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Fashion at Center of Czech-Styled Diplomacy

Fashion at Center of Czech-Styled Diplomacy
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Nations that aren't dominating headlines like the United States, Russia and China may require their diplomats to think outside the box to advance their interests in Washington — arguably the center of global politics — and around the world.

For a country that has only 10 million people “and practically no big problems,” it can be a challenge to get Washington’s attention when “you’re not the priority on the table,” said Hynek Kmoníček, ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States.

Along with defending his government’s policies and negotiating with diplomatic counterparts, making sure the country he represents is “visible” is part of his ambassadorial duty, Kmoníček said in an interview with VOA.

He spoke on the sidelines of a fashion show that his embassy and partner organizations hosted in the State Department's Dean Acheson Auditorium.

Czech style of diplomacy

For Kmoníček, linking fashion with politics is the Czech style of world diplomacy.

“We live in the 21st century. The connection between fashion and diplomacy is very, very strong,” Kmoníček said. “Ask anyone in Washington about the first lady of the United States and her fashion. Quite often, you’ll get the political answer.”

Marie Royce, U.S. assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, agrees.

“Oftentimes, you don’t even have a chance to speak to the person. But their fashion speaks for them,” said Royce.

Sharing the stage with representatives from 20-plus countries ranging from Australia to Romania, the Czech Embassy sends the message that its country believes in a multicultural world.

The Africa Union’s ambassador to the United States, Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, walked the stage in a colorful indigenous dress, while the wife of Mozambique’s ambassador, Maria Isabel Macedo dos Santos, modeled her own design in elegant black and white.

Hungary’s chief envoy to Washington, László Szabó, was proud to see his wife, Ivonn Szeverenyi, introduce designers’ work from his country.

“Hungary has 1,100 years of history. This means we are very rich in culture,” he said.

The length and legacy of history are also sources of pride for Iraq’s second-ranking diplomat in Washington.

According to the Assyrian calendar, Iraq boasts 6,768 years of history. But war coverage has obliterated the country's rich heritage and aspects of life that are not centered around war, said Mohamad Jawad Al Quraishy, deputy chief of mission of Iraq.

“We have fashion, we have book fairs, concerts, just like other countries,” he said.

Fashion aside, Kmoníček said his country, as part of the European Union, is “in a complicated discussion on trade tariffs, on the car industry,” with the United States.

“Sometimes we agree with our American partners, sometimes, we disagree. Still, we treat each other as brothers,” he said.