mailife - - Fashion -

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.

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