LONDON – Menswear designer Priya Ahluwalia is the fourth recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, joining former laureates and other up-and-coming artists Richard Quinn, Bethany Williams and Rosh Mahtani.
With the UK still on lockdown, the awards ceremony took place in Zoom this time around, with the Countess of Wessex presenting the award on behalf of the Queen and closing the all-virtual London Fashion Week this week.
The Countess – who is married to Prince Edward, the Queen’s youngest son – dusted off her interviewing skills for the occasion, interviewing a glowing Ahluwalia about the future of the industry and her own label.
“I was listening to the radio the other day and they were talking about the fact that people don’t buy so much clothes, even online. Do you think the market will rebound? Asked the Countess, wearing a black and white Victoria Beckham print polo collar. “I wear the British flag,” she added.
Ahluwalia told him about her fear when she lost some of her wholesale accounts when the lockdown began, while still managing to rotate the business and use her time to explore new ventures. Last summer she launched ‘Jalebi’, a book and virtual exhibit designed to show ‘what it means to be a young person of mixed heritage living in Britain’.
The young designer was born and raised in London and has Nigerian-Indian origins. She recently attended GucciFest, collaborated on a new pair of sneakers with Adidas, and lent her expertise in upcycling and sustainable production to a series of global conferences.
The Countess encouraged her to talk about the importance of recycling and offer sustainability advice to brands: “Everyone needs to improve in this area,” the royal said.
“It was always about using what is directly available to me,” said Ahluwalia. “A lot of students are naturally resourceful because they should be, it’s more profitable than other routes. But if you are a big brand you have a culture that will take a long time to unravel, you need to implement positive practices at all levels of the business. They could start by looking at their stock and thinking about who could (potentially) reuse it. It could be a good opportunity to work with a young designer – London is full of them, so they can take their pick.
The young designer also shared some of her future aspirations, including the branch in womenswear, accessories and, eventually, the home.
“This is good news for the girls. I covet your shirt, ”said the Countess, complementing Ahluwalia’s loose-fitting pastel-hued satin shirt, as well as the deep, jewel tones of the designer’s new Fall 2021 collection, inspired by black artist Kerry James Marshall.
The royal is a longtime supporter of the arts and a patron of the London College of Fashion: “Arts education is extremely important. We are fortunate to have one of the best artistic training in the world and that positions us incredibly well. Whether or not students stay in the UK, we get this ever-changing movement, and you can’t underestimate the value of art, in any form, being played. Big businesses are the backbone of our economy, ”she said.
Under the current government, funding for the arts has been cut. Separately, a campaign by lobby group Fashion Roundtable calls on the UK government to pay more attention to the industry and tailor policy to its needs to help UK fashion companies overcome post-Brexit red tape. and stay afloat.
As Ahluwalia answered the Countess’ questions, congratulations flooded the comments section, with figures including British Vogue editor Edward Enninful, Matchesfashion’s Natalie Kingham – an early supporter of the brand – and the Queen Angela Kelly’s dresser sending her best wishes.
With news of the government’s plan to ease the lockdown unveiled on Monday, the conversation ended on a positive note.
“After all the collective trauma people take action and go wild, so hopefully we’ll see some great looks. I have something to release in March that was definitely informed by how desperate I am to go out and party again, ”the creator said.
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