Yorkshire fashion review of the year sees the class of 2020 step up to provide essential PPE support

From scrub-making to lockdown dressing, Stephanie Smith takes a look back at a strange year which saw Yorkshire fashion designers, makers and brands create face coverings, PPE, new leisure collections and distanced shoots ... and many of us had a major wardrobe rethink.

1. Laura Sedman of Leeds-based fashion brand Laurelle Woman tries out the scrubs she began making for health and key workers during lockdown.
1. Laura Sedman of Leeds-based fashion brand Laurelle Woman tries out the scrubs she began making for health and key workers during lockdown.

It feels like a lifetime ago but London Fashion Week did actually take place in the flesh back in February 2020, when York designer Matty Bovan staged a critically acclaimed catwalk show – but did he know something that the rest of us did not when he presented designs that, with the benefit of hindsight, seemed to hint at the need for social distancing?

Using wide panniers and curtains on poles raised high above the head (made by hatter Stephen Jones), Bovan challenged the silhouette of the body, and described the mood as “off-world” – these were surely designs for a time of chaos.

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Lockdown began in March and, as Covid-19 continued to put frontline workers at risk, expert sewers across the land answered the call to make protective clothing for NHS and care home staff. Yorkshire fashion designers, manufacturers, students and skilled amateur dressmakers stepped up to produce scrubs, masks, bags and hairbands. Some worked from their back bedrooms and dining tables, some in socially distanced conditions at clothing mills. In Castleford, at its trench coat factory, Burberry turned production over to making scrubs. In Huddersfield, designer Kevan Jon made headbands and McNair Shirts changed its motto from “It takes a town to make a shirt” to “It takes a town to make a gown”. In Leeds, Laura Sedman, of Laurelle Woman, joined the call to make PPE after seeing the Facebook page For The Love of Scrubs, started by Boston nurse Ashleigh Linsdell. Founder of Yorkshire Born & Thread Lisa Gilbert set up a group with nearby fellow sewers to make PPE and local companies including Brand Yorkshire and Bradford-based Downham Textiles donated fabrics. North Yorkshire farming daughter, fashion designer Sarah Thompson, made washbags for nurses to use for the safe laundering of their uniforms at home.

2. February 2020: Who knew we would need to keep people at arm's length? York designer Matty Bovan wowed at the London Fashion Week catwalk with a thought-provoking collection that played with human silhouettes, positive and negative space, fantasy and reality. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

In May, Rita Britton, founder of the legendary Pollyanna and owner of Barnsley-based fashion label Nomad Atelier, spoke out strongly in favour of fashion sustainability and said the high street would never be the same again, with perhaps just three or four big names surviving. “And maybe that’s not a bad thing,” she added. “Maybe that needed to happen because it was getting ridiculous. We were bringing the bloody planet down.”

In June, the first lockdown was easing but its legacy of relaxed, comfortable, easy dressing seemed to point the way for the future of fashion. Some Yorkshire fashion influencers refused to let lockdown compromise their day-to-day wardrobe, however, while others adapted to create a new form of go-anywhere luxe fashion.

We asked six of them to give us a snapshot of their lockdown looks and Emily Gray, personal stylist at John Lewis & Partners Leeds, did not disappoint. “Like most people, at the start of lockdown I was living in joggers,” she said. “My go-to has become the breezable dress. I’m dressed up enough for my virtual styling appointments, while still being comfortable enough to lounge on the sofa.”

Also in June, we featured the wonderful socially-distanced fashion shoots that took place in the empty Sandersons department store near Sheffield, modelled by Rebecca Dransfield, daughter of founder Deborah Holmes. “Our e-commerce team needed a photograph of an item of clothing being worn for the website so I offered to try it on, and it started from there – we posted it on social media and the comments were lovely,” Rebecca said.

3. Fine cashmere block sweater, now £75; with tweed egg skirt, £450, from Rita Britton's Nomad Atelier in Barnsley and at nomadatelier.co.uk. Rita predicted that the high street will never be the same again because of the pandemic.

Over in North Yorkshire at Tennants Auctioneers in Leyburn, rare Burberry coats and Chanel bags went under the hammer along with a vintage Louis Vuitton suitcase, Hermes scarves and handbags by Mulberry and Christian Dior.

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In August, Yorkshire special occasion designer James Steward adapted to the stay-at-home climate with a new range of off-duty sweats and tees and Halifax designer Kevan Jon also launched a luxe leisure line.

Leeds-based fashion and lifestyle brand Joe Browns, known for its cool men’s shirts, striking prints and quirky product names, launched its AW20 collection with a shoot staged near York. “We’re exceptionally lucky in Yorkshire to have so many lovely nature spots right on our doorstep,” said founder Simon Brown.

4. Emily Gray, personal stylist at the John Lewis & Partners Leeds store, took part in our feature on what influencers wore during lockdown. This dress was by Mother of Pearl x John Lewis.

In September, Matty Bovan brought London Fashion Week to his home city when he created his own locked-down fashion show with mannequins at York Cemetery Chapel. “The images of them in situ evoke a very still, almost portrait-like quality against the surround of this classical environment,” he said.

In October we featured the beautiful AW20 fashion shoot of York-based Jones Bootmaker at The Chapel Harrogate, built in 1896 and now a luxe boutique B&B.

In November, footballer Marcus Rashford teamed up with Burberry giving young people around the world the support they urgently need.

This was the year that the fashion industry proved its value by stepping up to give essential support during difficult times. The only way is up.

5. Back in June, Rebecca Dransfield began modeling in socially distanced shoot for Sandersons, the depeartment store at Fox Valley near Sheffield founded by her late mother Deborah. Here she wears Calvin Klein black lounge jumper and grey joggers.
6. July and students at Leeds Arts University took part in a distanced shoot by the Yorkshire Post's Simon Hulme. The students shared a house in Headingley during lockdown. Design by Taz Dorodi modelled by Simmy Kanda
7. Leeds-based Joe Browns stayed in the county for its AW20 fashion shoot. August Terrific Textured blazer, £100; Full of Charm waistcoat, £45; jeans from £30; shirt, £35; cap, £15. At Joe Browns .
8. Sibling fashion designers James Steward and Hannah Moody photographed at their studio in Wetherby, where they launched a new leisurewear range to meet demand. Picture Tony Johnson
9. In October we featured the autumn/winter fashion shoot of York-based Jones Bootmaker, which took place at The Chapel in Harrogate, a spectacular boutique B&B, the reonovation of which was followed by The Restoration Man.
10: In November Burberry announced that footballer Marcus Rashford was partnering them on a range of projects to support young people in need. Courtesy of Burberry.