Another - albeit bizarre - year has passed and the nights are drawing in. For those in the wonderful world of showbusiness, that can only mean one thing: awards season.
From headline tours to intimate sets, Olympic games to Glastonbury, 2020 has seen events big and small cancelled or postponed. Indeed, the Oscars, the Golden Globes, and the BAFTAs have all pushed their dates back well into 2021.
But - providing a slight glimmer of hope - not one but three events are going ahead in the next ten days, albeit digitally.
Tonight is the first ever virtual GQ Men Of The Year Awards 2020 in association with Hugo Boss (MOTY) - which usually takes place in early September - with the Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards powered by Jaguar running on December 1 to mark World Aids Day.
Then, two days later, will be the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Awards - which is going virtual rather than taking place as usual at the Royal Albert Hall.
Of course, us Brits are not the first to try a virtual awards ceremony. In August, the MTV VMAs was the first to delve into this brave new world, with Keke Palmer hosting a vastly pre-recorded event with the likes of The Weeknd performing remotely.
And who could forget the “Pand-Emmys” in September - complete with physical awards being delivered to winners by people dressed in tuxedo hazmat suits. 2020 chic!
But what can we expect from London’s top parties this year?
Virtual over physical
Obviously, due to current lockdown measures, all three of the major British events are entirely online. Unlike our counterparts in the States, who have been a bit more experimental with a mix of filmed and live material, all three events are pre-recorded - taking away, perhaps wisely, the potential perils of live-streaming.
MOTY will see comedian Jack Whitehall host an hour-long ceremony, running on the GQ YouTube channel from 8pm tonight. You can expect video appearances from winners across various categories including Writer of the Year and Designer of the Year. Sir Captain Tom Moore - the veteran who walked around his garden raising £32 million for the NHS - is this year’s Inspiration Award. Paul Mescal, the star of cult lockdown television show Normal People based on the book by Sally Rooney, wins the Breakthrough Award.
The winner videos will be interspersed with musical performances for viewers to enjoy.
From 9pm on December 1 on the magazine’s YouTube channel, the Attitude Awards are following a similar tone - with host and comedian Tom Allen in charge of a two-hour pre-recorded event honouring 14 winners across categories such as the Film Award, which was won by Taron Egerton for his portrayal of Elton John in Rocketman last year. Winners will appear in pre-recorded segments, filmed in locations as far flung as Australia. We can also expect live performances from five artists including Paloma Faith and The Vamps interwoven with short films about various causes and charities working with those in the LGBTQ+ community.
On December 3, The Fashion Awards is axing its usual gongs - such as Model of the Year and Award for Positive Change. Instead 20 awards will be handed out to brands and individuals across four topics - Environment, People, Community and Creativity - who have adapted and inspired throughout 2020.
Rather than an event per se, it will be a 30 minute continuous film featuring those who have won while also celebrating and commemorating a tumultuous year of fashion. It will be broadcast from 7pm via fashionawards.com.
One of the main benefits of going virtual, says Darren Styles, owner of Attitude, is that the ceremony is now “open for everyone to enjoy.”
He and his team decided to do a virtual ceremony after successfully running an online Pride At Home event in June following the cancellation of many events in real life.
“It was a test run,” he says. “We had great numbers. Usually, in the Roundhouse where we host the awards, we have a few hundred guests - but this time we could have thousands. The whole world could be watching. That is exciting.”
Both Styles and Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council, agreed that, in principle, a digital event seemed as though it would be easier to organise than the usual events.
“It was not,” Styles says. “Trying to get everyone in the right place at the right time in a safe way was as much of a logistical nightmare digitally than in person. We probably didn’t make it any easier for ourselves as we wanted to do as much as possible because it was online.”
Rush adds: “It comes with different challenges. Usually the week before Fashion Week is full on, it is deadline-driven. But going virtual was not as easy as it looked. It became clear as early as March that it would be very difficult to do an event like previous years - and also that it wouldn’t be appropriate. We have changed tact and done something very different this year. It is exciting, creative and pioneering - which is what a lot of fashion has had to do this year.”
The teams working on all three events have spent months finetuning - Styles started planning his awards back in October 2019 before “pivoting” to digital in the summer - creating content for the awards. “It was a huge jigsaw,” he said. “But we are so proud of it. We want to make as much noise as we can and bring everyone together.”
The red carpet
The highlight of any event is the red carpet arrivals, right? But how do you capture one of the most glamorous elements of any ceremony, with all of its attendees sat at home? For all three, attendees and viewers have been encouraged to dress up.
Last year at the Fashion Awards, the likes of Rihanna, wearing Fenty (of course), Julia Roberts in Armani, Adut Akech in Valentino, Naomi Campbell in Alexander McQueen, Tracee Ellis Ross in Loewe and Emilia Clarke in Schiaparelli all graced the red carpet. Let’s hope this year is as much of a sartorial treat.
Victoria Prew, founder of fashion rental service Hurr who has worked with Nicola Adams, Holly Willoughby, Rosanna Falconer and Jasmine Hemsley, said she has been working with stars and attendees alike to get them glammed up for the occasion.
“It sends a message,” Ms Prew said. “If you turn up on the red carpet in a rented dress. It is very inspirational for people at home as they know they can also wear that dress for as little as £30.”
Didi Akinyelure, Creative Director of British fashion brand April & Alex, said: "The pandemic has forced us all to do things in new ways. We would prefer to have celebrity stylists and influencers popping into the showroom as freely as they’ve done in the past. We all want things to go back to normal as quickly as possible. However, in spite of the pandemic, we’ve still been very busy - sending out our lookbook photos via email to stylists and editors and shipping items pulled for celebrities and influencers."
MOTY has created a pre-recorded half an hour video of red carpet material with its invited guests, which will be broadcast from 7.30 tonight on its social media channels. Meanwhile, sponsor Hugo Boss is running a zoom viewing party across their Instagram to create the buzz of arriving at an event.
GQ has also released an Instagram filter that includes one of its Awards, so users can pretend they were the worthy winner of one of the fabulous prizes.
Food and drink
Not content with simply encouraging people to watch and have fun, Attitude will be delivering sustenance. About 150 attendees will have a three-course dinner for two created by frozen food firm Cook plus a drinks hamper courtesy of Slingsby of Harrogate and Tesco delivered a few days before the ceremony. On the menu is either beef or mushroom Wellington - which can be put in the oven ahead of kick off at 9pm.
Another perk of attending an award ceremony - the goodie bag - has been sorted by MOTY and the Fashion Awards - with guests delivered a hamper full of goodies to enjoy ahead of the event. While the contents of the Fashion Awards bags are always kept underwraps, MOTY’s is filled with treats, including perfume from main sponsor Boss, Laurent Perrier champagne, Smythson notebooks and beauty products from Dermatalogica, Paula’s Choice and many more.