Last week I had the pleasure of attending the launch of LFI (Leeds Fashion Initiative), a programme that marks the beginning of a long awaited, ambitious journey to create opportunities, re-establish Leeds as an international centre of fashion and regenerate the city’s fashion, clothing and textiles industry. The stationary Leeds City’ Museum was taken over by a passionate fashion frenzy catwalk show filled with delightful, distinctive, independent fashion brands bringing in importance from all areas; from journalists and celebrities, to bloggers, and keen fashion insiders.
Gaining phenomenal support from both industry and educational organisations, LFI was bound to impress all who were given an insight into their upcoming and future fashion talent. It was great to hear so many were behind shaping and celebrating Leeds’ potential. Driven by Lambert’s Yard, a dedicated team from the fashion concept store brought together and successfully showed off the hard work of everyone involved. Alongside stakeholders and sponsors including Land Securities, Key Logistics, Torque, Heinsworth & Sons and Leeds City Council, LFI is also in partnership with major fashion houses and local, educational institutes. With the likes of Centre for Fashion Enterprise, Leeds College of Art, Leeds Beckett Univeristy, the University of Huddersfield and the University of Leeds all involved and with collaboration being the backbone of the scheme, it was no doubt everyone present were able to set the feasible scene with excitement in mind.
After soaking up the buzzed atmosphere, enjoying a glass of processco and feeling ever so relevant at the VIP drinks reception, it was time to head up to the main event and take a front row seat ready for the starter for the night – the incredibly inspirational speeches.
It began with the master of the ceremony, Laura Bartlett from House of Coco, the founding editor and publisher of House of Coco magazine giving her introduction and personal touch of the contribution towards the night ahead. It then followed by a huge round of applause for the first leading lady of Leeds City Council, Judith Blake, as she took a stand to express brilliant remarks on just how paramount it was to sustain the culture of Leeds and make Leeds a centered fashion destination. Thirdly, Ishwari Thopte from the London Centre of Fashion Enterprise gave a powerful and eye opening speech on how the input of their work and developed relationship with Leeds Fashion Initiative continues to emerge fresh fashion aptitude. Through their expertise, programmes and networks, CFE are engaged in assisting the development of fashion designer businesses in the area. I particularly took a shine to the announced plans to back Leeds and focus on fashion businesses beyond London. Ishwari explained their belief; that fashion knows no borders, how they look locally, regionally and internationally, and told us why Leeds was the perfect city to deliver strategies they have in place to maintain survival and success and to endorse Leeds’ strong fashion heritage. I think the often too familiar north-south divide means we can lose out to the London flock so having a major ambition to retain the talent instead of evading the quality is something to look up to.
Finally, Adam Jagger, a man who left London last year to become retail director of Lambert’s Yard, ended the group disquisitions with his own experience. Following on from what had already been said, Adam once again highlighted that collaboration is the heart of the LFI and revealed his core belief that everyone has something to offer that is mutually beneficial. His idea is to produce a game changing process, bringing the old in with the new, and gathering up to date, local talent worth praising to produce a northern fashion powerhouse we can be proud of. Being a Northerner seems to bring out the best in me, when an opportunity is risen outside of the capital I’m thrilled to be able to show the rest of the country the hubs we’re capable of and I’m pretty sure soon enough I’ll be able to shout it from the rooftops!
Instantly following on from the speeches came the hugely anticipated runway show where the engaging models were ready to strut their stuff and enable us to feast our eyes on a collection of looks and the contributing styles from both emerging, upcoming designers and the more established names; featuring the likes of Agi & Sam – known for their fun colour and prints, Aquascutum – the luxury British brand, Cabba – who offers gorgeous wardrobe staples with a twist, Christopher Raeburn – known for his unique and innovative take on men and women’s fashion, J Lindeberg – whom is popular within sport admirers, Giles Deacon – his individual, playful designs being key, Rejina Pyo – the Korean born designer who creates feminine garments with the idea of merging with colour combinations and geometric shapes to achieve a unique, confident stance, and Terry De Havilland – the iconic couture shoe designer whose flamboyant pieces stand out from the rest. The renowned brands are of course widely recognised for their distinguished appearance but the local talent were able to showcase their competition. Just to list a few, there was Blue Rinse – known for their vintage, used, recycled and reworked clothing, Danielle Romerial – a vibrant, youthful womenswear label with a sense of relaxation to contemporary fashion, Sgr Skl – brand focusing on street wear fashion and jewellery, and Studio 805 – a progressive menswear label led by Andrew Bannister-Bailey who graduated from Leeds College of Art with a first class fashion degree!
Supplying fantastic hair and almost too pristine makeup looks were Westrow, Architect and Seema Ghir, all fabricated in line with the theme. There seemed to be a surfaced look for both the males and females: a subtle base makeup with emphasized, sharp cheekbones and a neutral, fresh and glowing finish whilst the hair altered between the two; slicked down, frizz free dos with a fixed middle parting and crazy, voluminous ends for the girls and a formal more trivial design with hair gelled to the side or let loose naturally for the boys. To construct the many garments featured on the runway, A.W Hainsworth & Sons were on board – a company that has been manufacturing iconic cloth in Yorkshire since 1783.
Snapping away at every moment, I managed to capture (albeit not the best) just about every look on the short but fitting catwalk and shall now guide you through both sides of the story…
There was a fine mixture between super tailored and extravagant risque on the male front. There was a seriously great bunch of a suave and sophisticated pairing and the pop of staple colour and pattern that cropped up added some definition to the under layers making the display of nothing but shit-hot fashion.
Some of my favourite looks of the night came from the lovely ladies as they platformed everything from chic, to haute, to flamboyant and outdoorsy. The runway was lit with quite obviously wise, prudential attire. Giles’ Giles Deacon range thoroughly impressed me with the best golden fringed skirt you ever did see, along with prestigious 3D floral embroidery and show-off puffball midi dresses. For me, the top and trouser combos and the more classic, dressy pieces like the all-lace outfit and the ensemble of light to heavy textures were a winner but I can just about pick a striking ensemble of every item from the remarkable exhibition.
I can’t wait to see and hear more from the soul of LFI. I loved watching the show, enjoying being able to be up front, close and personal to the show and to mentally evaluate every must-have garment. Thanks to SLBPR for inviting me along!