And this is the reason…
if you love style, care about women’s wellbeing, don’t want your clothes to come with a cruel human and environmental cost, and (like me) binge-watched The Crown, you’d be hard-pressed to find a personal and professional highlight more fabulous than the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange. Created by environmental activist and Eco-age founder Livia Firth, the initiative aimed to grow global networks and to showcase the potential power of our clothes. “Fashion is a huge weapon,” says Livia. “Sadly, the industry is dominated by rapid markets, producing high volumes of cheap clothes through an overwhelmingly female, lowwage workforce. By utilising the Commonwealth, and through the potential of the artisan fashion trade, we can have a positive impact on female empowerment and poverty reduction.”
The vehicle for this drive was a series of inspired ideas: pair up established and emerging designers and crafters from 52 Commonwealth countries. Exhibit their 30 sustainably-produced ballgowns during London Fashion Week. Invite US Vogue’s editor-atlarge, Hamish Bowles, to curate the extraordinary results. And for one night only, exhibit the designs in one of the most beautiful settings imaginable: Buckingham Palace.
And so it was that a crisp London evening saw 300 fashion cognoscenti, including Anna Wintour, Naomi Campbell, Edward Enninful and Stella Mccartney ascend the sweeping marble staircase. Our hosts for the celebration? HRH Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and HRH Sophie, Countess of Wessex – Catherine in a black and white Erdem dress that skimmed her pregnant body, and Sophie in a Burberry sheath that perfectly set off her porcelain skin and blonde chignon.
The huge and high-ceilinged Queen’s State Room shimmered with gilding, embossed silks, oil paintings and exquisite inlaid furniture. Yet, for all the finery, the mood was not formal and intimidating, as you might have expected, but warm and welcoming. In fact, you could feel the happy buzz in the air as creatives and industry insiders from around the globe talked style and sustainability, exchanged contact details, and thrilled to the sight of a drive as crucial as it is beautiful.