Crumlin's Chloe Dougan rubs shoulders with royalty
A recent international event gave one Belfast-based designer the chance to rub shoulders with royalty.
Hosted by the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Wessex, last month's Commonwealth Fashion Exchange (CFE) brought together established and emerging talent from across the Commonwealth's 53 countries at a networking event in Buckingham Palace.
The reception featured designers and artisans alongside guests from the fashion world including US and UK Vogue editors, Anna Wintour and Edward Enniful, Naomi Campbell and Stella McCartney. Also invited was 26-year-old fashion designer and Ulster University graduate, Chloe Dougan.
The exhibition saw 30 CFE creations displayed in the Palace's State Apartment. For Chloe, from Crumlin, it was a dream come true.
"The exhibition was in a few different rooms, each one as decadent as the next. The designers showcasing had their work in beautiful glass display cabinets in the centre of each room.
"It was completely overwhelming and such a great opportunity. Getting to speak to so many people who are so passionate about what they do was incredibly inspiring and it's definitely affirmed my love for design."
Despite Chloe's experience in the industry and regularly helping her clients create their dream outfits from her studio in the Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts on the Antrim Road, deciding what to wear to such a prestigious event was no easy task.
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"I wanted to look elegant but still be myself; a posh frock just wouldn't have been me or my style at all.
"In the end I made myself a long sleeved, wide leg jumpsuit and, as I love working in leather, I designed a chunky belt with silver hardware pieces and silver chain earrings to tie in. I felt nervous before I went but then when I was there I knew my outfit was suitable."
For Chloe, who only graduated three years ago, the whole experience was an incredible confidence boost.
"It's motivated me to want to launch a new, really glamorous collection and has given me so many fresh ideas. It's really motivated me to aim high."