Princess Anne closes London Fashion Week with royal award

Princess Anne closed London fashion week on Tuesday, presenting Rosh Mahtani of Hatton Garden jewellers Alighieri with the Queen Elizabeth II award.

Mahtani is the first jewellery designer to be given the accolade, which was awarded based on her commitment to sustainability and ethical practices, alongside “her unique attention to detail and focus on craftsmanship and community”.

The win is reflective of the fashion industry’s increasing focus on sustainable practices. “The biggest thing we can do is try to create things that are forever, and not adhere to trends,” Mahtani told Vogue ahead of receiving the award. “It’s never about [creating] something that’s then not relevant next season. All of our bronze is recycled … I believe in knowing exactly who’s made [our pieces]. It’s for the environment, but it’s also because of a personal connection with that business.”

Mahtani’s brand, which is inspired by Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, launched in 2014. The self-taught designer is known for her slightly battered-looking gold-plated pieces, which are designed to embody the idea of a “modern heirloom”.

Her latest collection, entitled Love in The Waste Land – a reference to T.S Eliot’s 1922 poem – was showcased at the event, located in the crypt of St Etheldreda’s church, Holborn. The crypt itself was lined with candles, silver wattle plant and stone busts adorned with Mahtani’s creations, while musicians created a haunting live soundtrack.

The Princess Royal has also been deemed this season’s unlikely style muse, with her signature looks – such as knee-length tailoring and equestrian chic – dominating the catwalk at shows including Burberry, Michael Kors and Victoria Beckham. Presenting the award on behalf of the Queen, Anne spoke of how London had been a “hotbed of jewellery manufacture for hundreds of years” and said she was delighted that this year the award had gone to a fine jewellery designer.

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In her acceptance speech, Mahtani acknowledged local casters, Just Castings, who have worked with her since her first collection, and thanked them for “not laughing” at her.

The Queen Elizabeth II award for British design was launched in 2018 to recognise the achievements of young designers that are “making a difference to society through either sustainable practices or community engagement”. The winner is selected by the British Fashion Council (BFC), in collaboration with the royal household. In its first year, the award was presented to Richard Quinn by the Queen during her first visit to London Fashion Week. Last year, the award went to Bethany Williams and was presented by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

“Mahtani has managed to translate her passion for jewellery and storytelling into a highly successful business while using responsibly sourced materials,” said the BFC chief executive, Caroline Rush, who co-hosted the event. “Her ethical approach and commitment to local manufacturing, combined with her ability to make beautiful, timeless, made-by-hand jewellery, makes her an inspiration for many young British designers.”

The issue of sustainability has loomed large throughout London fashion week, with the activist group Extinction Rebellion protesting for the third season in a row. Several designers launched sustainability initiatives, including a secondhand handbag exchange from Mulberry and a Phoebe English collection made entirely from deadstock and surplus material.

This year’s schedule, which featured designers including Vivienne Westwood, Victoria Beckham, Tommy Hilfiger and Burberry, was also affected by the coronavirus, with the majority of Chinese press and buyers not attending events as usual. Some labels, such as Asai, were forced to cancel their shows because of manufacturing delays at factories based in China.

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