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Guest blog: The charitable catwalk struts its stuff in Wales

Jeff Banks and Julien Macdonald after the Macmillian charity fashion show. (Courtesy of Macmillan)

by Lucinda Reid

Charity fashion shows are by no means a new trend. For many years the third sector has used fashion as the backdrop for their fundraising.

Wales can be seen to continually embrace the concept by involving High Street stores, prestigious designers and exciting fresh Welsh talent. With so many different areas of involvement, the charity fashion show continues to thrive.

Take the June event where Merthyr’s own Julien Macdonald partnered with designer Jeff Banks to raise thousands of pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support, as reported by WalesOnline. The A-list designers showcased their latest designs to more than 1,000 people.

Liz Cole, area fundraiser for Macmillan, started the charity fashion show seven years ago. She describes the event as “her baby”.

The fundraising began with Cole’s idea to build a new cancer unit in Prince Charles Hospital, “meaning that people could receive treatment locally rather than travelling to Cardiff”.

Her idea became a reality in 2010. The popularity of the charity fashion shows significantly helped the Macmillan appeal, Cole said.

Indeed, Julien Macdonald highlighted the importance of Merthyr’s involvement in many fundraising events  in a BBC interview in March this year.

“Merthyr has had a lot of negative press and that is focused around one particular area, but there’s lots of fabulous things like all the charity events that go on and the new shopping precinct,” he told the BBC.

Models strut the catwalk for The Breast Cancer Care Show. (Courtesy of Breast Cancer Care)

Cardiff also has taken on the charity fashion show. The Breast Cancer Care Show returns next March after a sell-out show in 2010.

The event supports men and women in Wales who are living with the illness. Breast Cancer Care currently are looking for 20 models who have received the breast cancer diagnosis to star in the show in March. (Details on how to sign up to strut your stuff are on its website.)

The show is unique, Sheryl Plant, Press and PR Officer for Breast Cancer Care, said. Why? She says its essence is celebrating how fashion can give men and women a chance to feel body confident after the disease.

Cardiff’s show is still in its infancy, but its sister shows in London and Glasgow have a 14 year legacy. Plant explained that it “only made sense to hold a Welsh version in Cardiff” once a strong team was based in the city.

All the clothes were donated by House of Fraser in 2010. Now, the team are interested in involving an emerging an Welsh designer, Plant said. The designer will create a bespoke garment that will be auctioned off at the end of the show.

Welsh designer Michelle McGrath photographs a model. (Courtesy of Michelle McGrath)

This idea of coupling charity fashion shows with profiling new designers can already be seen in Welsh fashion talent Michelle McGrath.

The designer got a reputation at the Ryder Cup fashion show. Then, The British Heart Foundation invited her to help with a charity show held in Cardiff in October 2010, according to WalesOnline.

“It is good for Welsh fashion designers to be involved with charity fashion shows as it is a great platform to showcase your collection and at the same time knowing it is for a great cause,” Michelle said.

Her latest collection can be seen at the Newport and Monmouthshire Young Enterprise Fashion Show scheduled for 16 September. Another charity fashion show.

Fashion and charity are being frequently correlated. But why?

Gwyneth Moore, editor of blog Cardiff Fashion, suggests that it’s due to the “mass market appeal”, as the “general public are becoming ever more knowledgeable about fashion.”

With the increasing number of fashion blogs, magazines and online sites the public have a constant involvement in fashion, even if some are unaware of it.

But there is a different appeal to the charity fashion shows in Wales, as it is not merely about the clothes.

Macmillan, Breast Cancer Care and Newport and Monmouthshire Young Enterprise illustrate the importance of the people involved.

As without the person, the dress would certainly not make the catwalk.

Are you organising a charity fashion show? Designing for one? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Lucinda Reid is an English student at Swansea University entering her final year. With a keen interest in broadcasting and fashion journalism, she works as Fashion Editor of The Waterfront.

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