'Major show could drive fashion design in Doncaster'

A major Doncaster fashion event could help drive the design industry in the borough, believes the woman behind the scheme.

Tuesday, 24th September 2019, 12:19 pm
Leah McMullen, Creative Director at Doncaster Fashion week, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-20-08-19-FashionWeek-4

Leah McMullen, who made her name in the Doncaster business community while working at the Queens Road Design Centre, believes a major show is key to bringing designers to the borough and would like to see the borough as an alternative to London.

She has arranged a Doncaster Fashion Week show at the National College for High Speed Rail at Lakeside next month, and wants the show to lead to more opportunities for designers in Doncaster.

At present, 25 up-and-coming designers are due to take part in the show, with up to 900 people set to attend.

Work by the designer Benedetta Giunti, who is coming to Doncaster from Rome

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Railwayman’s daughter Leah, aged 28, attended Marbella Design Academy after leaving school, before taking a degree in Essex. She was accepted for a place on a masters course in knitwear at the prestigious Royal College of London, but felt lonely in the capital and missed the community spirit of her home town.

While working at the Queens Road Design Centre she become aware of the number of designers living in Doncaster, but working in other cities, and decided it was time to do something to make it easier for creative people to work in the borough.

In March, she set up Doncaster Fashion Week Ltd, to set up what she hopes will be an annual fashion week. This year there will only be one day of fashion events, but from next year, she is planning a full week, with other events running around the main show. She had previously worked on Doncaster Design Week in 2017, which was attended by Wayne Hemmingway.

She said: “I become very vocal about what Doncaster needed going forward for the next generation. There are 304,000 people in Doncaster, but we don't have the design degrees. We are bigger than York, so why don’t we have the opportunity?

Ashley Raynor's work will be at the Doncaster Fashion Week show

“I’m passionately driven, and I've built the fashion show through collaborations.

“I want to encourage good design and feel seeing the best would show what’s available.”

Leah has involved a number of other local businesses in the scheme. Jamie Pratt, from The Hairstylists salon, is organising a team of 13 volunteer stylists for the show. Local make-up artist Charlotte French is organising a team of 13 volunteers to do the make up.

A total of 80 applied to be models, although only 30 will be used on the night.

She has visited designers who took part in Graduate Fashion Week in London to bring them on board.

The list will include two Doncaster designers, Briar McQue and Emma Rigby, who is known for her sustainable designs. One of the designers is coming from Rome. Leah expects the designs to be on show to be ‘daring’.

“I want to help regenerate Doncaster through design,” said Leah. “I want to do something that will be exciting for the next generation. My background was fashion, An event like this showcases set design, photography, video as well as fashion design. This brings it all together and showcases it in Doncaster.

“I didn’t originally expect it to be this big, but we were able to get the rail college building. I love the building, the way it represents our heritage like the Mallard and Flying Scotsman. I think there is a lack of confidence in Doncaster and I want to lead by example.

“This year is the launch. We don’t have a week of events, so we are running this as a pilot event with a view to having a week of events next year. We have enough supporters now to do a week of events next year. We’d be looking at things like workshops and courses next year. But is about design, not labels or retail.

“But I see Doncaster as being a potential creative hub of the north because of where it is. It is cheap to live, people can get here easily, and there is an international airport.

“There are lot of designers who don't want to go to London.

“It would be great to see Doncaster as a St Martin’s College of the North. Design could help regenerate the town. I want to see more investment in the design industries in Doncaster.

The Doncaster Fashion Week show will be on September 28.