For the first time, The Commonwealth came together to showcase a wealth of design and artisan fashion talent across its 53 countries. Selected design talent included major names such as Karen Walker representing New Zealand, Bibi Russell representing Bangladesh and Burberry and Stella McCartney representing the UK.
Participating designers and artisans collectively represent all 53 commonwealth member countries in a major new initiative which took place ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, April 2018. The ‘looks’ created through the Fashion Exchange were showcased at a special reception at Buckingham Palace during London Fashion Week in February.
The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange is an ambitious project with long term aims, that is being developed in partnership with Swarovski, The Woolmark Company and MATCHESFASHION.COM, who will launch an edited collection in September this year.
“I think what’s so remarkable is that so many of these designers, while drawing on their own culture and skills…they have produced extremely chic, wearable high fashion clothes”.
– VOGUE’s International Editor-at-Large, Hamish Bowles
The project is particularly timely as a global wave of interest in handmade products and authentic luxury causes a reassessment of the artisan fashion trades. In this way, The Fashion Exchange brings the values of the modern-day Commonwealth – women’s empowerment, ethical production and supply chains, innovation, economic growth and poverty reduction – to life through the globally appealing medium of fashion.
The initial looks were celebrated during London Fashion Week at a reception at Buckingham Palace on February 19th, before moving to a public exhibition at Australia House on February 21st, and other locations in London where the exhibition was open to the public in the run up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, April 2018.
Celebrating both shared traditions and unique aesthetics and crafts, exchanges from Asia highlighted exquisite textiles and embellishments, from truck art to mirror embroidery and UNESCO protected Jamdani textiles. Representing countries India, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, Pakistan.
India x Tuvalu
Brunei Darussalam x Singapore
South Africa x Lesotho
Rwanda x Uganda
Kenya x Zambia / Kenya
Botswana x Swaziland
Cameroon x United Republic of Tanzania
Nigeria x Malawi
Sierra Leone x Ghana / The Gambia
Mozambique x Mauritius
Highlighting ancient traditions, exchanges from the Pacific celebrated the beauty of natural resources and the power of shared histories. Participating countries included; Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Nauru, Fiji, The Seychelles, New Zealand, Cook Islands, Australia, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati.
Samoa x Papua New Guinea
Tonga x Nauru
Fiji x Vanuatu / Seychelles
New Zealand x Cook Islands
Australia x Solomon Islands
With a focus on heritage textiles, exchanges of Europe reimagined iconic garments in globally sourced noble fibres and hand coloured finishes. Participating countries included; Cyprus, United Kingdom, Malta.
Cyprus x Kiribati
Malta x India
UK x India
CARIBBEAN AND AMERICAS
An explosion of culture, history, local materials and beautiful craftsmanship, exchanges from the Caribbean and Americas celebrated diverse stories, highlighting the power of fashion for supporting livelihoods. Participating countries included; Jamaica, Belize, Canada, Namibia, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, St Vincent and The Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda.