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Q&A: SA Fashion Week director Lucilla Booyzen on her visit to Buckingham Palace

by | Feb 26, 2018

Lucilla Booyzen, director of SA Fashion Week, and designer Clive Rundle visited Buckingham Palace last Monday. There they showed the royal family a design created by Clive, in collaboration with House of Thethana. All the looks on the exhibition (created by commonwealth fashion designers) were made according to Eco-Age’s sustainability principles. We asked Lucilla to tell us about the royals, the exhibition and about the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange.

What were you doing at Buckingham Palace?

A while ago, we were asked to particiapte in an exhibition for the new initiative, the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange. But a few days before the opening, I received a note to say that The Master of the Household had received “Her Majesty’s command to invite” me to a reception at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Commonwealth Fashion Exchage in the presence of TRH The Duchess of Cambridge and The Countess of Wessex”. (We met Princess Beatrix too.) It was a command, not an invitation! The royal’s director of communications, Sally Osman, explained the palace’s protocol at Soho House the night before… you are not allowed to touch them, you can’t speak to them, you have to respect them, you can’t ask questions. She was very kind about it. In fact, all my correspondence about the event was very respectful and considerate.

What happened on the night?

The Duchess of Cambridge and The Countess of Wessex

Sally of the Pally (as Sally is known) met us at the Palace and offered us champagne to settle our nerves. In the White Drawing Room, we were arranged in line in a predetermined order. Included in the lineup with me were Eco-Age’s Livia Firth and Vogue editor, Anna Wintour and other members of the Commonwealth Fashion Council. Anna was wearing an Erdem dress and Prada shoes. She had been to the Erdem fashion show at the London Fashion Week earlier that day, as had I. After a while the Royal Highnesses came in. It was fantastic and surprisingly informal. While they said we couldn’t put our hands out, TRHs put their hands out to shake ours. I told them that we nurture young designers and that we had done Fashion Fusion from 2007 to 2011. It was a similar project to the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange fusing craft with fashion. I had conversations on the night and at London Fashion Week that I hope will resonate. It was a great opportunity and an honour to tell people what we do at SA fashion week and in SA fashion.

You didn’t meet the 91-year-old fashion icon, the Queen of England?

I did not meet the Queen but I was presented to the future Queen Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. The queen is much more than a fashion icon. We can’t pin something as light as a fashion icon on her. To be in that position and to not have done anything wrong or stepped on anybody’s toes, is remarkable. Catherine asked about the SA Fashion Week. She was also wearing an Erdem dress; blue and white: very conservative, very beautiful. Sophie, The Countess of Wessex, wore a Burberry dress, black with red stitching. After this presentation TRHs opened the exhibition.

What is the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange?

It was initiated by Livia Firth’s company Eco-Age with the support of the Commonwealth Fashion Council and the British Fashion Council. It is a project built on the premise of fashion as a common language, and will showcase the work of established and emerging fashion designers from across the Commonwealth’s 53 countries. For this exhibition curated by Hamish Bowles, looks were created according to the sustainability principles set out for Eco-Age’s Green Carpet Challenge.

How did you become a member and our South African representative?

I am identified as one of the leaders in fashion and fashion development in Africa, and three years ago I was selected to be on the Commonwealth Fashion Council Board. It is through my association with the organisation that we were invited to participate in the Fashion Exchange.

How did Clive become involved?

I was asked to select a designer. The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange had selected the House of Thethana in Lesotho for us to work with and since Clive was one of the first designers who worked with us on Fusion and still works with artisans, he was the right person for the job. Clive liaised with the textile designers in Lesotho but printed the fabric here. Cape Wool SA sponsored us on the South Africa side.

Tell us about Clive and House of Thethana’s creation?

The Duchess of Cambridge and The Countess of Wessex

Well, Clive created a true Clive piece. It was true to his innovation, ability to construct and his magical thought process. It is a pair of shorts with a top over it. The check fabric he used in the design is wool while the bottom is silk, both responsibly sourced. He consulted Cape Wool SA for insights on the benefits, performance and fabric attributes of wool. And Lesotho-based textile design duo, Phutheho Ranooe, and Maleeto Monyau, of House of Thethana, developed a print of mielies, horses and blankets suited to a high fashion garment and for printing on luxurious fabrics such as the silk he used.

  • Following the official opening at the Buckingham Palace during London Fashion Week, the collection moved to Australia House in London in the run up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in April 2018
  • Photo credits: Supplied



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