Photo courtesy of Winston’s Facebook page

Vanessa Winston of the Dominica Arts and Craft Producers Association was chosen to represent her island at the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at Buckingham Palace on Monday February 19th 2018. A momentous opportunity for her, made even more notable by her ability to pull it off following the adversity she endured due to Hurricane Maria.

In an article appearing in Vogue writer Sara Mower conveyed Vanessa’s story, “Hurricane Maria came in September. My home was destroyed. The only place left standing was my craft workshop, where we sheltered for weeks. It has been terrible, but in a way, this challenge came as divine intervention,” Vanessa went on to say ““It lifted me to work on it. It’s helped me and the women who work with me to think, ‘What’s next?’ ”

Winston was paired with fashion icon and designer Meiling from Trinidad and Tobago. Winston’s work, a leather cummerbund decorated with intricate hammered butterflies, was a central piece of a beautiful coconut fiber woven gown by Meiling.  Meling seemed impressed by Winston when she admitted ” And she delivered on time!” and grasped her hand.

52 countries were represented at the Fashion exchange, presenting 30 hand crafted gowns that were all sustainably produced. The show was organized in conjunction with Livia Firth of Eco-Age who promotes fashion that is eco-friendly and makes culturally positive statements.

Baroness Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth Secretary-General, was also a part of the fashion exchange.  She said “It is about engaging young people and using fashion as a thread that connects everyone”. She further stated that “…a third of the commonwealth’s 2.4 billion people are under the age of 30, a vast generation primed to be interested in fashion and involved in it as workers. It is the 2nd largest employer of  women in the developing world.”

The Commonwealth Fashion exchange was attended by nobility and other highly notable figures including the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who represented Queen Elizabeth II.