LONDON — London Fashion Week closed on a highly optimistic — and intimate — note thanks to Princess Anne and Alighieri designer Rosh Mahtani, the latest recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design.
Mahtani gathered a small group of industry figures, Princess Anne included, to The Crypt of St. Etheldreda’s church, a stone’s throw from Hatton Garden, where she manufactures her jewels.
In the small, dimly lit space Mahtani staged a performative show that illustrated the thoughtful, emotional nature of her creations, ahead of receiving the Queen Elizabeth II accolade from the Queen’s only daughter.
The show included male and female models of all ages in Alighieri classics, including the brand’s signet rings, chunky chain necklaces, pearl earrings, dainty body chains, as well as more special, one-off tops or dresses made out of hundreds of pearls or gold medallions chained together. Models moved slowly around a water fountain, danced and interacted with each other, in what was a refreshing antithesis to the fast pace of regular fashion shows.
Mahtani referenced “The Waste Land” by T. S. Eliot, a writer who has looked to Dante Alighieri for inspiration as much as she does. By reusing pieces she already had in her studio, she wanted to make a statement about finding inspiration in old, pre-loved pieces to clean up our own modern-day wasteland.
“We wanted to tell new stories with existing pieces to encourage the idea of using what you have and bringing it together, the same way T. S. Eliot did with Dante. We all have things that are already special, it’s not always about finding newness,” said Mahtani, adding that she also wanted to highlight the idea of disconnecting and having real connections. “I really think that we are living in a modern-day wasteland. We are so connected in terms of technology and we are all together but we don’t communicate. I really wanted to tell a story of love and connection in the midst of that. Real connection of cultures and industries and ages, to find that calmer feeling and share it during these difficult times.”
Princess Anne was there to take it all in. At the end of the presentation, she took to the stage in her bright green skirt suit to offer Mahtani her award, applauding her sense of creativity and commitment to supporting Hatton Garden’s casters and suppliers.
As president of the U.K. Fashion and Textile Association, the royal also spoke like a true industry connoisseur of some of the issues facing young British designers.
“I’m delighted to be here with my UKFT hat as well. It’s been going for a long, long time, and it’s given me the opportunity to see small, medium-sized enterprises, individuals starting off their own businesses and wondering what’s going to happen next? How to get plugged into the whole of the fashion scene, which here in the U.K., it’s very much represented by this fashion week,” said Princess Anne. “Each year, this award has gone to a slightly different part of the fashion world. It is entirely appropriate that we should not forget jewelry as part of fashion, especially being here in London, which has been a hotbed of jewelry manufacturing for hundreds of years. So I’m delighted that fine jewelry is making it into this award and particularly to a young individual who’s found her own way of getting her own creations, her own interests in jewelry, right to the forefront of the market.”
“I think she’s amazing because she doesn’t play by the rules, which I like, she speaks her mind. She has got a confidence and her own spirit, which is very inspiring,” said Mahtani, adding that after the award ceremony, the princess asked her about her choice of putting Dante at the heart of her brand and whether she is “frightened by some of his visions.” They then also got to talking about the challenges of local manufacturing.
She credits her casters for her success and even as the label grows — in 2018 alone it grew 500 percent — or expands its universe to men’s jewelry and interiors, too, her commitment remains the same. “Those values have become the core of the brand, so it’s important to stay true to what we stand for. It’s just that now instead of producing 10 pieces, they produce thousands.”