Commonwealth, common good

The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange is a new addition to the global fashion and design calendar, that brings together design heavyweights with tried, tested and true artisan producers in the Commonwealth’s 52 countries. Heavy hitters like Matches Fashion and Stella McCartney are involved in the exchange.

This month marks the unveiling of fashion pieces created through the project. The  designer-producer collaborations will present their creations at a showcase reception at Buckingham Palace, in the presence of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge and HRH The Countess of Wessex.

The looks will then be displayed at Australia House, London from 21st February, and in other locations across London in the run up to the annual Head of Commonwealth meeting that takes place in April 2018.

Google Arts & Culture will host the project. Hopefully, the platform will encourage further engagement from the designer and artisan communities, giving a global audience access to the looks in an online exhibition along with the stories of these extraordinary partnerships and a directory full of extra resources, leaving a long-term legacy.

Artisanal work can sometimes be looked down upon by the high fashion industry as being “folk art” or lacking in quality of production. Designers have been accused of cultural appropriation, when looking to the Global South for inspiration. This could be a new way of exchanging ideas and methods of working across borders. The cross fertilisation of ideas has always fuelled creative innovation. The Commonwealth sometimes feels like an outdated institution, but this has the potential to be a  new, post-colonial approach that works for everybody.

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