The Dorchester Collection had to cancel the fashion prize that it awards to rising designers each year amidst controversy that has surrounded the hotel group since the sultan decided to enact a Taliban-like penal code in the oil-rich nation. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced that his country would be adopting draconian punishments for being gay, having an abortion or committing adultery. The Stone Age-like punishments include flogging, the severing of limbs and public stoning.
The Feminist Majority Foundation launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #StopTheSultan, cancelled out from holding its annual Global Women’s Rights awards at the Dorchester-owned Beverly Hills Hotel and staged a protest across the street from the hotel. Being a playground for the Hollywood elite, the hotel’s ownership has also invoked the outrage of celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres and Jay Leno, who have spoken out against the hotel chain, vowing to not stay there until the sultan divests his holdings.
The Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize was founded in 2010 and has since carried considerable weight in the fashion world. Last year’s prize included £25,000 (roughly $42,000) and a free stay at a Dorchester-owned hotel. Several designers owe their early success to the recognition garnered from the Dorchester Fashion Prize, and fashion icons such as Manolo Blahnik and Daphne Guinness usually judge the contests.
Ty Cobb of the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement:
The fact is that the Dorchester Collection’s profits belong to a regime that could start stoning women and LGBT Bruneians as soon as next year, and the cancellation of this prize is yet another sign that the Sultan’s company is feeling the impact of the worldwide movement to reject the Sultan’s horrific new laws.
Anita Little is associate editor at Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.