When Sarina Dean sees her designs take to the catwalk at the Great Yorkshire Show next month, it will be the culmination of a bold project started three years ago to do something productive and creative with wool from her rare breed sheep.
“We’re a farming family,” says Sarina, who runs the 190-acre Fox Hounds Farm at High Kilburn with her husband, Paul. “We could see this wool. Everything is sheared and sent on to the National Wool Board and we thought, there must be a better outlet for it. That’s what inspired us to start looking at tweeds.”
Sarina, who used to be a lecturer in sports and public services, adds: “I’ve always been quite crafty and enjoyed making things. That’s always been a passion of mine. It evolved from there.”
The 250-strong flock is made up of several breed types and Sarina started testing wool from their Manx Loaghtan sheep, but soon ran into problems. “Because their wool is quite a cinnamon colour, it’s very difficult to make the dyeing a success, to get the different colours,” she says.
Sarina persevered and, experimenting with different wools, she was able to create suitable fabric from the wool from their own sheep. She has also been working with Marton Mills, a family-owned weaving mill near Otley.
That unusual brand name, Galijah, was created by amalgamating the names of two eldest sons, 10-year-old Gabriel and seven-year-old Elijah, and then adding an X when three-year-old Xavier came along. “It looks like a kiss but actually it’s an X for his name,” Sarina says.
She now designs and hand-makes all the clothes at the family home at Oldstead, near Helmsley. At first, the capes were sold mainly locally within the farming and equine community, but word soon spread and a website was set up for online sales, and to showcase the full range, which includes dresses, skirts, gilets and accessories. The tweed capes sell as far afield as Japan and America. In fact, Galijah has become so successful that Sarina’s mother, Patti, has come on board as it expands, helping with design and sewing.
Galijah also sells at the major shows including the Great Yorkshire Show, Bramham Show and the Royal Highland Show.
“Everything is hand-crafted. We do cashmeres and other wools as well. Everything is very ethically sourced,” Sarina adds. “We think our clothes are a little different to anything you can buy in the shops and we can’t wait to see the reaction of people at the fashion show at the Great Yorkshire Show.
“Countrywear isn’t just for country people. It’s started to become quite mainstream and country people want their clothes to be fashionable and on trend as well. It’s not bland, it’s not boring, it’s not your traditional green tweeds – we use lots of vibrant colours, and it’s been very popular.”
Although Sarina started with the capes, as they are mainly one size, she is now starting to get bespoke orders too, so will be making in different sizes.
“We want to try to make it affordable,” she says. “I enjoy wearing the capes. They’re just easy, you bob them on, especially for the school run. We do a range of childrenswear which is very popular, mainly focusing on the capes for girls, and a little for the boys as well.”
As she prepares to take part in her first ever fashion show, Sarina admits to being nervous. “It’s incredibly exciting but nerve-racking,” she said.
As a taster preview, Sarina, Gabriel and Elijah took part in this beautiful fashion shoot at Rudding House, home of Great Yorkshire Show president Bill Cowling and his wife, Caroline.
Show director Charles Mills said the Great Yorkshire Show was delighted to be showcasing the work of a Yorkshire farmer on the Kuoni Catwalk, adding: “The show is one of the biggest agricultural events in the UK and it’s about showing the diverse way on life on farms throughout the country, and Sarina’s work does exactly that.”
Meanwhile, Sarina is carrying on the hard work and looking forward to seeing her farm-to-fashion brand continue to grow, saying: “It’s all happening so quickly and we are very excited about the future.”
* Galijah is at www.galijah.co.uk.
* The 161st Great Yorkshire Show takes place from Tuesday, July 9 to Thursday, July 11 at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate.
* The Great Yorkshire Show Kuoni Catwalk Fashion Show will be produced by Bernadette Gledhill (www.bernadettegledhill.com) with hair and make-up by students from the White Rose Beauty Colleges from across Yorkshire. The Kuoni Catwalk takes place each day at 11am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 4pm, with a one-off celebrity special on Tuesday at 2.30pm. Tickets for the show are on sale at https://greatyorkshireshow.co.uk/ticket-information/