community catwalks

 

by Camilla Ridley

This week is the tenth Barnes Charity Fashion Show. Could this successful local initiative be a blueprint for reviving high street fortunes and encouraging a greater number of innovative independents? And what does it really show us about this season’s key trends?

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The Barnes Charity Fashion Show featured a collection of statement Ridley London floral printed silk dresses modelled by a troop oh highly choreographed professional dancers. 
Photos by @styleupwithabby

October heralds the start of the winter season, and hot on the heels of the fashion capitals' major shows comes something a little more local. The tenth edition of the brilliant Barnes Charity Fashion show, a remarkably successful community initiative championing local shopping and supporting local charities: St Mary's Barnes and Fish. We’ve been involved with the event for several years now, through our store located in the heart of Barnes. And it really helps generate much needed awareness and sales for small independent labels like us. The simple fact is that as temperatures begin to fall and life becomes ever busier, it’s very tempting to stay home and indulge in a little on-line shopping, guided by the fashion media's latest trend analysis. These days you really can do everything from the comfort of your mobile screen. But with the likes of Asos spending tens of millions of pounds every month to dominate Google's search algorithms, it becomes increasingly difficult for independent labels to cut through, let alone thrive. And we all wonder why so many of our high streets are in decline? 

Sensing this modern malaise, the visionaries behind the Barnes fashion show have created a flag ship social event that chimes with the interests of residents and brings a touch of glamour to the annual village calendar. It’s a great reason to dress up, meet up with friends on a week night and most importantly it directly connects residents with their local labels, retailers and artisans. While raising  significant funds and awareness for three important community initiatives. And as every good retailer knows, if people feel relaxed and happy, they’re more likely to shop. The proof of success is that the event really does drive traffic in store. And this is amongst some of the busiest, smartphone savvy shoppers probably anywhere. In turn, the event has helped to build a sustainable community of thriving fashion stores and artisan makers. And despite the effects of Covid, Barnes has seen a number of new boutique openings in the last 18 months, including several innovative independents. The clear message that Barnes loves fashion and is prepared to go the extra mile to support their local retailers really instills confidence.

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Bright colour and sparkle was in high supply across all the collections shown by a mix of well known retailers and innovative independents. (Clockwise from top left) a printed floral silk Octavia Midaxi dress from Ridley London, headpieces with sparkle from local milliner AJ Gretton, and daywear from The Wos.

Photos by @styleupwithabby

The other reason the Barnes fashion show works is it’s pitched just right for the local audience. So if you’re expecting to see collections for Spring 2022 draped over Milan's usual lines of dead faced, striding models, think again. This is Barnes, and this season's collections are modelled by a troupe of highly choreographed professional dancers. This gives the event incredible tempo, a real sense of fun and also an appropriate level of diversity which properly reflects the community as well as today’s times. Add to this runway appearances by a smattering of local residents and celebrities and you get a sense of what it’s all about.

But don’t be fooled, this is no WI style village hall effort, it’s a highly slick and co-ordinated operation from a committed team of talented local professionals. Sets including video displays, lighting and industry standard sound are created by a retired BBC production manager. Routines are created by professional choreographers, the event is compared by well known local media personalities and run by a team of hardworking volunteers. You could argue that the Barnes fashion show is only possible because of this unique, local talent pool. But actually there’s a much more important message here…and that's what can be achieved when people recognise there's an issue and communities come together to create positive change. In a world where we all need to start to shop more locally, and people are increasingly looking for unique experiences and to feel more connected with their local communities, a lot of positive lessons can be learnt here. It's not altogether inconceivable that this model could be adopted by other high streets looking to encourage destination independents. Or by traditional bricks and mortar retailers striving to reconnect with local communities and stem the shift to pure digital. Look out for your local John Lewis fashion show!

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Local media personality Vassos Alexander @virginradio.uk (top left) presented this years show. While collections from Leblon (top right) and SWSki (bottom) exuded optimism with bold colour and sparkle.

Photos by @styleupwithabby

And yes this years show offered a really interesting insight into what really is in fashion and what people are actually looking for. While coverage of the three major fashion weeks has focussed on the re-emergence of body con, mini skirts and monochrome everything here was about colour, vibrancy and diversity.  From sports and skiwear, wearable daytime outfits, to sparkling evening dresses there was something for everyone. Styles and cuts were definitely focussed on what would flatter the population of Barnes rather than tightly following this season's prescriptive vision. And that’s hardly surprising given the demographics of the audience at play. There was also. definite nod towards upbeat escapism and a touch of glamour. Again, after the last 18 months of lockdowns, consumers are looking optimistically towards a positive lively Christmas and new year. If I was going to draw one conclusion, this does show that people still instinctively understand what’s going to work for them and make them feel confident and happy. And that on the high street choice, positivity and wearability still trumps the narrow vision of the big fashion houses. And surely that’s really what fashion is all about? Although what's clear is if more communities don't pro-actively support their local retailers and labels, our choice will be increasingly dictated by the profits of the digital fashion giants. And that can't be good for any of us.

 

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Ridley London's luxurious new collection of floral print dresses, skirts, tops and coats for autumn is available to purchase on-line and in Ridley's Barnes store. Celebrate your individuality with a unique piece that's individually crafted to flatter from your choice of any of our stunning new printed floral silks or cottons. Or call us to arrange a virtual fitting: 

Ridley London, 82 Church Road, Barnes, London SW13 0DQ T: 01730 823097

 


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