Twenty-a-Plenty as Scores of Fashionistas Came Out for the Twentieth Season of Belfast FASHIONWEEK…

Stefania, Darcy, Aimee, Colette, Nuala, Nerissa, Claire, and Ashleigh in the latest looks from Deux Cara, M&S, Gordon Donaldson, Dorothy Perkins at CastleCourt, Diamond Dolls and Blush

Twenty was a-plenty for Belfast’s leading fashionistas, as West Coast Cooler FASHIONWEEK launched its twentieth season today, 20 August.  Twenty of Ireland’s top models showcased the twenty hottest trends for the Autumn Winter season ahead, and with the trends presentation came the announcement of the ever popular FASHIONWEEK programme.   Returning from 15-18 October, with nightly catwalk shows plus the return of Sushi Saturday and Style Sunday, as well as welcoming a whole host of new additions including a menswear show, the Fashion Souk and a body image workshop, ‘To Be Beautiful’, this season will see a jam-packed schedule like none before.

Esther Small, brand manager for West Coast Cooler, sponsor of the event, said: “People here wear their style well, so we want to celebrate that. It is exciting to see such a fantastic programme of events for what will undoubtedly be a very busy season of show-stopping style.  There are some really cool additions to the schedule, which are exciting, fresh and an ideal fit to the West Coast Cooler brand.”

Speaking of the FASHIONWEEK programme, director 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 exclusively 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.

“The shows will return to our fabulous BFW HQ in the heart of the city, and we’ll showcase the very best of our local designers and independent boutiques along with the hotly-anticipated ranges from our most loved international high street brands.

“As well as the fabulous fashion I am delighted to announce we will be welcoming Italian restaurant Fratelli to the FASHIONWEEK family, as the official hosts of our pop-up pre-show eaterie and cocktail bar, serving delicious chichetti to our stylish audiences while they explore the shop-the show boutique alley.”

And sticking with an Italian theme, Italian hair brand ALFAPARF MILANO was also announced as official hair partner for the event. The brand has brought together a veritable ‘dream team’ of Northern Ireland’s top hairdressers – including Paul Stafford, Bill Harris, Michael Quinn and Brenda Shankey –  to create the looks across all catwalk shows.

Wenda Davidson from ALFAPARF said: “It is an absolute pleasure to be the new hair partner for Belfast FASHIONWEEK and an extremely exciting opportunity for our brand and the talented stylists we work with across Northern Ireland.  It is an honor to have FASHIONWEEK as a platform to showcase the capabilities of our stylists and our products. ”

As well as a new hair partner, FASHIONWEEK also welcomed a new make up sponsor in SENNA Cosmetics with local make up artist Oonagh Boman as lead artist.  Stylistas will see the latest Autumn/Winter trends come alive on the catwalk using SENNA’s hero products as well as Italian skincare range Domina, which will help to create flawless, catwalk-ready skin on the models.

Speaking of the fashion at the launch Cathy advised: “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.

“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.”

When it comes to the programme, Thursday 15 October will see the latest collections from local designers and independent boutiques on the runway.  Confirmed to return are Blush and Jourdan from the Lisburn Road, Akani, Diamond Dolls, Deux Cara, Spoilt Belle Boutique and The Style Retreat as well as designers Grainne Maher, Nor Lisa and Gordon Donaldson, among others.  FASHIONWEEK new-comers this season include a fabulous tweed collection from Cocoon Luxury Wear and Dashlin in Newry and Hanger 13 in Portadown.  Designers Marky Marc and Nicola McLaughlin will debut fresh new collections. FASHIONWEEK will also showcase a menswear show with local designers and the very best suiting from a number of national and international brands.

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Following on from the ever-successful designer night, style proceedings continue with the High Street Heaven shows on Friday 16 October, bringing the latest looks from the nation’s biggest and busiest stores including Next, Oasis, Warehouse, DV8 Fashion, Remus Uomo, Superdry, Marks and Spencer and George at Asda as well as Dorothy Perkins, New Look, Designers at Debenhams and Miss Selfridge from CastleCourt.

No stranger to FASHIONWEEK, marketing director Camila McCourt said: “We are delighted to be on board again for what is truly an unmissable event in CastleCourt’s diary.  Our retailers have been involved in FASHIONWEEK since 2006 and it has been incredible watching them grow alongside it.  With a whole host of fantastic retailers all under one roof, we can’t wait for our customers to see what is in store when the fashions of CastleCourt hit the catwalk in October.”

Saturday 17 October will see the busiest day in the FASHIONWEEK schedule with the addition of the original Fashion Souk at BFW HQ, an event hosting stalls and pop up stores for vintage and previously owned clothing throughout the day from 11am-4pm. Also kicking off at 11am is the new body image symposium and workshop ‘To Be Beautiful’ featuring nutrition and body image experts as well as performer and body image campaigner Katie Richardson.

Running alongside this, fashionista’s can make their way to the uber-chic Sushi Saturday event, hosted at Belfast’s hottest new venue, The Perch.  The perfect event for those who cannot make the catwalk shows, this “Director’s Cut” showcases  the best looks from across all shows at Belfast FASHIONWEEK, while guests enjoy West Coast Cooler cocktails and a sushi-filled, Asian afternoon tea – all for the bargain price of £30 per person.

Following on into the evening the FASHIONWEEK catwalk will once again burst into life with the latest collections from Ireland’s largest online designer fashion retailer www.excelclothing.com.  Audience members can expect to see the latest fashions from top designer names such as Armani, Calvin Klein and Boss Orange and some of Britain’s top fashion brands including Barbour, French Connection and Ted Baker for men, ladies and children.

Proprietor William Gilliland said: “This will be our second time hosting a full show at Belfast FASHIONWEEK and, looking at the collections from our designer brands for Autumn/Winter 2015, I have confidence in saying that this show will outshine our last.  We have some fantastic new brands on board including Paul Smith, Cameo and Hugo by Hugo Boss, and of course audiences can expect to see the return of fashion favourites Ted Baker and French Connection as well as Armani and Michael Kors among others.  It’s always exciting to see Excel Clothing’s fashion come to life; from the shop floor to the catwalk.”

Last, but definitely not least, the schedule will close in sumptuous style with the flagship Style Sunday luncheon at SHU on 18 October. This glamorous four course gourmet luncheon, which is run in association with Action Cancer and food partner Marks and Spencer, accompanies trend forecasts, a mini fashion show and a mini masterclass from FASHIONWEEK’s hair, style and make up partners. SHU chefs will work with M&S to choose the very best of locally sourced produce and deliver a delicious meal while experts including British Hairdresser Hall of Fame member Paul Stafford will speak on how to style hair to last throughout the Winter.  Fashion on the day will include labels Milly, Pimko and Marc Aruel from Candy Plum boutique in Hillsborough as well as some key pieces from the luxury M&S Autograph range. The charity lunch costs £45.00 per person and places can be booked directly through the restaurant on 02890381655.

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.

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