In November last year, The May Fair Hotel’s chandelier-lit Crystal Room served as the decadent backdrop to the third annual Boutique Star Awards. There the indie fashion industry’s crème de la crème gathered to celebrate some of the shiniest examples of independent retailers and suppliers around in the UK. 


After posing for photos next to a giant illuminated ‘BSA’ letter installation, guests including indie retail owners, brand founders and agents enjoyed a Prosecco and mocktails drinks reception. The mood of the evening was set with an opening speech by Boutique magazine publisher Julie Neill, who thanked attendees and category sponsor City Goddess for supporting the awards for another year. “This awards evening offers us all the perfect opportunity to celebrate our industry – and in doing so we acknowledge all the retailers and brands that continue to thrive and inspire in these continually challenging times,” she said. “We were absolutely overwhelmed by the standard of entries we received this year and every single one of you on the shortlist are worthy of an award.” 

After a delicious three-course feast of Caprese salad, French-trimmed chicken and a mini dessert trio, television presenter Hayley Sparkes took to the stage to help present this year’s awards. In her introduction speech, she said the event was now one of her annual calendar highlights, adding: “It’s been great to see the awards grow over the years despite ongoing challenges in retail. It’s always so inspiring to hear so many positive stories from people who are so passionate about what they do.” 

The first winner of the evening was Lindfield-based indie Doodie Stark, which took home the accolade for Creative VM Independent of the Year. Judge and fashion agent Diane Sykes presented the award to founder Liz Jefferson, who thanked her husband for helping make her dream store a reality. Next, it was the turn of Cardiff-based jewellery designer Claire Hill Designs, who was awarded Footwear/ Accessories Brand of the Year by judge and Resilient Retail Club founder Catherine Erdly. 


Lucy Walsh, founder of The Brand Ambassadors, was welcomed to the stage by Boutique magazine’s Gemma Ward, who presented her with the trophy for Fashion Agency of the Year. Next, Kuganeswaran Thangarajah (Mr Kugan), founder of category sponsor City Goddess, announced Cardiff’s Kiti as the winner of Social Media Strategy of the Year. City Goddess was then also named winner of Fashion Distributor of the Year thanks to its ongoing investments in new technology to help make buying easier and more efficient for retailers. 


It was then the turn of Young Ideas, which was named Independent Group of the Year. James Crabtree, head of fashion at AIS, presented owner Anne Wright with the trophy, who said it was a proud moment for the team. Naia Beach was then announced as the winner of the evening’s seventh award: Female Founded Brand of the Year. Tess Daley and Gayle Lawton said the award meant “the world to them” in a pre-recorded video played on screens. 


Next, 70-year-old Lancaster indie retailer Renes Fashion was presented with the nomination-only award for Outstanding Business by Boutique magazine’s Julie Neill. Partner Tiffany Moore, who now runs the family business with cousin Amanda Parkinson, gave an emotional speech dedicating the award to her late mother Pamela. It was then the turn of New Independent Retailer of the Year MinimuMaximuM and highly commended winner JB and Boom to receive their awards. Australian womenswear label Orientique was then announced as International Brand of the Year followed by Hyve Group’s Jen Shutter for Newcomer. 


As the ceremony began to reach its end, 30-year-old London-based brand Pomodoro collected the trophy for British Brand of the Year while Nudea was announced as Sustainable Brand of the Year for the second year running. 


The evening took an emotional turn during the announcement of the fourteenth award for Community Hero of the Year. Having received so many inspiring entries, the judging panel decided to present joint trophies to Anne Wright from Young Ideas and Velvet and Rose’s Shirley Leader. 


Ending the ceremony on a high, Domino Style owner Abigail Edmunds was presented with the prestigious Fashion Independent of the Year accolade. Jan Shutt, founder of 50-year-old Sunday Best, then accepted this year’s Lifetime Achievement award. In a speech, she said: “I’ve been very lucky. I have the best team in the world who all work incredibly hard. But I’ve now got to the stage when people are asking when I’m retiring. And I’ve been reflecting on that – I think I owe it to myself, after working for 53 years in the industry, to cut back. So, I’ve made the decision to go down to five days a week.” Following that, the room erupted with laughter and Jan was given a standing ovation by the crowd. 

After Hayley Sparkes wrapped up the ceremony, there was more fun and frolics in the Crystal Room. Guests enjoyed more drinks and danced the night away on a checkerboard dancefloor while a DJ spun crowd-pleasing party tracks. What an incredible (and challenging) year!