Simply Ladies Inc celebrates Yorkshire women and fashion with a Met Gala style catwalk and dinner at the Royal Armouries

A dinner and catwalk event at the Royal Armouries in Leeds next week provides a platform for Yorkshire designers, and for local heroes - including a detective chief inspector - to shine and share their body confidence, as founder Carron Cummings tells Stephanie Smith.

Simply Ladies Inc models wear a collection by Wake Bespoke.

Fashion, says Carron Cummings, is armour. “Every day, we get dressed and put on our armour, and go out into the world,” she says. “And that armour says a huge part about who we are.”

Carron is the managing director of Simply Ladies Inc, a not-for-profit women’s lifestyle club that offers services, products, life coaching, networking and events that aid well-being and encourages its members to be the best versions of themselves.

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The Simply Ladies Yorkshire Fashion Week event takes place at New Dock Hall at the Royal Armouries in Leeds next Saturday, with dinner, a catwalk show and live entertainment.

Detective Chief Inspector Tanya Wilkins her own navy one shoulder dress

Carron says: “It’s a Met Gala theme, all about over-the-top glamour, and the person who comes the best dressed wins a luxury prize. I can’t say what it is yet but it’s jaw-dropping.”

The fashion show will feature Yorkshire women wearing collections by Yorkshire designers. It will be a “women’s empowerment, body confidence, self-love event,” she says. There will be ethically-sourced African-print clothes from Ebony Milestone, which has a regular pop-up boutique at Mahogany Market at Leeds Corn Exchange on the first Saturday of every month and a custom-made service for special event clothing. The African Fashion Explosion of Colours event will celebrate Black History Month in October.

The Butterfly Bra, by All Women, a company in North Yorkshire, will also feature on the catwalk, giving guests a chance to see its patented adhesive bras designed specifically for larger breasts.

Meanwhile, Wake Bespoke, based in Cleckheaton, offers party outfits and chic gowns and has dressed celebrities, clubbers and influencers. It was founded by its chief designer, Jordan Wake, who says: “Nothing is over the top or ‘too much’ in this design house,” adding: “I love transforming the lives of brides, women who are post-op and any woman who wants to learn how to rock her own unique style or simply follow our forward-thinking collections.”

Detective Chief Inspector Tanya Wilkins wears T-shirt, £20 by Simply Ladies.

Urbanized Neckwear offers contemporary handcrafted neckwear pieces with a signature, edgy style. Founder and designer SJ says: “My neckwear concept was influenced and inspired by both my working class and first-generation born African-Caribbean background.

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“Many of my designs are unisex and can be worn in a multitude of ways. I design and handcraft all of the pieces myself in my home and all of my creations are either limited edition or one-off pieces.”

There will also be collections and designs by Emma Hirst’s JohnJo Clothing, Jaquii Moya’s Banana Clothing, BB Clothing and Mayday Weddings and Events.

Carron Cummings wears white peplum dress from Boohoo.

The Simply Ladies Inc catwalk events began in 2018. Carron places posts on social media to find the models. “We had over 150 applicants and we have 22 models doing it this year,” she says. They include designers, businesswomen and even a West Yorkshire Police detective chief inspector. Some of them feature here in this fashion shoot staged to pre-promote the event, at A Khan Designs on Canal Road in Bradford, using its cars as backdrops.

“I adore the ladies,” Carron says. “We have gone through so much together and I am proud of every single one of them.”

A single mother, Carron lives in Rothwell, Leeds, with her daughter, Azaria, 14, and seven-year-old son, Zechariah. During lockdown, she qualified as a psychotherapist and Coached by Carron is the name of her life-coaching business, helping women balance their life and find happiness.

Seven years ago, her partner, Joshua, died suddenly in his sleep from anaphylactic shock. At the time she was 26 and working as a paralegal at a Leeds law firm.

Yellow printed top top and trousers, by Ebony Milestone, which has a regular pop-up boutique at Mahogany Market at Leeds Corn Exchange on the first Saturday of every month and a custom-made service for special event clothing.

“When I lost my partner, I went into myself a little bit, I went into a cocoon stage and had to learn how to become a butterfly,” she says. “In that time I learned about women, how resilient we are, how much opposition we have – the gender pay gap, single parents –women that are lawyers in the daytime and when you come home, you have got to manage a household, manage the children.

“We have had to step into this superhero world. I learned how to balance it all and I grew. I became a life coach. I started helping people learn how to live better and how to go for their dreams.”

When she was five, Carron was diagnosed with leukaemia and underwent five years of cancer treatment, leaving a scar on her chest. She says: “I think, because of the steroids, I find it very hard to lose weight, so this is why fashion and body confidence mean the world to me.

“And this is why I am looking for designers who can dress every woman and shine a light on these women, opening doors for people who hide away. So many people feel so bad about how they look and it’s so sad.”

The Simply Ladies Inc Yorkshire Fashion Week event takes place on September 25, at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. Tickets are £75 for a three-course meal, live entertainment and a best-dressed competition from Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/simply-ladies-fashion-week-tickets-161302463009?aff=ebdssbeac

Model Sasha wears dress from Pretty Little Thing.
Another striking image from the Simply Ladies shoot.
Model Alazay wears Savage T-shirt, £20 from Simply Ladies
Designer SJ Adams, based in Huddersfield, wears her own Urbanized Neckwear head wrap, from UrbanizedNeckwear.com.