Anyone who visited York centre on a regular basis, before the pandemic hit, will know that it has long been a hugely popular place to check out, especially its pedestrianised shopping streets and squares, thronging with crowds to the extent that navigating the city could be quite an adventure, albeit an often time-consuming and frustrating one.
But that was, and indeed is, York, in all its historic and contemporary, bustling beauty.
The city now feels just about back to normal, says Clare Morris, owner and founder of independent fashion company Copper & White. And that means plenty of visitors, hopefully with deep pockets.
“There is a real sense of positivity in the air,” she says. “We did experience a few months without tourists during the restrictions, which made it tough, but as restrictions were lifted, York became one of the main UK staycation destinations. We have been lucky enough to welcome tourists from all over the country.”
Clare launched Copper & White in 2015, fulfilling a desire to find and offer something the high street did not, chiefly stylish and luxurious designs without the expensive price tag. As well as her online store, she has a stall at the Shambles Market in York.
To celebrate the return of life to the city, Clare decided to stage a summer fashion shoot. “A huge part of the inspiration was seeing how people used spaces like the market in such a different way during lockdown,” she says. “And, of course, highlighting key parts of the Copper & White journey, such as the Shambles Market and York itself.”
Clare called on the services of her favourite models, local women Annie Stirk, Gayle Sharp, Brontë Mitchell, Elisa Winstanley and Carolyn Amos.
“We are incredibly proud to have worked with some amazing women since we first launched,” says Clare. “I am always looking for that inner beauty which emanates from wonderful personalities. Diversity of age, ethnicity and size are important to us, as well as fantastic charisma and women who champion other women. The models support and encourage each other and that connection can often be seen through the lens.”
Annie has been pioneering the emergence of older models over the past couple of years and will soon be staging her own Silver & Sassy fashion show in the city with Rachel Peru. Gayle Sharp is a front-line NHS worker, Bronte is a fashion and lifestyle journalist and both Carolyn and Elisa are in demand for modelling work.
“We really had to use the windows of opportunity,” Clare adds. “We made sure that the collections were ready so that when it was feasible, we could quickly organise shoot days and launches. Lockdown also provided us with an excellent opportunity to increase our online presence.”
Clare’s top fashion tips for summer 2021 centre on colour and pattern. “Vibrant prints are certainly rising in popularity as people begin to tire of their lockdown loungewear,” she says. “Gingham patterns in bold colours have been incredibly popular, with adventurous details such as retro Peter Pan collars. Comfort is still a priority as straight-leg trousers and buffet dresses fill shop windows. However, that element of vibrancy is not going anywhere any time soon.”
Clare says she loves the patterns and colours within Copper & White’s spring/summer collection. “It has a real feel of nature to it with its floral and animal prints. There are only a few UK stockists of my Spanish collection, which means my customers have an exclusive item,” she says.
“I think the last year has taught not just us, but everyone in the fashion industry, the importance of your online presence and the online shopping experience.”
Now she is filled with hope for a new fashion boom. “Historically, when there has been a crisis, fashion has always come back with a bang,” she says. “For example, in both the 1920s and 1960s after the wars.
“In terms of changes to shopping habits, it has been clear that customers are prioritising beautiful, quality items.”
And versatility is key, with fashion lovers also looking to invest in pieces they can get value from, dressing up and down as needed.
Clare says: “As we begin to return to normal, people want to buy vibrant prints, quirky patterns, and be more adventurous with their style.”
Copper & White is at the Shambles Market in York and www.copperandwhite.co.uk.