Waiting for the Ennini show to start, I’m knocking back the (surprisingly scrummy) complementary ‘apple fizz’. More importantly, I’ve dragged two friends to sit with me in the front row. If I’m honest, it’s to be closer to the catwalk’s fairy-lit trim to show off my sequinned jacket (it’s The Final Year, and I don’t get out much). The only other attendee with sequins is an old lady with a massive sequinned handbag. I spy Helen Ball (the local designer) and she walks around looking surprisingly calm in a purple, floral maxi dress. When I manage to grab her for a few seconds to offer some vague amateur coverage, I forget to ask whether it’s one of her own pieces.
Returning from London working with Traid, Helen hopes to set up the central Traid point in Wales with this new, thoughtful individual collection. The profits from this evening’s charity event was going directly to the Llys Nini animal rescue centre - licensed by the RSPCA.
I realise quickly that ‘ethically-sourced fashion’ is not, actually, what this is about. As Siany from The Wave gives her keynote speech, modelling one of the backless halter-neck tops, we’re about see some creative ‘upcycling’. Upcycling, we are told, is the name given to new unwanted materials that have been reused for some higher quality piece. ‘I’m in charge of rag-bag sorting and cleaning,’ Helen says, `I sort out what I can use for new pieces - and I love crochet table-cloths' (later, we find out she dyes the fabrics herself, too). It sounds very modest, but actually Helen’s done an incredible job. She takes the garments, that can’t be sold on (think unflattering £1 t-shirts from Tesco) and recreates them into affordable, individual and, importantly, sellable pieces. ‘I’ve charity-shopped since I was 16 and then customised them from there.’ You can tell. The pieces have a home-made feel, without that cringing well-meaning, but badly-hemmed look.
As the lights dim and the audience is hushed, my Blackberry’s already buzzing with activity, soundbiting like a bastard on the new Twitter app. (#swanseafashion #ennini). The beachwear collection opens the showcase, notably with polkadot, low-backed halter-neck tops. Within minutes the daywear collection is streaming alone the catwalk and I’m struggling to keep Twitter updated. Pastel-coloured floral prints are a favourite, and I’m with the rest of the audience semi-opened mouth. I can hear murmurs of ‘ooh, I like that.’ Of course, there are exceptions to this general theme; the crowd-pleasing monochrome cocktail dress and full-length jungle red gown go down with a typically-British noise of approval. The clapping accompanies the maxi dress collection - which have a Grecian feel more so than high street maxis this season - and it’s opened with a pink floral piece, which Helen confesses is her ‘favourite’.
The models themselves range widely in shape and talent. Walking for free, I wonder who are friends, who’s doing it for experience and, at times, I’m annoyed by the over-thrust hips and exaggerated hip- holding, more so than the model led by her heavy shoulders. Perhaps I am merely resentful that I spotted a fellow hopeful in a recent modelling audition (I was sent home in the first five minutes, she later appeared on telly). I am delighted, however, to report the models were all stunning, but - I feel - importantly, they were well-proportioned. The whole showcase is designed for women who have got a pair of tits, and forgive potentially slightly wobbly hips.
Helen impresses upon us all that she wants to promote affordable lines. The maxi dresses range between £20 - £30, and the collections go on sale from Saturday 2nd May, 10am at the RSPCA charity shop, Newton Rd in The Mumbles.
The detail of the fabric contrasting with the simple lines of the pieces and the accessories are creatively produced - a broken in half vinyl acts as a clutch flap. As an advocate of alternative sourcing for fashion - ethical, sustainable, recyclable and, now, upcyclable - if this future of fashion, sign me up for the next showcase.