Appearing on behalf of The Queen, The Countess of Wessex took part in a virtual engagement with the British Fashion Council on Tuesday.
Sophie presented the 2021 Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design to Priya Ahluwalia and revealed her fashion inspiration as part of a Q&A session.
Introduced by Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council, Caroline Rush, Sophie congratulated fashion designer Priya Ahluwalia for Ahluwalia for becoming the fourth winner of The Award.
Clapping with joy, the Royal declared: “It’s so exciting, well done. How does it feel? You’re only the fourth winner of this amazing award.”
Ms Ahluwalia told the Countess: “It’s very surreal.
“I feel really really honoured and just overwhelmed. It’s lovely to be recognised for something you love doing and care about so much so I just feel very happy.
The Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design was initiated in recognition of the role the fashion industry plays in society and diplomacy and the movement of young designers that are both talented and making a difference to society through either sustainable practices or community engagement.
Each year a designer is selected by the British Fashion Council, in collaboration with the Royal Household, to be recognised by the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design.
In 2019, the prestigious Award was presented to Bethany Williams by The Duchess of Cornwall and in 2020 to Rosh Mahtani by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.
After hearing a discussion on the radio about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the retail industry, Sophie asked Priya: “How has your brand fared this past year and do you think post-covid in the next few months the market will bounce back particularly well?”
The fashion designer replied: “It’s been a funny year, because there’s been so many brilliant things have happened amongst the real turmoil for the retail industry.
“When the pandemic hit, we did lose a few accounts; some accounts didn’t come back and say they wanted to buy more because of uncertainty and that was really scary but I think because I run a small brand we’re able be agile and we were able to pivot the business and think of new ideas and I really do believe that,” she commented.
“I think people just want to enjoy themselves so whether that’s through you know through clothing and self-expression or you know even just going out for a meal, I think everyone’s going to be raring to have some enjoyment so.”
Sophie highlighted how Ms Ahluwalia has become a ‘fantastic recycler and re-user of clothes’ but wanted to know if the designer had any advice for people coming into the industry on how they can maximise the notion of recycling and upcycling.
Stating that she started recycling and upcycling as part of her studies at university, Priya stated she was supported by her friends and told The Countess it was about having a supportive network and using the right tools to get materials, like social media call outs.
Caroline Rush had the opportunity to ask HRH some questions, highlighting how Sophie is Patron of the London College of Fashion: “How important do you think arts education is in the UK?”
The Countess said ‘it’s hugely important’ and how as a country we are lucky to have ‘some of the best art education establishments in the world’. She noted how this has been attracting talent from all over the world.
Caroline followed up her question by asking: “What makes British style unique?”
Sophie replied how as an island we have many different influences all around the world and how it has helped Britain develop style over time.
Wearing a navy and white Victoria Beckham print dress, she added: “You just have to know if you look at what royal women have worn over generations and really going back in history they always made huge fashion statements but often those states and statements, were perhaps influenced from foreign shores, because we’ve been inveterate travellers all the way along. As I say we’re an island, and we tend to look outwards so I think that’s possibly what helps to make our style.”
Asking how the Countess would describe her own style, Sophie jokingly replied ‘working in progress’.
“I think it’s developed over time. I think reasonably classic but I like things with a twist. I sometimes get a bit braver and then retreat again.”
The Countess has been noted for her style evolution this past decade, moving away from the traditional skirt suits she often favoured, and bigger hats into smaller cocktail chapeaux. You can follow more of Sophie’s fashion story on our sister site, Replicate Royalty.
During the discussion, Sophie was asked who was her fashion inspiration and replied it was Angelina Jolie who looks ‘amazing’ and Queen Rania of Jordan, who ‘always looks stunning.’
See the footage of the call below: