The Cheshire links to the London Fashion Weekend
- Credit: Archant
Sipping champagne with local fashionistas Caroline Rush and Zoe Vaughan Davies at London Fashion Weekend...well, someone has to do it, writes Style Editor Janet Reeder.
Not able to get a ticket for the ‘frow’ alongside the Beckhams and Anna Wintour at London Fashion Week? Oh well don’t despair because there’s another event that’s as much fun if not more for the fashionista.
It’s called the London Fashion Weekend and it’s where you not only get to see the latest collections, rub shoulders with the designers and celebs and sip champagne until you turn into Patsy and Edina, you also get to shop!
It’s here (over a glass or two of fizz naturally) that I caught up with two of the movers and shakers of the fashion world, head of the British Fashion Council Caroline Rush and fashion PR Zoe Vaughan Davies. They are proof that while fashion may reign in the south, it’s often born in the North West.
Both Caroline and Zoe have connections with Cheshire and Manchester. Although she is now based in London, Caroline still has a home in Heaton Moor, while Zoe’s family lived in Chester for a time and she cut her fashion teeth working in her father’s chain of Cheshire-based menswear outlets.
Caroline, who ran PR company Crush Communications and partied at venues like Panacea, Reform and The Restaurant Bar and Grill in Manchester before heading to London, is now Chief Executive of the mighty British Fashion Council. She has been dubbed one of the country’s ‘real first ladies’ of fashion.
She is attributed with the transformation of Fashion Week from a ‘poor cousin’ of the Paris, Milan and New York shows, to ‘showing that Britain is really where it all begins’. London Fashion Weekend (September 22nd-25th) which follows the main London Fashion Week was launched in 1998. Thanks to Caroline it is now a major fixture on the international fashion calendar.
‘It was originally set up to help designers clear excess stock because there weren’t really the discount places like Cheshire Oaks and Bicester Village, designer sales and online sales that we have now. It was essentially stalls that sold discount goods but we have really changed it over the years. Now it is more a fashion experience,’ says Caroline looking uber chic in an Anya Hindmarch jacket, Preen top and Zara flats. ‘Everyone talks about retail and how that’s changing to be more about engagement with the consumer and this really is an opportunity to deliver on that.
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‘So we have heads of model agencies, designers, stylists, style icons and really offer the opportunity to understand how the industry fits together, as well as great trend talks, how to do hair, make-up and everything else.’
The event costs anything from £20 to around £150 for a Luxe ticket that allows you access to the VIP Luxe Lounge, a drinks reception with Caroline in attendance and a VIP question and answer session with a designer.
What’s so great is the accessibility of the designers and celebrities who attend, such as Emilia Wickstead, Charlotte Olympia, Spice Girl Geri Halliwell and model Daisy Lowe, who were in the Spring/Summer weekend line-up.
The shopping of course is irresistible as there are so many bargains. Oh dear ! It would be easy to get carried away but I was given a tip. As you pay in an old-fashioned way by getting a bill from the concession you’re buying from, then actually paying at a central desk it’s best to save up all your bills then weed out the things you really do want at the end of your shop.
In the end I snapped up a coat from the Paper London label that I saw was still on their website at full price - three times what I paid for it. It is a staple of my 2016 wardrobe! September would be the perfect time to buy designer scarves and bags as Christmas gifts for a fraction of their price.
The fact that Caroline hotfoots it to the London Fashion Weekend at the end of an exhausting round of visits to Milan, Paris Fashion Week and LFW shows just how important she considers making everyone part of the insider fashion experience.
And while she mixes with designers in a rarefied atmosphere as part of her gruelling schedule she remains as down to earth as she was when she ran her PR company in Manchester. She admits she never imagined she would become its Chief Executive when she had the British Fashion Council as a client.
‘We ran the press office for London Fashion Week for a few years and I was trying to help recruit for the role,’ she says.
‘We’d seen various people and in the back of a cab one day the CEO said “Oh for God’s sake you do it”, which was just before Christmas so I said “that’s very flattering. Thank you very much. Let me have a think about it”. I thought about it at Christmas and decided to go for it.’
Seven years on and Caroline has recruited PR Zoe Vaughan Davies who grew up in Chester before heading for the capital in 2008.
‘I’m working closely with Caroline, who’s an old friend, and PR-ing London Fashion Weekend which is very exciting,’ says Zoe.
‘I can see groups of girls from Cheshire and Manchester loving it down here. It’s a really fun weekend. It’s a good time for them to get together, see a show, have a glass of champagne do a bit of shopping and get a nice insight into Fashion Week. They would really enjoy it.’
Zoe owes much of her fashion savvy to her early experiences growing up in Chester.
‘I love Chester, which is where I grew up,’ she says.
‘I was in Manchester when I was about 25 working for a big PR company, Spin Media (now SKV) then after learning as much as I could in the fashion and retail sector I decide to move down here and give it a go.
‘The social life is quite similar here but on a bigger scale although I don’t go out as much as I used to. I was very much a party girl in Manchester and on the scene. I was opening lots of bars and restaurants, doing a lot of events management, but London’s an incredible place.
‘My dad had menswear shops in North Wales and Chester. I would go to trade shows with him when I was younger and then I opened a concession in one of his shops selling Marlboro Classics and Thomas Burberry and I got into the retail side. But retail wasn’t really for me. I used to be guilty of completely over-buying and we ended up with lots of surplus stock!’
Zoe still loves returning to the North West to catch up with her friends and enjoy the delights of her home town.
‘I love Sticky Walnut in Hoole which is a fabulous little restaurant,’ she says.
‘It’s funny, my dad used to have a menswear shop in Hoole back in the day so I know it very well. Now it’s quite a little cosmopolitan area filled with boutiques and great bars so Chester is really branching out’
Janet Reeder stayed at the May Fair Hotel,
Stratton Street, London, W1J 8LT
London Fashion Weekend
When? September 22-25
Where? Saachi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London SW3 4RY
What we’ll be drinking: Fizz
What we will be buying: Ready-to-wear, cashmere, bags, silk scarves, jewellery, British design
What we’ll be carrying: A Sophie Webster-designed London Fashion Week tote
On the runway?: Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, Sibling, J.JS Lee
London Fashion Weekend offer
Save 20% on your tickets to London Fashion Weekend, simply quote CHESHIRE when booking via londonfashionweekend.co.uk
Offer not valid on Luxe or Luxe premium tickets. Advance bookings only. Booking and transaction fees apply.
Follow London Fashion Weekend on twitter at @LFWEnd for the the latest news on the event.