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Source: © Justin Kernoghan Photography
It’s always a pleasure to receive any invite, but to receive a press invite to the West Coast Cooler’s twentieth season FASHIONWEEK launch – a precursor to October’s main event - is another matter. Clouding it in secrecy - no prior press release here – only adds to the intrigue and excitement.
So, as I made my way to BFW HQ (one of the quaintest and prettiest venues in Belfast) the street outside was lined with a fleet of pimped up Citroens, deployed to pick up the fash-pack (I’d declined my collection as I need my car – totally gutted now of course).
I have yet to see this venue when it’s not decked out for a fashion event; but, honestly, it’s so pretty and such a quirky space. It looks just like a warehouse, only glamorous, with upturned chairs and ladders dangling from the ceiling (trust me, it works!), intertwined with pretty twinkle-lights, which creates a bit of a ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ feel.
Media, photographers, bloggers, stylists and VIPs gathered at the Generosity Café, where delicious Italian canapés were being served. Soon, we were ushered through to the main hall, where guests were treated to glasses of West Coast Cooler; exquisite sweet patisseries from Lisburn Road's ‘Miel et Moi’ and, for a healthier option, YoglandNI were on hand with their high protein ‘froyo’ - all of this and the show hadn’t even begun!
The launch kicked off under the dramatic glare of the ‘Fashionweek’ electric alphabet letters (very Moulin Rouge). Cool FM's Rebecca McKinney was on hand to help Fashionweek director, Cathy Martin, as they introduced twenty of Ireland’s top models showcasing the twenty hottest trends for Autumn Winter.
With the ‘trends’ presentation came the announcement of the ‘Fashionweek’ programme, running from 15-18 October, this year; and it appears this season will see a jam-packed schedule, like none before. Obviously, there are nightly catwalk shows, but also a whole host of welcome new additions, including a menswear show, the ‘Fashion Souk’ and a body image workshop, ‘To Be Beautiful’. Thankfully, there’s the return of some old favourites, too, with ‘Sushi Saturday’ and ‘Style Sunday’ - my absolute favourite event – the flagship Sunday lunch at Shu Restaurant, on October 18th (£45, booked through ‘Shu’).
I think one of the reasons, for BFW’s popularity, is its ever-changing line-up of events, participants and partners, with this year being no exception. In that spirit, it was revealed BFW will welcome Italian restaurant, Fratelli Belfast – providers of my Italian pre-event treats - as the official hosts of their pop-up, pre-show eatery and cocktail bar, serving delicious Cicchetti, to the stylish audiences, while they explore the ‘shop-the-show’ boutique alley.
Italian hair brand Alfaparf Milano was also announced as official hair partner, for the event. Creating the looks, across the catwalk shows, is Northern Ireland’s top hairdressing ‘dream team’ – including Paul Stafford, Bill Harris, Michael Quinn and Brenda Shankey. There’s also a new make up sponsor, in SENNA Cosmetics, with local makeup specialist, Oonagh Boman, leading the way, and completing this outstanding roll call.
Cathy Martin, said: “Reaching a milestone, like our twentieth season, makes me think back to where we’ve come from; but looking forward, I have no doubt that today’s launch will whet the buds of Belfast’s ‘stylistas’, for the season ahead. We’re delighted to showcase menswear, and we’ll have some top international brands, as well as a host of new designers to support, with some very edgy men’s collections.”
Audience members can expect to see the latest fashions from top designer names such as Armani, Calvin Klein and Boss Orange, together with some of Britain’s top fashion brands, including Barbour, French Connection and Ted Baker for men, ladies and children.
Cathy later hinted at what’s to come, when the October shows hit the catwalk. “In terms of trends for this season, fashion fans should prepare for a stunning palette of winter ‘brights’, particularly oranges and pinks, and these will be used a lot in modern, graphic prints as well as in bold, block colours. It’s also time to rummage through your Grandma’s wardrobe for inspiration, as tweeds and prints akin to chintzy interior fabrics abound. In terms of fabrics and textures, winter often brings more interesting tactile looks; and, this season, suede and luxurious velvet are celebrated, as well as a bit of fluff and fur”, she revealed.
Intriguingly, Cathy also teased that some of us may be able to dig deep into our own store cupboards (though some might have to go to their mother's!), when she added, “Also jumping to the fore are the 1970s silhouettes – flattering flares and 80s elbow and shoulder shapes are all acceptable, with a big focus on big blouses too. The 1980s influences can also be seen with an eclectic mix of metallic fabrics and glitz galore, prepping wardrobes everywhere for the party season. As always, for winter, layering should be the focus, not only to keep warm, but keeping wearers bang-on-trend.”
The scene is set – we’ve all been given sufficient ideas for our event attire – so roll on October, and let the festivities begin!
The full show schedule is available online at www.belfastfashionweek.com, along with details of this season’s trends, plus links to all participant retailers and sponsors. Catwalk tickets, which cost £20 (or £30 for a limited number of exclusive front row seats), are available from the Belfast Welcome Centre, on 028 9024 6609, or via the website. Ticket price includes a fabulous goodie bag and a refreshing West Coast Cooler!
All photographs my own (feel free to copy or share), expect the fist two stunning pics courtesty of the super talented Justin Kernoghan.