By JOHN MITCHELL Photos by JONE LUVENITOGA Fiji Fashion Week Managing Director, Ellen Whippy-Knight has been to London five times but it was her most recent visit that was exceptional. She got to enter the iconic royal household of Buckingham Palace by invitation, rubbed shoulders with fashion designers from around the world and have the chance for a private conversation with Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Beatrice of York, the daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. She exchanged business cards with Vogue’s Anna Wintour, the international fashion icon well known for her bob haircut and dark sunglasses. It all started when Queen Elizabeth II was involved in a fact finding mission on the status of fashion in the 52 member countries of the Commonwealth. Eco-Age Limited, a sustainability company, was tasked with organising a Commonwealth Fashion Exchange Exhibition where designers and artisans from the Commonwealth could show their work with the aim of exploring ideas and encouraging trade. Fiji designer Hupfeld Hoerder teamed up with three jewellery and decorative artists from Vanuatu to design a striking tapa dress finished with magimagi, decorative seeds demonstrating that Fiji was one of few countries still producing and using fabric that ancestors centuries ago had made and used. In fact he even used recycled masi. This was greatly significant because Eco-Age was using the exhibition to lobby the fashion world for more sustainable, environment-friendly, slow fashion. Slow fashion is about quality, sustainable materials, durability and producing clothing that can be recycled, Whippy-Knight explained. But today’s fast fashion makes the clothing industry the second biggest polluter in the world. “Fast fashion is a production system in which garments are manufactured in huge sweat shops in developing countries. They churn out garments by the millions, made in two days at low cost, of poor quality, with fabrics that are not organic, often of polyester that can be worn once or twice only before being disposed of,” Whippy-Knight said. Eco-Age hoped the Commonwealth event would help begin a change. “The exhibition was attended by top fashion executives of magazines as well as members of the royal family. “They (the royals) were surprised that Fiji has a Fashion Week. They loved the idea and how it gave designers in Fiji a platform for their raw talent in design and artistic creativity. “We talked about the dress Princess Kate wore during her visit to the Pacific, how orders of the dress hit the roof in the Cook Islands. Her Buckingham Palace Takeaway? “Promoting Fiji and its raw talent. I was able to talk about the garment industry in Fiji and the progress we’ve made in the past 10 years. They began to not look at us as some little islands in the Pacific but are a people with a purpose. “We are a people worth looking at when it comes to fashion. I hope we’ve got some attention to get funding to
Whippy-Knight relaxes at home.