A commentary on environmental disasters: using fashion to both highlight our failings and preserve ancient crafts

Explore the exchange story of designer Lucian Matis from Canada and artisans Omba Arts Trust from Nambia and find out how they created their look for The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, 2018. 

Close up portrait of the face of Lucian Matis' lookCommonwealth Fashion Council

The Exchange: Canada x Namibia

For The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange 2018, designer Lucian Matis exchanged with artisans Omba Arts Trust to create a look that was inspired by manmade disasters. 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.

Lucian Matis HeadshotCommonwealth Fashion Council

Canada: Designer Lucian Matis 

Lucian Matis is a Toronto-based womenswear designer whose eponymous label features elegant daywear and eveningwear with couture-quality embellishment. Born in Romania, he perfected these intricate hand-sewing techniques working alongside his mother in her tailor shop. Matis studied fine arts in Europe before immigrating to Canada in 2007, where he attended Ryerson’s fashion design program in Toronto. Since the launch of his first collection in 2007, his designs have been featured in national and international publications, including FASHION and WWD, and worn by celebrities and VIPs like Nelly Furtado, Iman and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. Among his many industry accolades, Matis has been nominated three times for the CAFAs Womenswear Designer of the Year award. 

Lucian Matis' artisansCommonwealth Fashion Council

Namibia: Artisans Omba Arts Trust

Founded in 1991, Omba Arts Trust is an NGO that supports sustainable livelihoods in marginalized communities, through craft development and marketing. To create the Fashion Exchange look, the Trust looked to the San community, living in the eastern region of Namibia, living on either government managed ‘Resettlement farms’ or in ‘Communal conservancy’ areas. The San are indigenous hunger-gatherers representing the first nation of Southern Africa, which spans Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. 

Artisan from Omba Arts TrustCommonwealth Fashion Council

History of The San

The San used to be seminomadic, moving seasonally to find water and food, but have adapted to various livelihood options today that include agriculture, livestock, craft, tourism and harvesting devils claws.

Artisan from Omba Arts TrustCommonwealth Fashion Council

Omba Arts Trust support craftsmanship in Namibia

Omba facilitates local and international fair trade through its mentoring with artisans, helping them with product development, marketing and supply chain management. 

Lucian Matis' lookCommonwealth Fashion Council

The story behind the look

Lucian Matis has created a gown inspired by the most recent oil spill in the East China Sea and the destruction caused to our oceans and ecosystems. 

Lucian Matis' sketch by Lucian MatisCommonwealth Fashion Council

Illustration of the look

Close up of Lucian Matis' lookCommonwealth Fashion Council


The gown was created with wool blend fabric.


The look was embellished with black Swarovski upcycled crystals.


To accompany the gown, a classic roll necklace was created by three Ju/’hoansi groups living in the eastern region of Namibia.

Artisan from Omba Arts Trust creating Lucian Matis' headpieceCommonwealth Fashion Council

Traditional techniques

The method for creating the beads is believed to date back 60,000 years, using ostrich eggshells that are broken in to small pieces, clipped into circles and pierced with a hole. The beads have been heated to create different colours, from a pale grass tone through to black.

Front portrait of Lucian Matis' lookCommonwealth Fashion Council

Final look on display at Buckingham Palace, 19 February 2018

Lucian Matis look at Australia House by Lucian MatisCommonwealth 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.
Explore more
Related theme
Creativity Across The Commonwealth
Showcasing the power and potential of artisan fashion skills across 53 countries
View theme
Google apps