Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, honors Clare Waight Keller in surprise awards appearance

CNN  — 

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, surprised guests at the British Fashion Awards Monday night, as she made an unexpected appearance to honor her wedding dress designer, Clare Waight Keller.

After praising the fashion industry in her “new home of the UK,” she named Keller, Givenchy’s artistic director, as British Womenswear Designer of the Year.

Actress Rosamund Pike was initially scheduled to present the award. But after reading out the finalists, she welcomed a “special guest” to join her. Markle then appeared in a black one-shoulder Givenchy dress to rapturous applause from the star-studded London audience.

She described Keller as a “British designer leading on the global stage with vision and creativity, but also with incredible kindness,” before announcing her the winner of the prestigious award.

Taking to the stage, a visibly shocked Keller described the surprise as “an incredibly special moment.”

“This woman is so amazing, and I got to know Meghan on such a personal level,” the designer said in her acceptance speech. “And to have someone like that trust you in an incredible moment in their life, is something that is just the most unbelievable honor and I can’t thank you enough. It was just the most beautiful moment.”

US actress Meghan Markle (C) walks down the aisle in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, on May 19, 2018 during her wedding to Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. (Photo by Danny Lawson / POOL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read DANNY LAWSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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The award tops off a notable year for Keller, who was thrust into the international spotlight when she designed the wedding dress for Markle’s nuptials in May. The ivory silk dress was modern and feminine, with a shoulder-framing bateau neckline, simple A-line silhouette, and slim three-quarter sleeves. Her design famously featured a 16.5-foot silk tulle veil, which was hand-embroidered with flora representing each of the Commonwealth’s 53 countries.

Markle has since been pictured wearing bespoke Givenchy items on a number of occasions, including on her recent tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga.

Elsewhere at the awards, Craig Green was named British Menswear Designer of the Year, while Miuccia Prada was given the Outstanding Achievement Award in recognition of her four-decade fashion career. Cindy Crawford’s daughter, 17-year-old Kaia Gerber, was named model of the year.

Sustainability was prominent on this year’s agenda. Dame Vivienne Westwood, who has championed environmental issues in her career and promoted ethical fashion, was given the Swarovski Award for Positive Change. A Special Recognition Award for Innovation was handed to environmental group Parley for the Ocean, which has worked with brands like Adidas on clothing lines made from ocean plastic.

Established in 1989, the annual British Fashion Awards is considered one of the biggest events on the European fashion calendar. Industry figures at this year’s ceremony included Kate Moss, Virgil Abloh, and Victoria Beckham, one of five designers shortlisted for Keller’s womenswear award.

Figures from across the entertainment world were also in attendance at London’s Royal Albert Hall, including Brooke Shields, Rita Ora and Robert Pattinson.