There was glamour in abundance at Buckingham Palace tonight as two of the Royal family’s best-dressed ladies hosted a reception to celebrate a new creative initiative, the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange.
The Duchess of Cambridge, still stylish at seven months pregnant in a patterned guipere lace ensemble from Erdem, was accompanied by the Burberry-clad Countess of Wessex, wife of the Queen’s youngest son Prince Edward, to launch the exchange.
The British label has emerged as Kate’s new favourite designer despite a string of recent Erdem ensembles, including a blue velvet number worn in Stockholm, dividing opinion among the fashion crowd.
Guests attending the London Fashion Week-timed reception included American Vogue’s Dame Anna Wintour and her new British counterpart Edward Enninful, designer Stella McCartney, and supermodel Naomi Campbell.
Prince Andrew’s eldest daughter Princess Beatrice also attended tonight’s glitzy event, following Kate’s lead in a dress by Erdem which she paired with vertiginous heels as she chatted to guests in the palace’s opulent Music Room.
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Glamorous duo: Kate, elegant in a guipere lace that showed off her bump to perfection, was joined by Sophie, Countess of Wessex as they hosted stars from the fashion world at Buckingham Palace tonight
Favourite designer: Kate has donned Erdem on several recent occasions, including a royal tour of Sweden (left and right)
The Duchess of Cambridge inspects a neon pink ensemble as she and Sophie host the launch of the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange in Buckingham Palace’s Music Room
Stylish entrance: Kate and Sophie, clad in Erdem and Burberry respectively, enter the Music Room to meet their guests
The Duchess of Cambridge arrived with the Countess of Wessex – followed by Princess Beatrice – at The White Drawing Room to meet a line up including Anna Wintour and Livia Firth.
Kate extended a hand and greeted the fashion editor – who was not wearing her trademark sunglasses but was also in an Erdem dress with boots – warmly.
Also in the party was Daniel Halton, director of the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, who was wearing an eye-catching headdress with the word Commonwealth spelt out.
The two senior royals then made their way into The Music Room where a selection of the stunning dresses made as part of the exchange had been put on show.
Sophie very much took charge, confidently handling the fabric of a dress made by Lucian Mathis, followed by Kate.
‘Isn’t it amazing,’ she declared, as Kate looked on, gently touching her growing baby bump.
Joining forces: Kate, joined by Sophie, donned a patterned guipere lace ensemble from her new favourite designer Erdem, as did Princess Beatrice, as they hosted tonight’s reception at Buckingham Palace
The glamorous duo giggled as they exchanged a joke while inspecting the outfits on display in the Music Room tonight
Kate, 36, showed off her growing bump in the brown and white ensemble from her new favourite designer Erdem
The pair then went their separate ways to meet and greet the designers and collaborators.
Among those Kate chatted to was Nigerian designer Nkwo, who said she had been fascinated to learn about the heading process and how long it had taken her.
‘I explained to her that everything had been hand sewn. The only time a machine was used was for the lining. She couldn’t believe it.
‘The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange has been such a wonderful experience. I really hope it will help to put us on the map – not as African fashion, but simply as fashion.’
The duchess also chatted with New Zealand designer Karen Walker and her collaborator Tukua Tuna, from the Kuki Airani Creative Mamas, who originally hails from the Cook Islands but is now based in Auckland.
‘The Duchess asked us how long it had taken – 1,000 hours was the answer,’ Miss Walker said.
‘And she was just amazed at the level of detail that Tukua and her team had undertaken in stitching the islands’ beautiful flowers.’
‘It was such a wonderful, open and liberating process to work together.’
Mrs Tuna, 74, added: ‘The Duchess couldn’t quite believe it when I told her we had used 9,000 metres of thread!’
The Duchess of Cambridge, still stylish at seven months pregnant in a patterned Erdem ensemble, was accompanied by the elegant Countess of Wessex as she chatted to US Vogue editor Anna Wintour and Caroline Rush (pictured, in black)
The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange aims to create partnerships between established and emerging fashion talent in the lead up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London this April.
They were also joined by Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council, fashion writer Justine Picardie, handbag designer Anya Hindmarch, ethical fashion activist Livia Firth and British model Adwoa Aboah.
Kate, 36, who is expecting her third child in April, burst onto the fashion scene when she wed Prince William in 2011.
Her decision to wear high street styles in the early years of her marriage – such the £175 Reiss dress she sported to meet the Obamas a few weeks after the wedding – saw such a rush to snap up ‘copy Kates’ that company websites were prone to crashing and led to the phenomenon known as ‘The Kate Effect’.
However she raised eyebrows on Monday night with her decision not to wear black on the BAFTA red carpet in support of the #MeToo movement, instead opting for a forest green Jenny Packham gown.
Meanwhile Sophie, 53, has transformed her image in recent years, taking up cycling and working with a personal trainer as well as overhauling her wardrobe.
She has thrown out the boxy suits and frumpy, floaty dresses she used to favour for a raft of cutting-edge designers including Erdem, Emelia Wickstead, Alexander McQueen and Peter Pilotto, as well as international labels such as Prada, Armani, Gucci and Giambattista Valli.
Supermodels assemble: Stars including Neelam Gill (second left) and Arizona Muse (second right) attended the event
While supermodel Naomi, 47, pulled out all the stops in an asymmetric green gown (left), Stella McCartney (right) kept things simple in a camel coat and black dress
Industry insiders: Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council (centre) is joined by glamorous guests
Fashion royalty: British Vogue editor Edward Enninful posed for a photo with glamorous Livia Firth at the entrance
In 2013 the Countess also became the first ever Patron of London College of Fashion, part of the University of the Arts London.
The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange celebrates creativity, sustainable production and manufacturing, trade links and ethical supply chains across the fashion industry, from business and design, to textiles and fabrics, craft and artisan skills.
Over the last six months, major fashion designers such as Stella McCartney, New Zealand’s Karen Walker and Bibi Russell from Bangladesh have partnered with artisan producers in small nations, who specialise in traditional handcraft techniques and trades, with a view to creating a ‘skills exchange’.
Tonight’s Buckingham Palace reception will showcase the best of Commonwealth contemporary fashion and creativity with an exhibition of some of these bespoke fashion ‘looks’.
Fashion forward: Guests attending the London Fashion Week-timed reception included American Vogue’s Dame Anna Wintour and her new British counterpart Edward Enninful, designer Stella McCartney, and supermodel Naomi Campbell
US Vogue editor looked glamorous in a multicoloured coat as she led the arrivals at Buckingham Palace on Monday night
Created 68 years ago, the Commonwealth is a voluntary network of member countries – containing a staggering 2.4 billion people, a third of the world’s population – bound by a common set of values.
It prides itself on remaining a global beacon for ‘democracy, human rights and the rule of law’ and using its ‘soft power’ to achieve change.
The Queen followed in her late father’s footsteps as Head of the Commonwealth when she ascended the throne in 1953, and has since seen the organisation grow from 11 members to 52.
The title is not a hereditary one, however, and in recent years there have been major behind-the-scenes efforts by Buckingham Palace to secure agreement amongst members for Charles to inherit the title.
The Queen has always seen the Commonwealth as one of the greatest achievements of her reign and is known to be keen to see her son and heir take on her legacy.