Milan, Paris, New York, London and Bradford. Yes, Bradford, because the West Yorkshire city is stepping up to play a leading role as a showcase of cutting edge fashion design.
That Yorkshire is a hotbed of design talent cannot be disputed (Burberry genius Christopher Bailey is from Halifax, of course), but still, for many talented young fashion designers, London is their only option if they want to be taken seriously, unless they get an offer from another of the world’s fashion capitals.
Fashion Pony is a website and online store that provides a platform for independent designers, mostly from Yorkshire, by promoting and selling their creations online. The name is a play on clothes horse and it was founded in 2010 by fashion lovers Dawn Hunter and Victoria Reddington, both originally from Barnsley. Victoria went to the University of Sheffield, and then worked at an advertising agency, specialising in fashion marketing, while Dawn studied law at Sheffield Hallam University. But one night, while ruminating on their careers, they found they were bemoaning the lack of fresh, affordable, local fashion and came up with the idea of starting a website that showcased new talent.
Last month, six years after its launch, Fashion Pony stepped into the bricks-and-mortar world of retailing by taking a shop in Yorkshire’s newest shopping centre, The Broadway Bradford. There it presents and sells womenswear, menswear and childrenswear from 13 fashion designers from Bradford, Leeds and Huddersfield, including new womenswear label Isaac Ava, Dawn and Victoria’s own creation (it’s named after their children).
Victoria says: “We’ve always designed pieces but never brought them together as a collection. The response has been incredible. We were the only British fashion brand invited to showcase on the catwalk during New York City Fashion Week and we have also been invited to show our spring/summer collection at Vancouver Fashion Week in October.
“People love the bespoke nature of Fashion Pony in that we’ve got the designers working in the shop at The Broadway, so if people like the designs they can talk to the designers about creating something in a different colour, or making something individual for them.”
Also featured is menswear designer Ross Barr, from Wakefield, who emerged with the support of the Prince’s Trust. He champions British wool, spun in Yorkshire and knitted in Leicester, to make The Spencer, his signature chunky knit cardigan. “As a country, we have great heritage in both textiles and fashion, and I aim to bring the two together through contemporary, wearable menswear collections,” he says.
Leeds designer Bo Carter, whose work has already been featured in the Yorkshire Post Magazine, was born in Poland and began designing after first working as an accountant in Leeds, launching her label in 2010. It has a decidedly ethical stance, and she was named most talented new designer in the Peta Vegan Fashion Awards 2013. Bo says: “I am now working on my autumn/winter 16/17, where I will be using some great ethical fabrics including local wool produced from rescued sheep. I am so excited about that.”
The other Fashion Pony featured designers are ZaraMia Ava, Loula’s Boutique, Isaro Collections, Gwen Reid, Ages of Elegance, Belles Bejewelled, Dazarockz, Adorned Clothing, Claire Paver Couture and Kelly Ewing.
Victoria says: “We want to have more Fashion Pony pop-ups as it’s a great platform for designers to get face-to-face with their customers. When we started out we visited trade fairs and fashion shows to invite designers to showcase their work with us, and now are inundated with requests from so many talented designers. We offer a platform to help them grow their business, whether that’s access to a roster of seamstresses or helping them with branding, photo-shoots, and even pricing.”
The Broadway, she says, has created a real buzz in Bradford. “There is so much talent in the region, but it can be hard to get established. Fashion isn’t just confined to London.”
The Fashion Pony store will be open until the end of April; www.fashionpony.co.uk