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Designer Karen Walker with the Kuki ‘Airani Creative Mamas.


“We’re not talking anymore; we’re doing,” said Firth. “At Eco-Age, we have so many conversations about how to get people to understand the negative effects of fast fashion. We thought this was a real opportunity to demonstrate the handprint, not the footprint, of fashion.”

For the first time, the 53 countries of the Commonwealth have come together to showcase a wealth of fashion design and artisan skills. The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, created and managed by Eco-Age and developed in partnership with Swarovski, The Woolmark Company and with the support of the Commonwealth Fashion Council and the British Fashion Council, celebrates the talent, power and potential of artisans and designers and encourages new partnerships, trade networks and highlights sustainability. The project has been created to help mark the occasion of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit being held in London in April 2018.


With major names such as Karen Walker representing New Zealand, Behno representing India, and Burberry and Stella McCartney representing the UK, the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange debuted at a special reception at Buckingham Palace during London Fashion Week in February 2018. The reception was hosted by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and was attended by over 300 guests from the worlds of fashion, politics and the arts including Anna Wintour and Naomi Campbell.



Livia Firth, founder and creative director of Eco-Age, says: “This is a project rich in partnerships and creative co-design. For example, one of our very talented designers from India is paired with an artisan group in Tuvalu. As someone who is passionate about joining the threads of global fashion and creating real partnerships you can imagine how exciting it is for us to be involved.”

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.Firth pointed out that craft methods, by nature, are some of the least damaging to the planet. “Artisans have a shorter supply chain [when they are] using hand-looming and not working with artificial fibers.” A vital partner involved in the quest was Nest, an NGO dedicated to improving women’s well-being and preserving cultural traditions, reaching isolated homeworkers to empower them to know their rights and establish fair-trade practices. “We researched every single country and every supply chain. We help them by applying 10 principles of production—and from all this, we have built an amazing database, which is going to be available for everyone to access on the Google Arts & Culture platform.”

The fashion exchange looks will be on display at a public exhibition at Australia House on February 21st, and other locations in London where the exhibition will be open to the public in the run up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, April 2018.

See more about the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange here.



IMAGE 1: NZ x COOK ISLANDS  |  Karen Walker x Kuki Airani Creative Mamas

IMAGE 2: AUSTRALIA x SOLOMON ISLANDS  |  KitX x Pasifik Creations

IMAGE 3: INDIA x TUVALU    |   Behno x Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa

IMAGE 4: CYPRUS x KIRIBATI   |   Afroditi Hera x The Kiribati Handicraft Association


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