The queen inaugurated the award in 2018 for talented emerging designers who are “making a difference to society through either sustainable practices or community engagement.” A trophy created by the queen’s designer Angela Kelly comes with it. After the queen made her first fashion show appearance ever to award it to Richard Quinn, she’s made it a tradition that senior women members of the royal family should do the honors. Bethany Williams received hers from Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Rosh Mahtani of Alighieri was given hers by Princess Anne. So, there was the queen’s daughter-in-law, at an undisclosed location, but quite probably working from home at Bagshot Park in Surrey. And there was Ahluwalia, sitting in her studio in south London—where we interviewed her about her sustainable practices on a London segment of Good Morning Vogue last September. And officiating, the British Fashion Council’s CEO Caroline Rush, from her home in Wimbledon. The countess, who is patron of the London College of Fashion, made some remarks on British culture as a whole. “You can’t underestimate the value that art plays, in whatever form, be it fashion, music, other kinds of cultural arts,” she said. “It’s big business and it supports our economy.”
Priya Ahluwalia: I’m a menswear designer, but there are so many things I’d love to branch into. Womenswear and accessories; I’m obsessed with homewear. But among all that, I’m always trying to create interesting projects—books, films—that amplify different communities and voices. And, I guess, to have a leadership position in advocating for positive change within our industry. And to have fun at the same time! Ahluwalia gave her a concise verbal tour of the diaspora research for her fall 2021 collection, which recently appeared on Vogue Runway. Here are some surprisingly on-point moments about sustainability and the industry as a whole from the conversation that followed.
When I started on my my graduate collection, it was just a question of using what was available to me. [It was made from] things I didn’t want to wear anymore; I asked friends, and their boyfriends gave me bits and bobs. It was just a question of being resourceful—and students are naturally resourceful. It’s about applying those natural skills to gather materials. It’s about using your networks. Maybe doing a callout on social media to ask if people have certain fabrics. It’s about using your community. You are a fantastic recycler and re-user; that’s what your whole brand is about. But for young people, it might be hard to know how to start. Do you have any advice for young people coming into the industry? What about from the other end of the market, for big brands? Because, again, everybody needs to get better at this. How do you see that happening?
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