Livia Firth launches Commonwealth sustainability initiative, UK royals to give PR boost

The 52 countries of the Commonwealth are launching a first-of-its-kind fashion initiative to boost sustainability, partnerships and trade across the group, with the long-term aim of also promoting female empowerment. 

Matchesfashion's CEO (left) joined Livia Firth (third left) and Nadja Swarovski (third right), plus designers and other luminaries to launch the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange

And the project will get a major publicity boost during London Fashion Week this month as high-profile royals The Duchess of Cambridge and Countess of Wessex are set to jointly host a reception at Buckingham Palace on behalf of the Queen.

The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange (CFE) project will see established and emerging designers and artisans from the 52 countries partnering each other to create one-off looks which will be on show at the event.

The project is being managed by Eco-Age, the brand/marketing consultancy founded by Livia Firth that aims to help businesses grow sustainably.

Eco-Age said it wants the CFE to “showcase the power and potential of artisan fashion skills to deliver new networks, trade links and highlight sustainability.”

Participants will include Burberry and Stella McCartney representing the UK, Karen Walker representing New Zealand, and Bibi Russell representing Bangladesh.

It’s more than just a one-off initiative with Eco-Age saying that the ambitious project has long-term aims. And with this in mind it has forged strong commercial connections having been developed in partnership with Swarovski, The Woolmark Company and Matchesfashion. The trio will launch an edited collection in September.

Firth said of the CFE: “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.”

Eco-Age also said it’s a good time to launch the CFE as it coincides with “a global wave of interest in handmade products and [as] authentic luxury causes a reassessment of the artisan fashion trades.”

And it also chimes with key issues of the moment such as women’s empowerment, ethical production/supply chains, innovation, economic growth and poverty reduction.

The reception at Buckingham Palace on February 19 will be followed by a public exhibition at Australia House on February 21 and other locations in London. The exhibition will be open to the public in the run up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in April.

Firth said that “fashion is a huge weapon, because we are all connected to the clothes we wear. Sadly, today the industry is dominated by rapid markets and decentralised supply chains producing high volumes of cheap clothes through an overwhelmingly female, low-wage workforce.”

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