announced Sophia Webster, purveyor of colorful, butterfly-winged heels and handbags bearing cheeky speech-bubble slogans ("Wifey for Lifey" was a phrase from her gothic Beetlejuice-themed Fall 2016 lineup) as the winner of the 2016 BFC/VogueDesigner Fashion Fund.
The Fund, which was established in 2008, provides one up-and-coming designer with a year of mentorship and support, as well as a £200,000 grant (around $285,000). In addition to Webster, the shortlisted designers who were in the running to win the prize included Emilia Wickstead, Amy Powney of Mother of Pearl, Osman Yousefzada of Osman, and Anna Laub of swimwear and sunglasses label Prism. Each designer was invited to present their collection and five-year business plan to the Fund's judging committee, which included a slew of fashion industry experts like Mary Homer of Topshop, Sarah Manley of Burberry, BFC ambassador Samantha Cameron, and guest judge Victoria Beckham. Past winners of the Fund include Mary Katrantzou (2015), Peter Pilotto (2014), Nicholas Kirkwood (2013), Jonathan Saunders (2012), Christopher Kane (2011), and Erdem (2010).
The prize is a big win for Webster, whose quirky shoes and handbags are a favorite among street style stars and red carpet regulars. And it’s just one of the many exciting things she's got in store this year. The fearless Brit (who, it’s worth noting, cut her teeth working under Nicholas Kirkwood) is set to open the doors to her first boutique in London next month--and her first full handbag line just hit stores—it's aquatic-themed, with flamingos and everything. In other words, it’s a totally whimsical fantasy come to life in the form of a handbag range, and we'd expect nothing less from the daring—and now award-winning—Webster.
“Congratulations to Sophia Webster who has deservingly received this year’s BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund," Caroline Rush, chief executive of the BFC, said in a statement. "The judging committee was impressed by her brilliant talent and thorough business acumen; seeing great potential for developing her label into an internationally acclaimed British brand. Sophia has an amazing ability to turn accessories into masterpieces and we are thrilled to support her at an exciting time of growth.”