Being a northern lass (I’m based in Manchester UK), I get frustrated at times with the scarcity of quality high-profile fashion events in the city. So when I discovered that the first annual Manchester Fashion Week (MFW) was about to hit The Avenue North in Spinningfields, I was super excited. Excitement soon turned to disappointment and reverted to frustration however, when the first show was postponed for three hours due to behind the scenes technical issues. Being that this was after all the very first MFW, hiccups were to be expected to an extent, so I decided to dismiss my frustration.
After billing Manchester as a fashion force large enough to rival London, organisers had a lot to live up to but sadly fell short. With little publicity (I only discovered details of the event the day before) the show was plagued with problems, with reports from independent designers stating that they had applied to exhibit months in advance, but hadn’t even received a courtesy email in response. Organisers instead chose to focus on mainstream high street brands who supposedly financed the outfit. In this economic climate it makes good business sense to go where the money is, but surely the whole purpose of any fashion week is to showcase the next big thing? With Manchester being a hotbed of creativity it would appear that organisers did Manchester’s independents a disservice.
The shows kicked of with a collection from independent brand Merabi by Nadine, a favourite of local lasses Chelsee Healey of Waterloo Road fame and Corrie’s Michelle Collins. Merabi’s collection featured a selection of figure hugging cocktail and evening gowns with cut out detailing in the back. There was no overriding story running through the collection as was evident in the wide range of fabrics, colours and finishing. There were however a couple of standout pieces, notably a fitted colour blocked dress with peplum detailing and a couple of sheer floor length gowns with metallic detailing.
Shows throughout the week included an offering from independent label House of Herlihy who sent models down the catwalk in a combination of silk chiffon, silk habotais and crepe de chines. The collection was inspired by a fusion of Indian and French architecture and digital prints.
Other notable showings included the exhibit by Masato Jones, former head designer at Ghost who produced one of the strongest collections paraded on the catwalk. Masato’s pieces featured structured tailoring in a mixture of brocades, velvets, metallic’s and sheers, on a predominantly black and brown palette offset with gold.
Unsurprisingly, the highlight of the week by far was showcased by the students at the Manchester School of Art. With striking looks in a colour palette of white and grey with fuchsia, yellow and blue highlights, this was undoubtedly my favourite collection. The fashion forward silhouettes were counterbalanced with a selection of beautiful digital prints inspired by the rainy city itself. In a city brimming with creativity it‘s not hard to spot the future leaders of the fashion pack.
Although Thursday was billed by organisers as the biggest day, booked up with retailers from The Avenue such as Ted Baker, All Saints, Flannels and Mulberry my general feeling was deflation. Who really wants to sit down and watch a fashion show by Ted Baker or All Saints? Certainly not me. That being said, I have to admit that I did fall in love with the selection of Ted Baker shoes and handbags on display.
Moreover, what struck me the most about Thursday and was reflected throughout the whole week was the gross under representation of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups both on the catwalk and behind the scenes. Now I’m aware that Manchester is no Lagos, but the glaringly obvious lack of representation of BME’s both in terms of models and designers, left me with a feeling of disillusionment with the industry. Whether that was due to the lack of BME models on the books of Boss Model management, or just bad organisation I do not know. What I do know is that there is a wealth of untapped talent within the city waiting to take the opportunity to shine.
Disillusionment and hiccups aside, the first Manchester Fashion Week was an overall success. Hopefully the organisers will take the lessons from both the highs and lows of 2012 to create a much more inclusive and fluid experience for years to come.