THEY MAY traditionally be a bastion of country life, celebrating the best of the nation’s rural communities, but now game and country fairs are becoming a showcase for fashion.
Buoyed by an enduring boom in rural tourism, major countryside events are reaching out to a wider demographic at a time when countryside fashion has never been so popular.
Celebrities and even royals have been seen donning country wear, from super model Kate Moss appearing at Glastonbury in Hunter wellies and Barbour jackets, to the Duchess of Cambridge wearing tweed, while high street fashion outlets such as Joules and Jack Wills with their chunky gilets are attempts, seemingly, to cash in on the trend.
It is a far cry from wax jackets and breeches, and the country-style revival can in part be attributed to a greater uptake of moorland pursuits by women.
Amanda Anderson, of Austwick in the Yorkshire Dales, who last year became the first woman to lead the Moorland Association, told The Yorkshire Post that there are plenty of ladies now involved in grouse shooting. While a leading country fashion tailor in North Yorkshire, Jeremy Shaw, said sales of female country wear had spiked over the last five years.
Mr Shaw, who runs Carter’s Countrywear in Helmsley and tailors jackets, collots, skirts and other ladies clothing in different tweeds ranging in price from £10-£150 a metre, said: “We have noticed a big increase in ladies wanting country clothing and wanting things they can wear to go shooting.
“Things have changed for the better, ladies now want to be part and parcel of what’s going on instead of staying in the background - whether it’s shooting grouse or clays.”
Lighter tweed, typically made from lamb’s wool, checked with petal colours are top sellers, he said.
Mr Shaw’s wife, mother-of-two Emma, a clinical psychologist, regularly goes out on game shoots, despite being a vegetarian.
“I work in a hospital but grew up on a farm so for me shooting is about being outside all day,” she said. “When I first met Jeremy and got together with my friends we would go for a spa break or down to London but over the last couple of years we’ve bought a gun and had a days’ shooting instead.”
With women’s involvement in countryside pursuits a spur for the fashion industry, the CLA Game Fair will hold a ladies day for the first time in its history when it returns to Harewood House, Leeds after a 12-year absence this summer.
It was at the Game Fair, held in 2004 at Blenheim Palace, that the Duchess of Cambridge was pictured in tweed while working as a sales girl for a countryside clothing company.
Dorothy Fairburn, regional director for the CLA in the North, believes locals can lead the way in the style stakes at this year’s Game Fair.
“Ladies Days are a well known part of sporting events around the country and are enormously popular. The CLA Game Fair Ladies Day also coincides with Yorkshire Day and I can’t think of a better opportunity for local ladies to use a little Yorkshire flair to show the North leads the way when it comes to cutting edge fashion.”
Return of the Game Fair
It is the largest of its kind in Europe and is expected to attract more than 140,000 people to Harewood House on July 31-August 2.
The CLA Game Fair, a biennial event, will generate more than £30million for the regional and wider rural economy, and is returning to Yorkshire for the first time this year since 2003.
Ladies Day, on the Saturday, will see prizes awarded to anyone who grabs the attention of a team of talent scouts from high society magazine, La Di Da.
Ladies dressed with flair and style will also be encouraged to enter the Best Dressed Lady competition.
Tickets to the event are available from www.gamefair.co.uk