Even with that rapidly growing baby bump, Meghan Markle played a mere supporting role at the British Fashion Awards on Monday night (British time.)
The red carpet at London’s Royal Albert Hall was arguably the best of 2018, putting even the Met Gala and its stylised extravagance on notice.
Designers including Victoria Beckham, Roksanda Ilinicic and Vivienne Westwood rubbed shoulders at the awards and lavish after-party with Hollywood stars Uma Thurman and Penelope Cruz and the world’s top models, among them Sudanese Australian Alek Wek.
There was restraint, excess, little black dresses and gowns that were waterfalls of colour.
The Duchess of Sussex chose a one-shoulder black Givenchy dress with Tamara Mellon heels and Pippa Small cuff bracelet, for her unheralded drive-by appearance at the event.
Hair pulled back in a low bun similar to Kendall Jenner’s look, Meghan continually cradled her stomach as she honoured her wedding dress designer – Clare Waight Keller, artistic director of Givenchy – with the British womenswear designer of the year award.
Meghan, 37, whose surprise entrance onstage drew applause from the A-list crowd when she was introduced by Gone Girl star Rosamund Pike, made sure she wasn’t purely decorative.
After saying it was “such an honour” to celebrate fashion and designers “in my new home”, she used the platform to talk about fashion’s role in making women strong.
“As all of you in this room know, we have a deep connection to what we wear. Sometimes it’s very personal, sometimes it’s emotional,” the duchess said.
“But for me this connection is rooted in, really, being able to understand that it’s about supporting and empowering each other, especially as women.”
Waight Keller thanked “amazing” Meghan for trusting her to design her wedding dress dress.
“I got to know Meghan on such a personal level. I can’t thank you enough because it was the most beautiful moment.”
With her 1990s supermodel mother Cindy Crawford, father Rande Gerber and model brother Presley in the audience, Kaia Gerber snared the prestigious model of the year award.
The 17-year-old started is the youngest model to win the accolade, beating last year’s winner Adwoa Aboah, Bella Hadid and Winnie Harlow.
Other winners include Gucci (brand of the year), Miuccia Prada (outstanding achievement) and Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino (designer of the year).
Like Meghan, the awards themselves took a back seat to the red carpet winners.
Model Adut Akech was a standout before the ceremony in dramatic gold that was both intergalactic and old Hollywood.
As always, Kate Moss was just the right edge of tacky, looking like she was off to the world’s most fun nightclub.
Victoria Beckham, your jumpsuit is elegance personified. But sometimes we miss the matching denim and hair extensions.
Kendall Jenner managed to make peekaboo Julien McDonald all class.
Carey Mulligan in ladylike-yet-edgy Prada.
Paloma Faith brought it in fussy, froufrou fantastic Dilara Findikoglu.
Designer Roksanda Ilincic was her own best advertisement in a fuschia floor sweeper that made you long for Palm Springs and a party.
Saoirse Ronan, welcome to Dancing with the Stars.
French fashion editor Carine Roitfeld: coolest person in the room.
Naomi Watts’ inspiration? The Queen Mum.
Rita Ora did Prada proud, meshing a beret, earrings, necklace, short suit and long socks.
Uma Thurman went to the dark side.
Model Lily McMenamy was super-high fashwan. Unreal.
Model Jourdan Dunn in anything but basic black.
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was part mermaid, part Melania.
Lana Del Rey’s Gucci looks had David Copperfield overtones, but better.
Alek Wek, in Emilia Wickstead, had the night’s biggest bow.