Norfolk designer knits her way to the top
You could say Norwich Fashion Week had a celebrity designer at one of its shows, but to Diana Clarke, she is just another local maker of fashion. Emma Harrowing caught up with the Peggy's Collection designer at The Designers Show.
When her knitted wedding dress came down the catwalk at The Designer Show at Project nightclub on the Tuesday of Norwich Fashion Week, Diana Clarke gasped, as it was the first time she had seen her designs on the catwalk.
If you haven't heard of the 37- year-old from Norwich, you will now. Her label, Peggy's Collection, consists of handmade vintage-inspired knitwear, which has been worn by Natalie Rooney, sister of footballer Wayne on the BBC Three show 'Snog, Marry or Avoid' and her business has won the Small Business Sunday (SBS) award set up by Theo Paphitis, of TV's Dragon's Den, in December 2010.
Now she is one of the local designers at Norwich Fashion Week.
'It has been an exciting couple of years,' says Diana. 'I know Natalie (Rooney) so when she asked me to knit her a black and white scarf for her TV appearance I jumped at the chance. I even made a matching scarf for her dog!
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'The SBS award was set up by Theo Paphitis after he was inundated with requests from independent businesses on Twitter asking him to retweet their business.
Every Sunday he picks a selection of the best businesses and tweets about them and the winners are part of his SBS network. It has done wonders for my business.'
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At the Norwich Fashion Week Designers Show, Diana showcased her latest designs for men and women. These included knitted tops worn with big net and floral skirts, delicate knitted shrugs and cover-ups, a teal patterned knit tank top for men and a showstopper – a knitted wedding dress complete with meticulously knitted flowers on a net skirt.
'It's such an honour to show my designs at Norwich Fashion Week,' says Diana. 'Norwich is my home and creating a collection for this show was a privilege. Seeing my designs come down the runway took my breath away.'
Now living in Dereham, Diana is inspired by her grandma Peggy, whom her fashion label is named after. It was her grandma who taught her how to knit. 'I started knitting as a hobby from about the age of five,' says Diana. 'I would knit blankets for my Care Bears! These days designing and knitting is my full-time job.
''I began by posting my designs on a marketplace website and was surprised when my pieces started to sell. Soon I was receiving requests to make different knitted items and it all went from there.'
Diana sells her knitwear on her website and through the fashion boutique website ASOS. It's her ambition to sell her designs in a local boutique. 'I've always loved vintage fashion,' says Diana.
'It's a very big thing these days to walk around wearing pieces from the past, but sometimes people can find it difficult to wear. The aim of my designs is to make vintage wearable by making custom-made designs that are inspired by the past.
''I would love a local boutique to stock my designs, in fact, that is my next challenge, to get Peggy's Collection in a store near you!'
With her designs featuring on TV, having been recognised by celebrity and now part of Norwich Fashion Week history, you would think Diana would be living the glamorous high life.
Laughs Diana: 'I'm quite far removed from what is deemed the glamorous life of a fashion designer! I juggle designing and knitting with looking after my children – Rebecca 14, Josh 12 and Marsha 6. I fit designing and knitting around doing the school run and after the children have gone to bed. It's hard work, but I wouldn't want to do anything else.'
See all the pictures from The Designer Show by clicking the link at the top right of this page.