A Fabric of Cultures is an exhibition of seven unique garments designed and produced by local Kensington community groups, as part of a project with Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity responsible for Kensington Palace.
Inspired by the work of British-Nigerian contemporary artist Yinka Shonibare, the designs fuse contemporary art with the history of Kensington Palace, whilst reflecting on the contemporary cultures and identity of its creators.
The collection of seven garments were made by nearly 100 children aged between six and eight from seven community groups, with the guidance and expertise of professional fashion designers such as Sarah Baulch, Laura Prideaux and arts organisation Cloth of Gold. The project, run by Kensington Palace, was designed to take inspiration from the fashions of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries that the characters of Kensington Palace would have once worn.
Joy Ekpeti, Intergenerational Outreach Officer, Historic Royal Palaces said: “The exhibition, inspired by historic clothing from the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection at Kensington Palace, presents a snapshot of the culture of Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea celebrating the diversity of the borough and its people. A range of local families have worked on this project to create a 21st century take on classic clothing for this community fashion show.”
In using key materials such as African fabrics, Indian saris and English lace along with printing techniques used to create patterned fabrics, the garments make a connection with the local community by using symbols from the participants’ cultural backgrounds.
The children and their families visited the palace as part of their training to become palace explorers, and as a result they wanted to be part of the Fabric of Cultures project which ran after school and during school time.
Notes on the garments
The garments were produced by Cloth of Gold who helped participants come up with a symbol that reflected their culture. They created stencils out of these symbols and silk screen printed the stencils onto cotton fabrics and materials, which complemented the finished pieces. This was then taken away and sewn into a garment that characters below would have worn.
Queen Caroline of Ansbach – The style of the patchwork cloak was inspired by the late Alexandra McQueen. It was made with six different fabrics representing different nations. The groups took inspiration from a Alexander McQueen’s RTW coat gown and his use of the union jack. This patchwork cloak was made by the Al-Hasaniya Morrocan girls group, with the guidance of fashion designer Laura Prideaux. Pieces of triangles were cut from 6 different ethnic fabrics, and they were then stitched together by hand. The group looked at the exhibition and used it as an opportunity to learn about Queen Caroline.
Queen Victoria – This dress was based on her wedding dress, the groups chose this garment as it represents the happiest moment of her life, marrying Prince Albert. This garment includes red Indian sarees as it a traditional colour for Indian brides. This dress features a combination of the different schools that took part in the project.
Princess Diana – This dress is based on her ‘Elvis Dress’ by designer Catherine Walker. It features the Tower Bridge as England is the participant’s favourite country, and a Japanese tea pot. It is finished off with Nigerian textile called Ankara. Made by Marlborough Primary School
Princess Margaret - this is the only dress to be entirely designed and made by the group - young girls aged 12 - 15 from the Clement James Centre. Inspired by debutantes’ garments they saw on an exclusive viewing of the dress collection at Kensington Palace. The girls researched life as Princess Margaret and were inspired to create a piece she could go to a party in. They wanted created something edgy but at the same time pretty and feminine.
Princess Charlotte - Based on a day dress she would have worn. This fabric includes references to a variety of cultures - Bangladesh (bracelets), English (tea cups and the London Eye) Moroccan decorative motif. Japanese cloth was used for the sleeves and trimmings on the dress. Produced by Ashburnham Primary school.
Peter the Wild Boy - This was made by Thomas Jones Primary School, after school session as part of art club. There were six families involved in making the garments. The parrot represents Jamaica, the cuffs and the inner linen are also covered in Jamaican flags. This was based on an 18th century men's jacket.
William III - This 17th century men's military jacket was created by Marlborough Primary school. The symbols on the jacket include a Claddagh Irish ring, prayer beads from Sudan and the Hamsa Moroccan eye.
The Tabernacle, 34-35 Powis Square, London W11 2AY. www.tabernaclew11.com
Chelsea Gallery, Old Town Hall, Kings Road, London, SW3 5EZ. www.rbkc.gov.uk
The schools and centres involved from RBKC include:
• Ashburham Primary School
• Thomas Jones Primary School
• Marlborough Primary School
• Avondale Park Primary School
• Clement James Girls group
• Al-Hasaniya Moroccan girls group