Kate Fearnley made-to-measure couture in the North-East fit for any occasion
Kate Fearnley finally has the work-life balance she’s always dreamt of thanks to the biggest creation in her career so far – baby Bob.FTER years of hard slog, fashion designer
The blond one-year-old who fits snugly on his mum’s hip is the perfect accessory for someone who’s spent almost 15 years making others look and feel their very best.
Looking happier than ever, Kate obviously has no plans to slow down with the launch of a spectacular new bridal collection to run alongside her occasionwear and prom gowns which was unveiled at a fashion show at Whinstone View in North Yorkshire recently.
“I 100 per cent believe in what I’m doing, all the ups and downs have got me to the point I’m at now. I went to college to do fashion and that’s what I’m doing more than ever. It’s been a steep learning curve to get here but I appreciate it now so much more.”
Bob’s arrival may have turned her life upside down in many ways but organised it in others – and not a moment too soon.
The Northumbria University fashion graduate started her own design and manufacturing business in January 2002, attracting celebrity fans from including Girls Aloud, The Saturdays, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and the cast of Hollyoaks.
But life in the early days was tough – with little money Kate made everything herself, put it in the back of her car and took her stock around local shops in the region, selling what she could.
She went on to open her workroom and boutique in what had been her father’s record shop and her grandad’s photography studio before that on Linthorpe Road in Middlesbrough town centre where’s she still based today.
In 1999 she won Ultimate Young Fashion Entrepreneur at The Cosmopolitan Ultimate Women of the Year Awards but the success meant she was making more made-to-measure designs than ever and for years worked a gruelling seven days a week.
Her flirty dresses in candy colours were stocked by retail giants Asos and Selfridges as well as 200 other retailers across the UK and Ireland but the unpredictability of the wholesale industry has prompted her to take back control and simplify operations by purely selling in-house.
Now 40, she said that, after nearly 15 years, she has come full circle and is back doing what she loves most – designing beautiful clothes.
Her latest bridal range incorporates classic pieces which are instantly recognisable as ‘Kate’ with a nod to the 1950s such as the asymmetric hemlines, bow details and keyhole backs which can be made-to-measure in a range of styles, lengths and colours.
But there are also exciting new designs – a couture collection that begs to be stroked – full of vintage inspired beading and embroidery in blush and taupe tones as well as ivory that are so exquisite that it’s tempting to tie the knot again.
Kate Fearnley Bridal - couture made-to-measure in the North-East. Photos by Natalie Pluck.
The boutique itself has had a make-over, instead of stepping inside a traditional bridal shop which can feel clinically white and austere, her version is relaxed with an eclectic personality – just like Kate.
“I’ve dipped my toes in the bridal market for a long time but I wanted to move it on and do something more creative. So now you can come in and choose something for a bride, the bridal party or a wedding guest from the classic collection that goes back five or 10 years or you can have something designed that’s completely new,” she explained.
“With these pieces we are showing exactly what we can do both technically and design-wise. Whether a bride chooses a dress that costs £250 or thousands it will be made to measure so it’s exactly what she wants.”
If her name is already very well known bridal and occasionwear market it’s renowned in the prom world as teenagers are treated to the exact same bespoke service.
“Proms are massive. We did 100 dresses this year which was double the year before and we’ve already taken bookings for 2017,” explained Kate, who lives in Yarm.
She promises her young customers exclusivity on the biggest night of their lives so far by ensuring no two girls at the same school appear in the same dress she’s made by carefully logging all orders in a ‘secret file’ which is kept hidden from prying eyes.
“I’ve dipped my toes in the bridal market for a long time but I wanted to move it on and do something more creative. So now you can come in and choose something for a bride, the bridal party or a wedding guest from the classic collection that goes back five or 10 years or you can have something designed that’s completely new.”
Kate said that since having Bob, her passion for running her own business was stronger than ever. “I 100 per cent believe in what I’m doing, all the ups and downs have got me to the point I’m at now. I went to college to do fashion and that’s what I’m doing more than ever. It’s been a steep learning curve to get here but I appreciate it now so much more.”
She added: “I used to work seven days a week and it was chaotic but now I’ve had to take a step back and be more organised, when I come in here I’m leaving Bob so it has to be worth my while.
“What I love most is when a customer walks in who’s maybe a bit wary and thinks the experience is going to be a bit intimidating but when they leave they give me a hug and tell me they’ve really enjoyed it. That makes me proud.”
Kate Fearnley Boutique, 224 Linthorpe Rd, Middlesbrough TS1 3QW
Call: 01642 227344