The Slow Fashion Show with Sancho’s and In Exeter (by Shelley Kelly)

On 22nd September Exeter Cathedral was host to a unique event, first of its kind in Exeter: The Slow Fashion Show.

Exeter Cathedral defines our city, standing tall at its centre and steeped in history, it makes a beautiful venue for many events. This particular event mixed the classic architecture of the cathedral with the wider cultural and commercial heart of Exeter. To have a fashion show in a cathedral might seem an odd juxtaposition of cultures. But let me tell you – it was perfect. There was a real buzz about the place, possibly to do with the excitement of such a trailblazing event. 

The Slow Fashion Show with Sancho’s and In Exeter (by Shelley Kelly)

The Slow Fashion Show is the brainchild of Kalkidan Legesse, owner of ethical Fore Street independent, Sancho’sKalkidan teamed up with Business Improvement District In Exeter, who represents a collection of over 600 businesses in the city, to put on the Show. It was the highlight of the week-long festival of fashion – Style in Exeter 2018.

In my view, The Slow Fashion Show is blazing a trail in the fashion world, right here in our city.

The Slow Fashion Show with Sancho’s and In Exeter (by Shelley Kelly), exploring exeter 2018

The Show was designed as an antidote to fast fashion which describes the fast pace that has enveloped the fashion industry. It highlights the production and distribution processes that have become increasingly damaging to the earth and the people on it. The Slow Fashion Show aims to make people think twice before buying, about where and how an item was produced and inspire people to create their own sustainable, mindful wardrobes.

The Slow Fashion Show with Sancho’s and In Exeter (by Shelley Kelly), exploring exeter 2018

Exeter College fashion department

We asked Kalkidan why she feels that fashion events like The Slow Fashion Show are important for Exeter:

There is so much brilliant independent fashion in the city, and rare opportunities for it to be presented together. As a small business I know the challenges of sharing the news about my collections, what we do and why, an event like this helps to bring the spotlight to that and hopefully build more awareness from the city.

And this was more than just a fashion show. There were stalls to peruse and workshops to take part in. I chatted to Georgie and Flo, Bird Sunglasses, ORIGIN Africa and found out about the ethical approaches they are taking in their businesses. Other exhibitors taking part included: Potter and RoamArriety,  Soap DazeLibby BallonChandni Chowk, Hawthorn and Co, Sails and Canvas, Solar Aid, Liz Rafferty, Hang Zen and Age UK Exeter’s craft group who make hats to be sold in the shop.

The Slow Fashion Show with Sancho’s and In Exeter (by Shelley Kelly), exploring exeter 2018

The catwalk show 

Styled by Roberta Juxon-Keen, it showcased the best of contemporary slow fashion from independent retailers in Exeter (Moko, Chandni Chowk, Finisterre, Zebel, My Ex Wardrobe, Busby & Fox, Lorna Ruby). A runway show that would rival any you see in London, it was fabulously produced with professional sound, lighting and choreography. It highlighted some of the key trends for the coming seasons – animal print and khaki being 2 of them. And the cathedral has its own (what felt like purpose-built but can never have been in the minds of the original Norman architects) runway through the centre of the building! 

The Slow Fashion Show with Sancho’s and In Exeter (by Shelley Kelly), exploring exeter 2018

But more than that, I loved the diversity of the models on the catwalk, they were all ages and it made me feel that – unlike most of the London shows – I could really imagine myself wearing the garments. And that’s a clever approach to a show of independent, ethically engaged retailers in a small city. The audience really were interested in being more mindful about how they put their wardrobe together and would, I’m sure, be out in the city looking for these garments in the days that followed.

Kalkidan said that her overriding memory of the night itself was just after set up before the doors were opened to the public. “I finally relaxed”, she said “as you can imagine we were rushing around to open on time and it sunk in that we had managed to get there. We had organised the event and I felt so proud of our team. Then I ran around quickly to tell them!”

The Slow Fashion Show with Sancho’s and In Exeter (by Shelley Kelly), exploring exeter 2018

The Sustainable Design Award

A legacy of the Show was the unveiling of The Sustainable Design Award, launched by Sancho’s, where designers from the southwest were invited to enter garments that exemplify the meaning of slow fashion. 13 did just that and through a catwalk show of their own and accompanying Design guide, we were able to see the garments, read about them and their designers and then vote for our favourite sustainable garment. The entrants can all be found on @wowsancho on Instagram or by following sanchosshop on Facebook.

The Newton Abbot based swimwear brand Davy J, founded by Helen Newcombe, came out on top. Its collection uses 100% regenerated nylon yarn from waste, including spent and ghost fishing nets; the swim suits are designed to last longer – and the designs are created to ensure that you surface from the water in the same condition as you entered it! Davy J’s catwalk outfit saw the black swimsuit “dressed up” for the evening with a skirt made of old fishing nets as a showpiece for the brand. Not sure it’ll catch on, but it certainly spoke for its brand on the catwalk! Kalkidan said that she is now keen to stock Davy J styles in the shop and also to help spread the news about what Helen does.

The Slow Fashion Show with Sancho’s and In Exeter (by Shelley Kelly), exploring exeter 2018

There is a move towards our wardrobes being a blend of both slow and fast fashion, so who are all these independent retailers and more importantly where are they? Ann Hunter of InExeter told the audience more about the city-wide independent business group which is soon to launch a new Indie Guide and an independent gift card that can be used throughout the city with Exeter’s indie businesses, so watch this space.

We asked Kalkidan whether she felt that the event achieved what it set out to achieve. “I believe so, both things we expected and things we did not expect.” replied Kalkidan.

We showcased the brands and designers and hopefully introduced a few more people to sustainable fashion. I think we also shared a unique movement of togetherness and although that was not expected, I think it is a really positive outcome of the show. 

And I can vouch for that. I felt more connected to Exeter on Saturday – to the cathedral, to the independent retailers, to fashion in the city, to the sustainability of the fashion world we consume. Being stylish is not the prerogative of the big cities. We’ve got it right, right here, and that makes me proud to call Exeter my home.


About the Author:

Shelley Kelly grew up in Scotland and holidayed in the southwest with her family every year. Those childhood experiences stayed with her and she moved to Devon in 2001 to live nearer the sea. Now Exeter is most definitely home. Shelley loves the outdoors and recently completed the South West Coast Path and finds tranquillity of being surrounded by nature or swimming in the sea keeps her sane! 

Shelley qualified as a German teacher, has worked for the Scottish Tourist Board, a Holiday rep and more recently in Human Resources in organisations in and around Exeter.

Shelley has a passion for fashion – but in a way that focuses on style and wellbeing; it’s about feeling incredible just as much as looking incredible! We all deserve that!

Spring into style at Princesshay by Shelley Kelly Exploring Exeter

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