Wednesday, 21 February 2018

It's Hard Hats & A Henna Tattoo for William and Kate's Visit to Sunderland!

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelled almost 300 miles from London for two engagements in Sunderland today.

The Palace said the visit was planned to "showcase the city's vibrant arts scene and engineering talent." Keith Merrin, chief executive of Sunderland Culture, added: “The timing of the royal visit couldn’t have been better, with so much happening already in the city’s cultural sector and some exciting news to be announced in the coming months.”

William and Kate's first stop was The Fire Station, one of Sunderland’s most iconic buildings, recently converted into a music and arts hub.

On arrival, the couple met members of the local community.

The Duchess chatting to two very special police officers :)

William greeted a very important guest, Jane, 101 years old!

Jayne told Kate her brother used to work at the Fire Station.

The Fire Station houses a dance studio, drama studio and a heritage centre. A £3.5m transformation was completed last year thanks to a £2.4m Heritage Lottery Fund grant. The building stood empty for 22 years before becoming a significant part of the Music, Arts and Culture Trust’s plans to create a £10m cultural quarter centred on The Fire Station and an adjacent new £8m auditorium, where work will commence soon.

The Station is also home to popular bar and eatery 'The Engine Room'.

They watched a Bollywood dancers performance.

The Duke and Duchess saw a local class take part in a Live Tales story writing session and a Dance Jam workshop in The Fire Station’s first-floor studios.

Applause for the talented young performers.

William and Kate met Little Inventors - a terrific project turning children's inventions into reality.

The Duke and Duchess unveiled a plaque.

Their next stop was The Engine Room.

Kate meeting staff.

The couple met young people.

Kate got a Henna flower tattoo on her hand.

Richard Palmer said she also took some bindi for Princess Charlotte to wear on her forehead.

More from the Mail Online:

'Chatting to a group from Young Asian Voices at the Fire Station Arts Centre, Kate asked if one of the girls would draw a henna design on her hand. The Duchess seemed delighted when Shajida Begum, 18, drew a black flower with a swirl.
Miss Begum said: 'I said 'Would you like a design?' and she was like 'Yes, if you don't mind'. 'She was saying that it was really pretty. 'I was just telling her how it works. I was telling her when she can wash it off - I said 'when it becomes flakey'. Kate also asked the girls for a pack of bindis, which she said she wanted for her daughter Charlotte.'

Below we see the tattoo.

Next, The Duke and Duchess travelled to see the Northern Spire, an ambitious and striking new bridge over the River Wear.

The Duchess arrived sporting her new tattoo.

William and Kate adhered to safety regulations wearing safety glasses, hard hats and high visibility jackets.

We're used to seeing Kate in hats by Jane Taylor and Lock & Co. Before you all ask at once... Kate's hard hat was supplied by Sunderland City Council :)

The 1,550-tonne pylon structure is twice as high as Nelson’s Column and taller than Big Ben's clock tower. It weighs the equivalent of 125 double decker buses.

As a Sunderland City Council project, Northern Spire is a key part of a wider transport plan to improve links between the Port of Sunderland and the city centre with the A19. It will help attract new jobs and investment and will be the catalyst for major economic and regeneration benefits to Sunderland and the region.

William tightened a bolt on the new bridge.

William joked: "We'll walk away and the bolt will drop out".

They met construction workers and engineers who made the bridge a reality.

William and Kate met local children whose generation will benefit from the bridge in the future.

The Duchess debuted a new green Dolce & Gabbana military style coat with gold buttons today. It bears notable similarities to the plum coat Kate wore in Oslo earlier this month. Middleton Maven contacted the brand and they informed her it's a "custom piece" which can be ordered by calling their boutiques.

Kate's dress is by her go-to maternity brand Seraphine. The Phaedra Woven Maternity dress is described as "Dress is a classic choice for every stage of pregnancy. Made in soft woven fabric, the flattering A-line shape drapes beautifully over your figure, while a curved empire waist highlights your slimmest point." With thanks to the lovely Susan from What Kate Wore for the swift ID!

The Duchess wore her Tod's pumps.

Kate changed into her Russell & Bromley HalfNHalf boots at the bridge.

Kate carried her green Emmy suede clutch.

The Duchess accessorised with her Mappin & Webb Empress earrings.

And her trusty Cartier Ballon Bleu watch.

I always enjoy the 'away days' and today was certainly no exception. William and Kate appeared to enjoy every moment of their time in Sunderland. We leave you with another great photo from James Whatling!

Kate has three engagements scheduled for next week.

27 February - The Duchess will visit the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to learn more about the College’s global health programmes to reduce maternal and newborn mortality worldwide, and will attend a roundtable discussion on tackling the stigma around women’s health.

Later that day, Kate will visit St Thomas' Hospital to officially launch a campaign to promote nursing worldwide. Her Royal Highness will visit a specialist ward, take part in a roundtable discussion and deliver a speech to mark the launch of the Nursing Now campaign.

28 February - The Duchess of Cambridge, Patron of the National Portrait Gallery, will visit the exhibition 'Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography'. Forming the Gallery's first Patron's Trail, Kate has selected images from the exhibition for which she has written personal captions that will be displayed alongside the photographs. The Duchess has also written a foreword to the exhibition catalogue.

I imagine Kate will be going on maternity leave very soon. We don't know when the baby is due in April, but it seems safe to assume she's nearing the 8 month stage now.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Kate and Sophie Join Forces for Commonwealth Fashion Exchange

The Duchess of Cambridge and the Countess of Wessex hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace on behalf of the Queen during London Fashion Week to celebrate and showcase a new creative initiative - the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange.

I was very pleased to hear Kate and Sophie were teaming up when the engagement was announced. I think it's a terrific strategy for two members of the royal family to join forces in support of a shared interest. Both ladies are avid supporters of British fashion, making tonight's event a great fit for them.

They both returned to duties this week following half-term break with their children. Sophie and Edward went skiing with their children in the Swiss Alps; unfortunately 14-year-old Lady Louise fractured her left leg before the family returned to London.

The pair were also joined by Princess Beatrice.

Upon arrival, Kate and Sophie looked at several of the designs.

Launched earlier this month, by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange aims to create partnerships between established and emerging talent from across the 52 member countries, in the lead up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is one of the most important events on the royal calendar this year. From April 16-20, leaders from all member countries will gather in London and Windsor. They will come together to reaffirm common values, address the shared global challenges faced and agree how to work to create a better future for all Commonwealth citizens, particularly young people. It is slated to be the biggest summit ever held in Britain. Politically, the event has added significance because of Brexit and the government are eager to deploy the Royal family throughout the week. An array of forums, meetings and a glittering State Banquet are on the agenda. The Telegraph reports it will conclude with a special celebration marking the Queen's 92nd birthday at the Royal Albert Hall marking her lifelong commitment to the Commonwealth. The Duchess, who is expecting her third baby in April, will be on maternity leave during the week, the timing of tonight's Fashion Exchange meant she could still participate in one of the events leading up to it.

The reception brought together influential people from across the global fashion industry, including designers, manufacturers, textile producers and craftspeople.

Below, Kate chatting with Stella McCartney and Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

The Duchess meeting guests.

The Countess is patron of London College of Fashion.

Princess Beatrice admires the creations.

The initiative uses fashion as a common language and platform to help people understand the modern Commonwealth in a different way. It celebrates creativity, sustainable production and manufacturing, trade links and ethical supply chains across the fashion industry, from business and design to textile and fabric design and manufacturing, to craft and artisan skills.

Over the last six months, major fashion designers have partnered with artisan producers in small nations who exemplify traditional handcraft techniques and trades, with a view to creating a 'skills exchange'.

Selected design talent includes major names such as Karen Walker representing New Zealand, Bibi Russell representing Bangladesh and Burberry and Stella McCartney representing the UK.

Several looks on display at the Palace.

The headdresses displayed on each of the mannequins in the State Rooms were created using 6,000 pieces of reclaimed paper from the film Fast & Furious 6.

A map of the exchanges.

The Right Honourable Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, said: “The modern Commonwealth is young and creative. It represents a third of the world’s population, 60 percent of whom are under the age of 30. So fashion, alongside music and sport, represents a powerful common language and platform through which to influence young people around key issues.

Livia Firth's (if you recognise the name, Livia is married to Colin Firth) firm Eco-Age - a brand/marketing consultancy that helps businesses to grow, by creating, implementing and communicating sustainability solutions - will manage the initiative. Below, Kate and Livia tonight.

Speaking about the initiative she said:

“This is a project rich in partnerships and creative co-design. For example, one of our very talented designers from India is paired with an artisan group in Tuvalu. As someone who is passionate about joining the threads of global fashion and creating real partnerships you can imagine how exciting it is for us to be involved.”

More on the collaboration Livia mentioned: "Behno has originated a signature style for the brand that combines innovative textiles with strong masculine tailoring. For the fashion exchange, Benho created a repurposed wool coat featuring Indian mirror-work and a sheer dress made from remnants of blue silk organza, embellished with Swarovski upcycled crystals, with black crochet 'kolose' panels. Five women from Tuvalu, artisans from a cooperative called Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa, spent a month creating the panels, using a crochet technique that is particularly popular in the region".

For the UK-India partnership, Stella McCartney created a gown using Oshadi’s peace silk, produced using ancient hand-weaving techniques, and naturally dyed by local skilled craftsmen in Tamil Nadu. Peace silk is reeled from empty cocoons, meaning that silkworms are left to hatch into moths before the silk is spun from the cocoons in a way similar to spinning wool. It takes a weaver one day to create 5m of hand woven peace silk using a hand loom, compared to hundreds that can be produced by machines.

Kate and Sophie viewing Stella's design tonight.

A selfie from Stella at the reception.

Burberry designed a look created using the highest quality Oeko-Tex certified Australian Merino wool to create a reimagined trench coat, accompanied by woollen trousers made with Oeko-Tex certified yarns, and knitwear made with non-muelsed wool. The suppliers and manufacturers involved in creating the look are part of Burberry’s 2020 project, involved in capacity building programmes encompassing training relating to ethical performance, audits, chemical management practices, and adhering to Burberry’s code of conduct.

Two beautiful designs created for the exchange.

You can read all the fashion exchange stories here.

The Duchess met artisans from around the Commonwealth and heard about a partnership between Karen Walker and a cooperative of women from the Cook Islands, who are expert in the craft of 'tivaivai'.

More from the Mail Online:

'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!’

Iridescent Fashion was set up by 17-year-olds Keeanna Ible and Shavaneice Lake and is based in St Kitts & Nevis. It was paired with artisan Neisha La Touche from Grenada to create this outfit inspired by carnival.

The reception showcased the best of Commonwealth contemporary fashion and creativity with an exhibition of some of the bespoke fashion 'looks' which are the result of the designer-producer partnerships. Following their royal debut at Buckingham Palace, the looks will be displayed at a public exhibition at London’s Australia House on February 21 and other various London locations in the run up to Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in April. The clothes will travel to New York in September when an edited collection will be launched at Matches Fashion.

The Duchess wore a bespoke version of the Erdem Suzi Dress tonight.

The £2,150 piece is described as: "Pretty floral lace takes on an unexpectedly graphic edge in striking black and white. The ultra-flattering fit and flare Suzi Dress hits just above the knee, and is finished with scallop edging around the ¾ length sleeves, neck and hem and soft gently frilled detailing at the waist. A deep V-neck finishes the flirty design. Nude crepe de chine lining. Made in the UK."


The pretty floral print.

I believe Anna Wintour and Princess Beatrice also wore Erdem.

Kate teamed the dress with her Prada Suede Cutout Wavy pumps. The $750 pumps are described as "feminine suede pumps with cutout detail". Made in Italy, they feature a pointed toe and self-covered heel.

Kate accessorised her Anita Dongre pearl earrings.

Kate debuted the pair at the UK-India Year of Culture Reception last year.

Earlier, I noted on Twitter, I thought it quite likely we would see at least one of the royal ladies wearing one of the participating designers such as Stella McCartney or Burberry. The Countess of Wessex did just that opting for Burberry's Contrast Topstitch Detail Crepe V-neck Dress. You can read more about Sophie on the terrific Countess of Wessex blog.

More from Bethan Holt's piece for The Telegraph:

'With London Fashion Week in full swing, the Duchess of Cambridge and Sophie, Countess of Wessex hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace on Monday evening to celebrate The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, a new initiative which brings together the biggest talents in artisanal and luxury design from across its 52 countries.
And while Kate and Sophie both fly the flag for British fashion regularly with their fashion choices, it felt like they had both made a special effort for the fashion crowd in attendance. 
The Duchess of Cambridge, now seven months pregnant, opted for a black and white guipure lace dress by Erdem, who had showed his Autumn/ Winter 2018 collection earlier in the day at the National Portrait Gallery. She frequently turns to the Canadian-Turkish designer for eveningwear, choosing two of his dresses during the recent tour to Norway and Sweden. Princess Beatrice also joined the reception wearing an Erdem dress. 
Meanwhile, the Countess of Wessex nodded to the biggest story of London Fashion Week- the departure of Christopher Bailey from Burberry- by wearing a black cocktail dress from the house. Burberry is one of the design partners representing the UK in the programe which is also supported by Swarovski and The Woolmark Company and has been created ahead of April's Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.'

We'll see William and Kate on Wednesday for their visit to Sunderland. They will first visit The Fire Station, one of Sunderland’s most iconic buildings, recently converted into a music and arts hub. The Duke and Duchess will then travel to see the Northern Spire, an ambitious and striking new bridge over the River Wear, due to open in spring 2018.

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