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New initiative highlights fashion talent from Commonwealth countries

Tanya Taylor collection.

SEAN EBSWORTH BARNES

London is leading the way in a new fashion initiative, the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange. Organized in partnership with Swarovski, The Woolmark Company and MatchesFashion.com, this inaugural showcase brings together fashion talent from the 53 countries of the Commonwealth. The goal of the project is to highlight the modern-day values of these countries, which include women's empowerment, ethical production and supply chains, innovation, economic growth and poverty reduction.

Designs by each country's representatives, which include Stella McCartney and Burberry in Britain, were revealed at a reception at Buckingham Palace on Feb. 19 to coincide with London Fashion Week. Hosted by the Duchess of Cambridge and the Countess of Wessex, the event was attended by Naomi Campbell, Anna Wintour, Hamish Bowles and British Vogue's Edward Enninful.

Two designers represented the Canadian presence in the exchange. Toronto women's-wear designer Lucian Matis created a gown showcased alongside artisans from the Namibian Omba Arts Trust and chosen by the Woolmark Edit endorsement, while New York-based Canadian Tanya Taylor created a one-of-a-kind gown in partnership with artisans from India. The one-shoulder gown was made with fabrics that were tie-dyed using natural dyes and selected from her archives, and weighed 24 pounds (11 kilograms).

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"We did something pretty intense. We have about 110,000 paillettes on the dress and then about that same amount of crystals, so all the hand beading that was involved was really a lot of labour," she said. "Under each paillette is a looped piece of silk and a bead and then beside all of them are crystals." Given the workmanship that went into the piece, Taylor estimates that the cost of the sparkling creation would be about $70,000, or about 100 times the price of one of her ready-to-wear dresses.

Made of tie-dyed silk, the pink bodice was left looking natural to highlight the hand construction that went into the gown. "We wanted to keep it twisted and scrunched so it's a little bit more like the process of what we did to make the dress," she explained.

The exhibition will move next to Australia House on Feb. 21, where it will be open to the public. For those who can't make it to see the designs in London, MatchesFashion.com and Google Arts & Culture are offering online platforms to provide insights and education into the designers and their countries.

This week's style happenings

Luxury goods company Chanel and online retailer Farfetch have announced a new digital partnership. Chanel will use Farfetch's platform to launch its own augmented retail experience to enhance the in-store experience for clients. This will provide additional insights into clients' preferences in person and online as they explore Chanel's eight annual collections.

Toronto seating company The Chesterfield Shop is celebrating its 70th anniversary. Beginning Feb. 27, the family-owned company will be holding events, contests and promotions to mark the occasion. For more information, visit thechesterfieldshop.com.

American footwear label Stuart Weitzman is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its signature 5050 boot this year. The 5050 was the first boot to use a stretch backing, and to celebrate its birthday, the Reserve style, with its short block heel, is worn by Kate Moss in the brand's new campaign. For more information, visit stuartweitzman.ca.

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Visit tgam.ca/newsletters to sign up for the Globe Style e-newsletter, your weekly digital guide to the players and trends influencing fashion, design and entertaining, plus shopping tips and inspiration for living well. And follow Globe Style on Instagram @globestyle.

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