On Tuesday the 18th of March, Vodka Revolution’s Sky Bar will hold host to a remarkably charitable fashion event. The brainchild of four ambitious Events Management students from Sheffield Hallam - Rebecca Torrs, Kate Wotherspoon, Zoe Willis and Lauren Skeldon - the independent Fashion Showcase seeks to celebrate that which is often overlooked; primarily Sheffield Mencap and Gateway Charity. The showcase also offers much needed support to fledgling fashion and accessories brands fighting to find a place in Sheffield’s independent fashion scene. I spoke to organiser Rebecca Torrs to learn more about the inspiration behind this intriguing event:
The idea was spawned from our final year project. At the beginning we only knew that we wanted to host a charity event; we had no idea which charity we wanted to support or what kind of event we would be hosting. After exploring some Sheffield charities we finally came across Sheffield Mencap and Gateway Charity.
Sheffield Mencap and Gateway Charity was launched in 1951 by parents of children with learning disabilities, looking to support other parents and their children. The charity simply aims to give children and adults with learning disabilities a better life. Mencap and Gateway offer support to learning disability sufferers and their carers by staging events such as sports days, craft workshops and other events designed to improve confidence, create friendships, and subsequently support happy and meaningful lives. Rebecca explains how herself and the other organisers felt Sheffield Mencap and Gateway had been overlooked before due to a lack of awareness throughout the city:
We were all really moved by the dedication of the workers and organisers within the organisation, as the charity exists solely on the back of their own fundraising. We wanted to give back something to a charity we felt had been forgotten or unappreciated before.
All proceeds from the Fashion Showcase will support Sheffield Mencap and Gateway, while the event itself seeks to provide support to undiscovered and lesser known independent fashion retailers in Sheffield. Rebecca explains:
To mirror the under-supported charity we chose to represent, we also chose to support some lesser known fashion brands in Sheffield. We wanted to give these very deserving, very inspirational people a platform to showcase their work.
After resolving to offer much needed support to Sheffield Mencap and Gateway Charity, Rebecca and her team remained unsure of just how they could offer said support. Following a chance meeting with Maurice Henry of Urban Klothing, this driven team became inspired to support independent clothing labels in Sheffield; many of which are launched by earnest and determined graduates. Rebecca explains why supporting these fledgling entrepreneurs is so important to her and the other organisers:
There is a huge independant fashion community in Sheffield which also exists alongside a huge high-street presence. Of course it’s amazing that there are so many independant fashion outlets around the city, but it also makes things especially difficult for young graduates to find their feet once they bravely decide to launch a fashion line.
While Sheffield shoppers are extremely fortunate to be surrounded by so many successful and unique independent brands, smaller startup brands can often find themselves disheartened by such fierce competition so early on in their careers. Strong competition from both the high street and more established independent brands cause many new designers to start out online. Rebecca and her team reached out to these new names - predominantly set up by ambitious Sheffield University and Sheffield Hallam graduates - to give these fresh young brands a more tangible space to showcase their work.
Many of the start-up brands we’re hosting exist solely online. While this is obviously a great way for them to get started, it’s also difficult to find the right time or the right environment to showcase work, or to network with other fashion distributors and retailers. We wanted to provide a platform on which these brands could present their work to customers in a tangible means, whilst also allowing them to network with one another.
The showcase will feature eight main stalls including Claytime Designs, Imogen’s Imagination, Urban Klothing and Lucie Victoria; with more yet to be confirmed. However, the showcase has more than just fashion on offer. The evenings festivities will also include competitions, food and original live music from Sheffield Hallam student Zuza Paverly. Rebecca reveals how Zuza came to be involved with the Fashion Showcase:
We want the event to appeal to everyone, not just fashion lovers. That’s why we’ve sourced some amazing talent to entertain. We’ll be having a live music performance from the amazing Zuza Paverley - a fellow student we spotted performing at SHU Fest. She’s an amazing singer looking for some exposure, so of course we were more than happy to involve her in the showcase.
Having garnered much local interest and support for the event, Rebecca and the other organisers were able to amass an impressive array of contributed gifts from local retailers, which will be going home with some lucky raffle winners at the end of the evening. Contributions include vouchers, gifts and cookbooks from big high street names such as Ask Italian, Wagamama’s and Lush. Speaking of the impressive goodies on offer, Rebecca says:
There are so many incredible events coming up in Sheffield, many supporting charities like ours and looking for local support. We were very lucky to receive the contributions we have.
The team have also taken part in many individual fundraising events in an attempt to raise as much money and awareness as possible. Fundraisers have spanned from small raffle competitions to bake sales, and one extremely dedicated team member, Lauren Skeldon, ran 10k in order to raise money for the event. Speaking of the teams enormous fundraising efforts, Rebecca simply says:
We wanted to do Sheffield Mencap and Gateway proud, so we put a lot into fundraising so we could stage the best event possible.
The Fashion Showcase will open its doors at 7pm on Tuesday the 18th of March in Vodka Revolution’s Sky Bar, located in the West One Plaza. If you’re eager to support a local charity, independent fashion and original music call Rebecca on 07966942805 to purchase a ticket, or purchase one on arrival. Tickets are £2 and include a welcome drink. The Fashion Showcase is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of new and unique fashion brands unavailable in mainstream stores, whilst giving back to the community that created them.