Up and coming fashion designers to showcase designs in Norwich

Vintage inspired and couture designs are on the menu at next month's Norwich Fashion Week, as two young designers from Norfolk get ready to showcase their work. EMMA HARROWING reports.

A big part of Norwich Fashion Week is finding the 'next big fashion designer'. Being discovered at a big fashion event can propel your dreams of becoming a well-known designer into reality. It can also give an indication of future fashion trends.

Two up-and-coming designers from Norwich have been given this chance and will showcase their work at Open Store during Norwich Fashion Week.

Open Store is an event which showcases the work of promising, local fashion designers. Taking place on Tuesday, September 27, during Norwich Fashion Week, Open Store gives you access to view the latest work from Norfolk designers.

Independent retailer Roberta Pumer sells a lot of fashions designed by Norfolk designers in her store, Ethika, on Timberhill. Roberta has organised the Open Store event to give both established and new designers the chance to sell their work.

Two of the up-and-coming fashion designers showcasing their first pieces of work at the event are former City College Norwich students Chloe Kent and Leah Leveridge. Both took part in the City College Platform fashion show earlier this year at The Assembly House, but neither has showcased their work to a mainstream audience.

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Chloe Kent

When Chloe Kent, right, sat up night after night hand stitching pleats into her long black dress design which formed part of her college coursework, she had visions of grandeur. The 21-year-old from Norwich aspires to be the next big international fashion designer, creating collections for the world's top catwalks in London, Paris, Milan and New York.

'If there was one fashion designer that I would love to design for it would have to be Alexander McQueen's fashion house,' says Chloe. 'Although saying that, I would love to have my own fashion house and be as well-known in the fashion industry as Alexander McQueen!'

Chloe's elegant black dress design has already won her the college fashion award and it is one piece that will be on display at Ethika during Norwich Fashion Week.

'The dress was complicated to make,' says Chloe.

'I love fine detail and so beading, embroidery and texture are all key elements in my designs.

'My inspiration for the black dress came from the ballet Swan Lake.

'The movement in the dress is created by using different fabrics together to create contrast and texture.

'Pleating the heavy fabric along the bottom by hand was the toughest task I've had to do to date and there were times when I thought 'what am I doing?' but it was worth it when you see the final result.'

Another of Chloe's designs is a white dress, a shorter and lighter design featuring feather flourishes and ruffles; embellishments are becoming a trademark of Chloe's designs.

Chloe is also hoping to study a fashion degree at the Norwich University College of the Arts in September and has secured a sponsorship deal with Anglia Fashion Fabrics on Magdalen Street.

Leah Leveridge

Leah Leveridge's designs are inspired by vintage designs from the Victorian age and from the 1940s. 'It's quite an eclectic mix of eras, but mixing up styles from fashions gone by really works,' says 17-year-old Leah, above, who comes from Stratton Strawless. 'Most of my pieces are inspired by the 40s silhouette which goes in at the waist and is flattering over the bust and hips. The Victorian influence comes in through how I design my tops, which are heavily influenced by corsetry.'

The young designer is currently working on a mid length skirt to showcase at Norwich Fashion Week.

Leah's passion for vintage began at an early age when tired of the contemporary outfits that came as standard with her Barbie dolls. She would reinvent old designs to make vintage outfits for her dolls instead. 'I love Victorian fashion and fashion in the 30s, 40s and 50s,' says Leah.

'I collect original handbags and garments from the 40s; my love of vintage and theatre are great inspiration for my designs.'

Leah's love of theatrical costume has led her to dabble in creating flamboyant collars and accessories, but at the moment her interest in making intricate corsets is shaping her designs. 'I have a passion for vintage lingerie, especially corsetry. I would love to have my own lingerie boutique,' says Leah. Leah is taking a year out to explore many career opportunities before she makes a decision on where she goes next.

Along with designing and making corsets and vintage accessories, Leah is also interested in fashion photography and styling.