15 years of the VIP Style Awards: How one red carpet transformed careers of Ireland's most stylish
They’re recession-proof, they’re unisex and they can skyrocket your career — they are the Peter Mark VIP Style Awards.
This year’s awards are pencilled in for May 6, but they first began in 2001, when the Celtic Tiger roared with its bling-soaked excess. And even when the economy imploded in 2008 our celebrities still strutted along that red carpet. The Shelbourne Hotel has hosted them and now the event calls the Marker Hotel in Grand Canal Square their home.
We’ve had Caroline Morahan’s 1960s afro hair and patterned dress in 2006, Katie Price’s white crochet dress in 2011 and last year RTE’s Jean Byrne wowed us in her silver and white ensemble.
In 2015, Pippa O’Connor was crowned the Most Stylish Woman, with celebrity stylist Lisa Fitzpatrick taking the gong for Look of the Year and 2014’s Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh won Most Stylish Newcomer.
Rosanna Davison was the 2014 title-holder for Ireland’s Most Stylish Woman and Roz Purcell won Most Stylish on the Night.
In terms of men, TV presenter Darren Kennedy took home the award for Ireland’s Most Stylish Man in in 2013, with him passing the title on to Conor McGregor in 2014. But what does it actually mean to the careers of these celebrities when they win and what advice can they pass on to the average man or woman on the street?
“Winning the VIP Style Award (for Ireland’s Most Stylish Woman in 2007) changed my career. It opened so many doors and was honestly just amazing for me,” says Lisa Fitzpatrick.
“I wasn’t expecting to win Look of the Year (2015) at all so much so I over did it at the champagne reception. It was amazing to win not to mention the incredible prizes, two nights in Kelly’s Hotel in Rosslare and a stunning glass trophy which is placed on my hall table,” she adds.
When it comes to advice, the super stylist says it’s all about loving yourself and mixing up your wardrobe: “My advice to women is like yourself look in the mirror and learn to like what’s looking back, because you are stuck with you. Wear everything in your wardrobe, don’t get stuck in a look. Be confident with the look you like, we all have different styles and we are all different shapes and sizes. Dress for you,” explains Lisa.
As for TV presenter Darren Kennedy, who will host the awards in May, he says that winning Most Stylish Man in 2013 was not in any way as nerve-wracking as being nominated for the same award in 2012.
“I was nominated for the first time in 2012. I was actually really nervous and it was at the time I was filming the documentary Gay Daddy. I was a little bit apprehensive because I had so many other things going on, and then on the night, I didn’t win, and Marty Whelan won.
“I remember afterwards he came up to me and said, ‘I’m terribly sorry.’ He’s a brilliant, brilliant guy. So when I was nominated again in 2013, it had kind of taken any nerves out of it for me. Then I won. You make of it what you want. It was a nice consolidation of all the hard work I was doing anyway. From an awareness point of view it helped,” he says.
For Darren, who is working on a secret style project with Specsavers, his sartorial advice is to get three basics right. “I think, take baby steps and think little things. So, for instance, making sure that your shoes are in good order.
“The fit of whatever you’re wearing — that it fits you as you intend — the cut of your trousers or your jeans makes a massive difference, that’s the second thing.
“And the third thing is really how you carry yourself. I wouldn’t wear anything that makes me feel uncomfortable. Feeling good in yourself is the major thing,” he explains.
Meanwhile, Kathryn Thomas, who won the Most Stylish Woman award in 2013, said the award bolstered her style confidence greatly.
“I think I was surprised at just how chuffed I was to win it on the night. I was nominated a few times before I won it, so it was great to finally get an award,” she said. “I do my own styling on Operation Transformation — they haven’t the budget for a stylist — so I do have to know how to dress myself and look put-together. But it was a huge vote of confidence to win it as there were so many stylish women in the room on the night.”
Ireland’s favourite Rose of Tralee winner ever, Maria Walsh, took home the gong for Most Stylish Newcomer in 2015, and her advice is similar to Darren’s.
“I wish I was more adventurous in the past and appreciated my curves. I am only learning to really highlight them more now,” says Maria.
She goes online to explore style nowadays: “I keep a close eye on Pinterest for inspiration and checking out the likes of Orla Sheridan, a stylist and blogger in Galway always leave me wanting to add more colour.”
Last year’s win made a big difference to Maria’s blossoming TV career.
“Winning Most Stylish Newcomer offered me an amazing platform to finish off my International Rose Year. Us Roses don’t always receive such stylish nods, receiving this was an overwhelming positive applause for the many leading fashionistas that the International Rose of Tralee Festival attracts.
“Since my Rose year ended in August, I have been able to connect with great Irish designers like Natalie King, Tina Griffin, Lennon & Courtney and Scribe of London, which has made my transition from Rose to business lady and presenter a lot easier thanks to this award,” she says.
Maria is still riding the wave of the win and is now working on a number of TV projects with RTE and TV3. She’s also involved in a start-up, but the bones of the new business remains under wraps for now.
Other previous winners include Roz Purcell, who took home Most Stylish on the Night in 2014 in her Scribe of London suit, and Vogue Williams who won Most Stylish Newcomer in 2011.
Roz says that she always dresses with her personality in mind.
“I was delighted when I won Most Stylish on the Night. I think that’s the most exciting award of the VIPs, and of course, to be wearing something I created was an added bonus. My main focus when picking an outfit is always comfort and something that’s really me, hence the suit-look,” she says.
As for Vogue her 2011 nomination was an exciting enough achievement for her, and like Roz she advises comfort when it comes to style.
“I was so excited when I was nominated for Most Stylish Newcomer at the awards. It’s such a fun event and I couldn’t wait to go, winning was amazing and unexpected.
“I think my best style advice would be to get a good fit, don’t wear something that doesn’t fit right as it won’t be comfortable and it won’t look good when you keep tugging at your outfit,” says Vogue.