The symbolic Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, hosted by the Duchess of Cambridge, was a milestone moment for the Malaysian ‘King of Fashion’, who conversed with and indulged Kate Middleton’s interest in his version of the ‘Kerawang’, a Malay traditional cut-work.

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The luminaries

On February 19, Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran joined selected notable fashion talents across 53 Commonwealth countries, as part of the first ever Commonwealth Fashion Exchange held at Buckingham Palace, London. Joining Kate was the Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, to witness the eye-opening showcase of abundant artisan fashion skills inherent to their countries and heritage. 

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What caught Kate’s eye

The event saw Dato’ Sri Bernard unveil a remastered couture vision of the 'Kerawang', with a floor length design and edgy, oriental geometric detail that caught Kate Middleton’s eye. As she stopped to marvel at his regal masterpiece, Dato’ Sri Bernard explained the tapestry of its influences.

Every inch of the dress bears a tribute to the multicultural diversity of Malaysia, at the core of his signature cut bustier dress and its hidden form fitted illusion. Fine songket, a royal Malay brocade, emboldened the look, modernised with an unconventional striped motif of glimmering Lurex thread. A hint of luxe was added by way of the Malay 'kerawang' embellishment, fusing leather and baroque-style designs to the bottom of the skirt. Finishing with a drama was a floor-length overcoat brocade songket, its electric blue thread infused with knitting wool embellishments in Chinese elements of black peonies motifs and green phoenix – the latter symbolising the queen of birds.

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The Future of the Fashion Exchange 

This ambitious project is aiming for long term goals, with plans to partner with Swarovski, The Woolmark Company and MATCHESFASHION.COM for an edited collection in September. It’s also a new initiative in line with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, this coming April.

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"Rich in partnerships"

The brainchild of Eco Age, this fashion exchange is essentially a sustainable fashion project collaborated by designers and artisans. According to Livia Firth, its founder and creative director, the initiative is “rich in partnerships and creative co-design”, with designers and artisan pairings from different parts of the world. This in turn, helps fuel women’s empowerment and encourages ethical production.

See also: Chopard Leads Sustainable Luxury With New Ethical Gold Supply Chain 

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Eclectic designers

Both established and emerging designers had the honour of Kate Middleton’s attention, among which whom were Karen Walker of New Zealand, Stella McCartney for the UK, and bridal designer Afa Ah Loo from Samoa, who collaborated with Papua New Guinea artisans.