There can’t be many of us who would choose to work side by side with our sibling, no matter how much we might understand and adore them. But for designers James Steward and Hannah Moody, it’s a breeze.
Their collaboration, on a new special occasion ready-to-wear collection, began a year ago. It was cemented at the start of this year when they decided they had outgrown James’s couture studio in Leeds, and moved to Wetherby, where they now have a new studio and showroom on the High Street.
“We just love working together, don’t we?” says Hannah, 34. James, 40, agrees: “There not’s not a day when we don’t have a big belly laugh.”
Those who went to the recent Gok Wan Fashion Brunch at the Queens Hotel in Leeds will remember James as the hapless target of Gok’s attention, with Hannah sitting next to him in stitches at his bemusement. They have since joined the Gok Brunch roadshow and took part in the one at Sheffield Cutler’s Hall earlier this month, with other Gok events planned. “It’s brilliant, he’s so much fun,” says James. “His whole team, they’ve accepted us like family.”
James has been impressed, too, to witness first-hand how Gok empowers women. “He’s given women the confidence to wear what they want to wear,” he says.
Now on their fourth James Steward ready-to-wear collection, Hannah and James will be showing the autumn/winter range on the Great Yorkshire Show catwalk. The event will also see John Lewis showcase a Modern Heritage themed range, while Yorkshire Agricultural Show jackets for women by Brook Taverner will also be unveiled, and fashion students from Hull, Harrogate and Huddersfield will have their designs shown on the catwalk.
Over the past 17 years, James has made a name for himself as a bespoke fashion designer creating beautiful dresses for women who want a one-off piece that makes them look and feel wonderful.
He has made pieces for Kylie Minogue, Victoria Beckham and numerous soap stars, both for the red carpet and TV, including wedding dresses for Coronation Street, and has twice been named Yorkshire Brides Couture Designer of the Year.
James is also a designer for the Cbeebies channel, creating outfits for Marrying Mum and Dad, a reality series in which children come up with a theme and arrange their parents’ wedding – including the dress. In previous episodes, he has created a frilly flamenco dress for a Spanish-themed wedding, Lycra bodysuits for a superheroes one, and Alice in Wonderland inspired apparel.
Originally from Hull, James trained at the Kent Institute of Art and Design, then worked in couture houses in Italy and with Ben de Lisi in London before launching his first collection at Aqua in Leeds.
Hannah trained in footwear design and technology at the London College of Fashion and worked in Manchester for 14 years as a footwear and handbag designer. She lives in Boston Spa with her husband, Nicholas, and two young children, and James has just moved close by.
“The ready-to-wear is flying out,” she says. James adds: “We’re doing a lot more variations, like sleeves with tops of arms covered.” “Because it’s such a wide age gap, from 16 to a lovely customer who is 80,” says Hannah. “With the older customers, it’s guests at weddings and functions, but younger customers just want to buy into the label,” James says. They frequently speak as one.
New dresses named after local beauty spots have been created for the Great Yorkshire Show, and James has incorporated the Great Yorkshire Tweed into a wedding gown to go with a three-piece suit by Brook Taverner. They were unveiled at Birdsall House, near Malton, which belongs to Lord Middleton, president of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.
Although the ready-to-wear collection, which has prices ranging from £65-£300, can be bought online, it really acts as a shop window. “They like to come in and experience it and see everything that we do,” Hannah says.
So far, there are six stockists across the country (our nearest one is in Kendal) and Hannah and James are looking for suitable stockists in Yorkshire. Everything is sourced in the UK using local mills such as Hainsworth in Guiseley, and made in Ossett and in Lincolnshire, although of course James hand-makes all the bespoke and couture in the studio.
“We started out using lots of colour blocking, and now it’s more textures and prints,” says Hannah of the expanding ready-to-wear collection. “The coats have done fabulously, because it’s an affordable price and similar to what you’d pay on the High Street. “But,” adds James, “You’re getting something that little bit different, that’s come from Yorkshire, so it’s not mass-produced and there’s a limited number of people wearing it.”
The Great Yorkshire Show takes place from July 11 to 13 at the Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate. www.greatyorkshireshow.co.uk. See collections on stage at the Great Yorkshire Show Catwalk, with shows at 11am, 12.30, 2.30 and 4pm.
CREDITS: All clothes by James Steward Couture and Ready-to-Wear at www.jamessteward.co.uk. Photographer: Doug Jackson. Location: Birdsall House, part of an award-winning, family-run farming estate which can be hired for weddings and events. Models and styling: Bernadette Gledhill of Morton Gledhill – The Fashion Team, which also co-ordinates the Great Yorkshire Show fashion shows, with hair and make-up by The Artistic Team at Harrogate College.