Old meets new: hand-woven kente cloth and Swarovski upcycled crystals

By Commonwealth Fashion Council

Explore the exchange story of designer Sydney-Davies from Sierra Leone and artisan Big Dread Kente from Ghana, and Ousman Toure, Continent Clothing from The Gambia and find out how they created their look for The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, 2018.

Artisans from Big Dread Kente hanging up traditional Kente cloth to dryCommonwealth Fashion Council

"Sierra Leone is a place largely avoided by the fashion industry although skills and needs are plentiful. I wanted to create a fashion brand that would not only change my life but also the lives of many, by providing education and jobs for local people. This is my dream. I hope I inspire others to follow suit. I hope I will give them confidence, by seeing that it is possible to produce high quality fashion that’s both affordable and ethical."                                                                                                                                                                    Eumphemia-Ann Sydney Davies

The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange looks at Australian High Commission, LondonCommonwealth Fashion Council

The Exchange: Sierra Leone x Ghana / The Gambia

For The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange 2018, designer Sydney-Davies exchanged with artisans Big Dread Kente and Ousman Toure, Continent Clothing, to create a look that highlighted traditional design techniques and craftsmanship. The look was unveiled at Buckingham Palace on February 19, 2018, and later moved to the Australian High Commission, London, where it was open to the public in the run up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, April 2018.

Designer Eumphemia Ann Sydney Davies, Sydney-DaviesCommonwealth Fashion Council

Sierra Leone: Designer Sydney-Davies

Mad pattern and dazzling colours run through the veins of Euphemia-Ann Sydney Davies, the Sierra Leone designer currently piquing the attention of the international fashion world.  Sydney Davies was a child refugee during the brutal civil war, and now works tirelessly to be a positive representation of her country by creating edgy looks that are also ethical and sustainable. For the past two years she has been producing some of her pieces in Sierra Leone, supporting local creatives and artisans. She is currently working on her new collection to debut at London Fashion Week 2018.

Artisan from Big Dread Kente stretching the clothCommonwealth Fashion Council

Ghana: Artisan Big Dread Kente

Big Dread Kente is a kente weaving company in Ghana, founded in 2015 and run by husband and wife team, Gideon and Julia. The workshop aims to train young boys and girls to learn the beautiful and ancient craft of kente weaving. 

Handwoven Kente clothCommonwealth Fashion Council

Traditional Kente Cloth

The Ewe people from southern Ghana have been wearing kente, a vibrantly striped woven, fabric for centuries.

Children wearing Kente cloth in GhanaCommonwealth Fashion Council

Originally only worn by royalty, with special meaning woven through the horizontal and vertical patterns, today kente is worn by all, often on special occasions like weddings.

Ghanian child wearing traditional Kente clothCommonwealth Fashion Council

Artisan from Big Dread Kente stretching the clothCommonwealth Fashion Council

"I came across Big Dread Kente on Instagram and immediately
fell in love with kente cloth and its rich history.”

Eumphemia-Ann Sydney Davies

Sydney-Davies look at Australian High Commission, London by Sydney-DaviesCommonwealth Fashion Council

The story behind the look

Sydney-Davies and Big Dread Kente have worked together to create a natural raffia-fringed hand-woven kente cloth midi skirt with recyclable plastic blocking, and a bralet top embellished with Swarovski upcycled crystals in queen bee motifs.

Sydney-Davies' Sketch, Eumphemia Ann Sydney Davies, From the collection of: Commonwealth Fashion Council
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Illustration of the dress and coat

Sydney-Davies' Sketch, Eumphemia Ann Sydney Davies, From the collection of: Commonwealth Fashion Council
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Artisans from Big Dread Kente stretching the clothCommonwealth Fashion Council

Competing
on a next-level vibrancy scale, Sydney-Davis and Big Dread Kente have worked
together to create a raffia-fringed skirt and bustier corset. Panels of handwoven
kente cloth and transparent recycled plastic are paired with an oversized kente
and wool jumper-coat.

Close up of the fabrics used to create Sydney-Davies' look by Euphemia Sydney DavisCommonwealth Fashion Council

Sydney-Davies and Big Dread Kente worked together to create a natural raffia-fringed hand-woven kente cloth midi skirt with recyclable plastic blocking

1 Sydney Davies FabricCommonwealth Fashion Council

Close up of Sydney-Davies' look featuring Swarovski by Sydney-DaviesCommonwealth Fashion Council

The Bralet

The bralet top was embellished with Swarovski upcycled crystals in queen bee motifs.

Front of Sydney-Davies look by Sydney-DaviesCommonwealth Fashion Council

The Bardot Wrap Jacket

The outfit was completed with an oversized bardot wrap jacket made from hand-woven gold kente cloth, hand-woven country cloth, and 100% wool.

Sydney-Davies' look at Buckingham PalaceCommonwealth Fashion Council

Jewellery by Ousman Toure from The Gambia by Ousman ToureCommonwealth Fashion Council

Sydney-Davies' look was completed with a handmade necklace and bracelet crafted by Ousman Toure in The Gambia.

The necklace is made using glass beads and wooden Malawian trade beads which were traditionally used as tender.

Sydney-Davies' look at Buckingham Palace Sydney-Davies' look at Buckingham PalaceCommonwealth Fashion Council

Final look on display at Buckingham Palace, 19 February 2018

Sydney-Davies look at Australian High Commission, London by Sydney-DaviesCommonwealth Fashion Council

Final look on display at the Australian High Commission, London, 22 February 2018

Behind the Scenes of The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange 2018Commonwealth Fashion Council

Credits: Story

This content has been specifically curated for the Google Arts & Culture platform on behalf of the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange exhibition that launched on the 19th of February at Buckingham Palace in partnership with Swarovski, The Woolmark Company and MATCHESFASHION.COM.

The project, created and managed by Eco-Age, with the support of The Commonwealth Fashion Council and The British Fashion Council.

More information about the images is available by clicking on them.
Read more about the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at http://eco-age.com/commonwealth-fashion-exchange/

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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