Designer Priya Ahluwalia receives Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design


British fashion designer Priya Ahluwalia has won the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design. Now in its fourth year, the annual prize was presented to the emerging designer by the queen’s daughter-in-law Sophie — the Countess of Wessex — during a virtual event at London Fashion Week on February 23. According to reports, Ahluwalia was presented with the trophy in recognition of her work as a “young champion of sustainability and diversity”.

A Vogue report states that the designer’s eponymous menswear collections speak about her British and Indian-Nigerian identity. Additionally, a statement issued by the British Fashion Council (BFC) — the organisation responsible for working along with the royal household to select a winner — called Ahluwalia a “progressive thinking leader and agent for change”.

CNN reports that the young designer launched her brand in 2018, having attracted attention for her photo-book ‘Sweet Lassi‘. Per the report, the book — released alongside a graduate collection for her masters degree in menswear — chronicled her “eye-opening trips” to Nigeria and India, where she witnessed the scale of the second-hand garment industry and the volume of waste clothing generated by consumers.

The London-based designer had even told CNN last year that her interest in sustainable design was roused during a trip to see family in Lagos. She had noticed market traders wearing “obscure items of clothing from overseas, such as a T-shirt from the 2012 London Marathon”.

“I was intrigued and dug deeper, moving forward on a hunch that the presence of these textiles heralded a larger story,” she was quoted as saying. Her research then led her to Panipat in India, which is considered as a “huge hub for garment recycling”. “I was fascinated and also worried about how much we throw away… Visiting Panipat was life-changing and I decided to start my brand with sustainable principles,” Ahluwalia had said.

Per the Vogue report, the queen had inaugurated the award for designers who are “making a difference to society through either sustainable practices or community engagement”. A trophy created by the queen’s designer Angela Kelly comes with it. And after the queen made her first fashion show appearance ever to award it to Richard Quinn, she made it a tradition that senior women members of the royal family would do the honors. So while Bethany Williams received hers from Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Rosh Mahtani of Alighieri was given hers by Princess Anne.

On being asked by the countess as to where she would like to see her brand going in the next decade, Ahluwalia said: “I’m a menswear designer, but there are so many things I’d love to branch into. Womenswear and accessories; I’m obsessed with homewear. But among all that, I’m always trying to create interesting projects — books, films — that amplify different communities and voices. And, I guess, to have a leadership position in advocating for positive change within our industry. And to have fun at the same time!”

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