Born in Nice, trained in Paris, and established in London in the early seventies, Farhi’s collections are known as the iconic “working woman’s weekend wardrobe”. Last night as she picked up the Lifetime Achievement award, she paid tribute to French Connection founder Stephen Marks, for whom she was principal designer for over a decade: “Anything I have achieved is because of him,” she said. “Few young designers today have the financial and moral support that I was lucky enough to receive.” The First Women Awards, organised by the CBI and Real Business, celebrated the pioneering contributions of Britain’s businesswomen. The winners included an impressive line-up of female entrepreneurs. Margaret Manning, founder of London-based digital communications agency Reading Room, picked up the Science and Technology award. Described by the judges as “not just any entrepreneur – but a proven leader”, Manning has built a £7.2m-turnover businesss and plans to take on digital giants such as FTSE 100-listed WPP. Kelly Hoppen, interior designer and current squeeze of celebrity hairdresser Nicky Clarke, won the Retail & Consumer trophy. She made her first foray into the world of professional interior design when she was just 16 years old and has single-handedly created an £18m-turnover global homeward brand. “Here’s the funny side: for all these years, I’ve banked with Lloyds TSB [the sponsors of the evening],” she told the audience. “I must have put at least four of the company’s bank managers in The Priory!” The Property award went to construction veteran Sandi Rhys Jones, the founder of Greenwich-based RhysJones and non-executive director of construction and development company Simons Group. Presenting her trophy was Baroness Boothroyd, the first female Speaker of the House of Commons. “I have some idea of what it’s like to compete in a man’s world,” she said. “We can do it, girls!” Rhys Jones’ address to the audience was equally inspiring. The self-confessed “compulsive builder” said: “Why should we be housewives when we can be housebuilders? “Why should we go shopping when we can build whole department stores?” For more information about the First Women Awards and details of all the winners, click here.
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