Young Yorkshire fashion designers take the world by storm with AW21 trends shows

A new wave of Yorkshire fashion designers blends fantasy and mythology with modern sustainable methods and looks to the landscapes and culture of their homeland to inspire some ground-breaking and wonderful creations. Stephanie Smith and Abigail Turner report.

Sophie Parnaby Aquila purse - Embellished clasp purse in jet - £260.

From her home overlooking the sea in Cloughton, near Scarborough, Sophie Parnaby says exposure to nature at its most vulnerable and potent led her to explore new ways of manufacturing her striking designs.

Sophie, 23, is double winner of Graduate Fashion Foundation’s Innovation Award and Considered Fashion Award 2020. A deep respect for the environment sparked her passion for exploring new methods of circular fashion.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Originally from Ilkley, her family is rooted in Yorkshire. “My parents were always keen gardeners. We have always been an outdoorsy family. I remember walking the Three Peaks and of course Ilkley Moor,” she says.It was not until Sophie’s final year at Manchester Metropolitan University that she started to take on a proactive role in combating fast fashion practices. Through the use of 3D printers, she has been able to recreate recyclable embellishment such as sequins that would otherwise end up taking decades to break down in a landfill.

The Icarus dress by Sophie Parnaby featuring glassy 3D printed embellishments. Picture by Graduate Fashion Foundation/London Fashion Week.

Her final year collection, Future Mythologies, is filled with sustainable elements influenced by her rural upbringing – for example, Sophie has created animal textures, such as feathers that have a reflective effect.

“By printing onto a glass print bed it creates a really glassy result when you turn it out. But it’s made from recycled plastic not glass,” she says.

Sophie Parnaby was selected as one of six emerging designers to feature as part of the Graduate Fashion Foundation Digital Designer Profile during London Fashion Week (LFW), in collaboration with Visualist, a new productivity suite for fashion creatives. The aim was to help the graduates to launch their brand to a global audience, develop relationships with renowned global stores and publications, begin building a network of future contacts and be part of a fashion week that is embracing emerging brands who are making a positive change in the industry.

Sophie joins an emerging wave of Yorkshire fashion designers whose work blends fantasy and mythology with their Yorkshire and northern heritage and culture

Back view of thw Icarus dress by Sophie Parnaby. Photographers: Ashley Jang and Pedro Matos: Fashion styling: Keeley Dawson Hair: Louisa Mathieu Makeup: Soda Eiyn Choi Nails: Stacey Bushay Model: Issey Cain

At last month’s London Fashion Week, Edward Crutchley,who grew up in Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales, presented Florizel, his AW21 collection he described as “a paean to the cultural iconography of the north of England and the no-nonsense opulence of its matriarchs”.

The collection is named after the original title for Coronation Street, devised by Tony Warren in the 1960s, and Crutchley looks to a host of gutsy personalities loved for their straightforwardness, approachability and humour. Keitel bomber jackets – described as a shape native to Crutchleyʼs birthplace in the Dales – are in moiré.

Meanwhile, Matty Bovan presented his AW21 collection digitally from a York chapel, featuring jewelled pieces by his mother, Plum Bovan and a team of local models rather than the usual supermodels always keen to walk for him.

Bovan graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2015, then left London to base himself in his native York. A senior lecturer at the School of Art, Architecture & Design at Leeds Beckett University, he specialises in knitwear, and has enchanted the fashion world with his surreal and imaginative adventures weaving together threads of history, art and culture.

Edward Crutchley AW21. by Gomez de Villaboa,Styled by Julian Ganio

A contender in this year’s Woolmark Prize, he used cloth from Yorkshire mill Hainsworths and sparkle by The Sustainable Sequin Company. “Key inspiration this season is the power of the sea and its elemental and destructive nature,” he said of his AW21 collection. “Odyssey is ultimately about humanity’s constant survival against external forces, and a battle with reality. The characters are swept away in a cycle of extreme events, and whether this cycle ever ends or just continues, is unknown.”

London Fashion Week February 2021 was open to all, granting the chanceto see 94 designers showcasing across menswear and womenswear, including Molly Goddard, Roksanda, Erdem, Simone Rocha, Richard Quinn, Emilia Wickstead, Marques’ Almeida, OSMAN, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, Supriya Lele, Victoria Beckham, Ahluwalia, Bethany Williams, Bianca Saunders, Nicholas Daley and Temperley London.

For Sophie Parnaby, the opportunity to be showcased at LFW follows her success at the Graduate Fashion Foundation Awards 2020, where she presented her collection to a panel of industry experts and took home the Considered Fashion Award and the Fashion Innovation Award. The collection, Sophie says, “explores a future scenario, considering what climate change could do to the planet and how it could cause different conditions and how it may influence animals and humans to evolve”.

She says that in Yorkshire there has always been a “waste not want not attitude – which is about being resourceful with what you already have.

Matty Bovan AW21 collection Odyssey, presenting dystopian seafaring adventure told – through garments – over three acts.

“It’s a similar notion in sustainable fashion, being more circular and inventive with what already exists is generally the most environmentally friendly option.”

This attitude has infiltrated Sophie’s education and personal style. When she studied for her foundation Art degree at Leeds College of Art (now Leeds Arts University) she would visit Leeds City Museum, in Millennium Square, for inspiration.

She would also take advantage of the local fabric shops in and around Kirkgate Market to find scraps of dead stock.

“That kind of started the whole sustainability aspect of my work. Yorkshire is amazing for fabrics. There is one shop in particular in Dewsbury, Fabworks.” Sophie is using another local company, Filament, which provides recycled plastics for 3D printers and is based in Bradford.

Her university lecturer told students about the local fabrics there and would encourage them to shop locally, she says, adding that supporting local businesses not only helps the local area but also helps towards a more circular future.

Sophie is currently working on launching her own website alongside expanding her Future Mythologies collection.

Sophie Parnaby The Vela corset top, £385. Photographers: Ashley Jang and Pedro Matos: Fashion styling: Keeley Dawson Hair: Louisa Mathieu Makeup: Soda Eiyn Choi Nails: Stacey Bushay Model: Issey Cain

At her studio in Cloughton, she is experimenting with her new 3D printer to create accessory samples, and hopes that in the next few months she will be able to showcase them. Being near the coast has already sparked her imagination for a second collection and she has ideas of what she’d like to do. “I definitely want to do some shoots down by the sea as my pieces are really reflective ­– it would be great to get some reflections off the water. Working on a new collection, I would maybe want to have it inspired by shells and their structures.”

From her parents’ garden and Ilkley Moor now to the vast expanse of the North Yorkshire coastline, this young designer is using her local surroundings as a catalyst to change the way we shop and experience fashion forever.

*Sophie Parnaby pictures: Ashley Jang and Pedro Matos / Fashion styling: Keeley Dawson / Hair: Louisa Mathieu / Make-up: Soda Eiyn Choi / Nails: Stacey Bushay / Model: Issey Cain.

The Pegasus dress - Structured using 3D print technology by Sophie Parnaby. Photographers: Ashley Jang and Pedro Matos: Fashion styling: Keeley Dawson Hair: Louisa Mathieu Makeup: Soda Eiyn Choi Nails: Stacey Bushay Model: Issey Cain
Sophie Parnaby