The fashion business is a notoriously tough nut to crack. Fickle and trend-led by its very nature, it’s also highly vulnerable to the economic climate, with designers and fashion shops among the first to go under.
Fashion is hard to break into and even harder to find lasting success within, almost impossible, or so many believe, if you don’t live in London or another of the world’s fashion capitals. So where is a young northern designer to turn?
Enter Fashion Pony, a Yorkshire business aiming to buck the trend by finding emerging designers, and then promoting and selling their creations online.
“The main thing that has surprised us through our Fashion Pony journey is the sheer amount of design talent the UK has to offer,” says founder Victoria Reddington.
Fashion Pony is a website and online store that provides a platform for independent designers, most from Yorkshire, with prices comparable to mid to high-end high street, although Victoria argues that quality is better. “There is no mass manufacture,” she says. “All our resident designers are high-end, UK-based and with an eye for detail and unrivalled craftsmanship.
“We wanted to give new designers a chance to showcase their talent worldwide, while giving the consumer a third option in the fashion world, not just designer and high street.”
Victoria founded Fashion Pony – the name is a play on “clothes horse” – in 2010 with fellow fashion-lover Dawn Hunter. Both are originally from Barnsley, where Dawn still lives, running the stock/dispatch and customer service side of the business, while Victoria now lives in Leeds, from where she manages the marketing and designer liaison. Both 30, Victoria went to the University of Sheffield, and then worked at an advertising agency, specialising in fashion marketing, while Dawn studied law at Sheffield Hallam University.
“Fashion Pony was born, as most of our brilliant ideas are, on a night out,” says Victoria. “Dawn and I were discussing our future career prospects and the lack of fresh, affordable fashion in our area, when we came up with the idea of starting up a website that combined the two, in that it showcased new up-and-coming design talent and also gave us the opportunity to strike out on our own and follow a career path that we both love.”
“When we started visiting local fashion shows and events for inspiration, we were struck with how much fantastic local independent designer talent there is, yet no-one seemed to be actually promoting or selling pieces from these designers. Local offline boutiques stocked a few pieces but no-one seemed to be publicising them.
“We were also struck with how designers we approached seemed to often have no idea how to promote themselves. They wanted to concentrate on what they loved – designing, not selling.”
Now with more than 20 designers on the website, the pair invest their own creativity and energy into promoting them, and photography is an essential part of the mix. The shoot for summer ’14 took place at Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds. “It’s taking this summer trends and twisting them into something original and unique,” Victoria says. “For example, pairing the Clare McCullock spots and stripes wide-leg trousers and the Dancing Dolls UK tankini with earrings from Belles Bejewelled – it is fresh and different, yet totally wearable.”
Victoria and Dawn have vision, drive and determination, constantly thinking up new ideas and collaborations – for example, recently putting together one of their designers Dazarockz for a collection with Capital FM presenter JoJo and designing a charity T-shirt line for Bethany’s Smile Foundation. Soon Fashion Pony will expand into children’s wear, and has collaborations lined up with major national companies so they can showcase independent designers to an even wider audience.
“You have to love what you do, no doubt, as it is a long and arduous journey,” says Victoria. “But we believe 100 per cent in what we do and in our designers.
“It never stops and that is just how we like it.”
• Photography: ENB Photography. Styling: Falcieri Designs / Fashion Pony. Hair: Renaissance Hair & Beauty Leeds. Make-Up: Beckie Stirk. Models: Maya, Alexandra and Harriet @ PHA Manchester. Location: Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds. All fashion from the resident designers at Fashion Pony on www.FashionPony.co.uk - featured here are Loula’s Boutique, Belles Bejewelled, Dazarockz, Clare McCullock, Dancing Dolls UK, Zous.