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What have we been up to?

Our blog has gone unchanged over the last year and this is mostly due to the fact that we've been really busy.

 

We have been working on a number of commissions to design and create wedding gowns for private clients; making samples of June's designs to showcase in boutiques and we've also successfully introduced our alterations service which breaths life back into previously loved garments and ensures new garments fit perfectly.

 

We have been making veils, fascinators, flower girl dresses, coats, day dresses and ladies tailored suits for a variety of clients.

 

In between all this, June has been helping out with a number of Theatre and Television productions at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, BBC3 Television, The Grand Theatre in Leeds and the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford. She has been assisting with their Wardrobe requirements for high profile Artistes and touring productions.

 

June was the Principle Costume Maker for the Dame character in the Sleeping Beauty Rock n Roll Pantomime at City Varieties Music Hall. The costumes were designed by the very talented Judith Croft Costume Designer.

 

Social Media – We love to chat

 

In response to having experienced a few technical problems with online messenger and customers missing text messages, we have been reviewing our options for communicating with existing clients, potential customers and suppliers.

 

We know people are busy and often want to send a message quickly and continue with their day. We understand this and hope that people will appreciate that our responses are often complex and require discussion either by telephone or in person. So much understanding can be lost in a cropped text.

 

To date the best form of communication for us has been by telephone with a follow up email to recap any details which have been confirmed. A telephone conversation ensures mutual understanding of requirements and provides an opportunity to address queries immediately. We know you would prefer us to be creating beautiful things instead of regularly checking social media for messages. We will update communication options on our facebook page in due course to encourage people to pick up the telephone.

 

We love to chat!

 

What's new?

The ready to wear range is developing and will be ready to showcase in 2018. More details will be offered as this range progresses.

FAST TRACK TO FASHION SHOW UJIA 2015

3 Weeks!

That's all the time we had from June meeting Jane [Show Co-ordinator] to the evening of the show.

A charity fashion show for United Jewish Israel Appeal (www.ujia.org), 12th November, with 10 female models for us to dress for the grand finale.

Each year June Parsons Designs chooses to support local charities and community events.  We have been touched by the many conflicts around the world and when Jane offered the opportunity to get involved with UJIA we felt compelled to say yes.  To those individuals who questioned whether involvement in this fashion show was the right move for June Parsons Designs, we say yes.  It wasn't for any political reasons.  Just simply for our human responsibility.  We are all responsible for the welfare of our fellow humans.  UJIA is investing in education and communities in Israel.  It is only through education and strength of good character that the world can peacefully move forward together. 

 

First things first. Can we do it? Yes, we can. Of course we can. And keep our standards? Hmm, it's going to be tough and challenging. It's going to be great. 

 

What size are the models? Who are the models? Are they professional or volunteers? That makes a difference. Professional models turn up, get measured and wait for you to put clothes on them like a coat hanger. They wear your clothes without question and get the job done. Volunteers come in with the high street fashion buyer's sense and opinions. They don't want to simply be your clothes hanger for 5 minutes. This is also good because you get a better idea of how consumers might feel when wearing your clothes.

 

Anyone can look decent in a standard shop bought wedding dress. But to carry off flamboyant individual designs with style and flair, you have to be self assured and comfortable in your own skin. Luckily, the volunteers were of this calibre.

 

The ten models drifted in over the next two weeks. Yes, you heard correct - two weeks. Did we mention we only had three weeks until the show? For a high street shop which stocks hundreds of other designer's dresses from factories, that's not a problem. But for a bespoke design business that only stocks a few samples because every design is a one off and made to order, that is a big challenge.

 

Eventually we had all the models' measurements and started to match samples to them. It soon became evident that our tall curvy samples did not match many of the petite models. We would need to make 6 full outfits, steam clean 1 sample dress, make 2 extra skirts to match 2 sample corsets and make an extra corset to match a sample skirt.

 

We were determined to stay true to our company values which include:

 

* Superior fit and finish – without enough time to do mock ups and extra fittings we just had to wing it with fit and go as near to standard sizing as possible. All our bespoke garments are lined and often interlined for maximum quality and have hand stitched hems. With one week to make the best part of 9 outfits, something had to give. We opted for fast fashion rolled hems on all the skirts and dress. It's not the end of the world; the hems can be hand finished at a later date for anyone who wishes to purchase the sample outfits.

 

* Uniqueness – The English Garden corset has proved to be a hit with our various audiences over the course of this year and one of the models for this show really liked it but it was far to big for her. It would have required an awful lot of work to adjust it so we set out to make another. To stay true to our Uniqueness value, we changed the flowers to an open cup white rose with Swarovski pearls in the centres and peach dog roses scattered across the lace. The original sample had antique pink roses and peony with Swarovski crystals in the centres and orange blossom scattered.

 

We arrived at the Audi showroom in Leeds which was our venue for the evening. It was 5pm precisely so we had plenty of time to establish ourselves in the changing area. We then found out that another bridal company was also taking part during the second half of the show. There goes our promised grand finale. June took it in her professional stride. These things can happen at the last minute. We hung all our garments up, set out corsets and tiaras on a table, stacked hat boxes on the floor and waited.

 

Our team for the night was made up of a fabulous Assistant Margaret Woodhead and Helen Coughlan the creative designer owner of Lady Rosemary's Hats. Helen had met with June in the early stages to discuss ideas for creating a set of fascinators and hatinators to compliment the outfits.

 

As the show played out it became evident that everyone was running behind time and our changing time was rapidly shortening with the delay of each suppliers scenes. We needed 9 minutes to dress the models. We got 3. Yes, I kid ye not. We got 3 minutes to dress 10 models in corseted outfits. We managed but the tiaras remained on the table.

 

The show must go on and the models were chivied onto the catwalk as one group. We had set them in order of 3 scenes with 3 music tracks but because of timing issues from previous scenes, our collection went out as one. Each scene would have had it's own description explaining the reasoning, style options and appropriate music track. It ended up being a mish mash of styles to one track, Diamonds Are Forever by Shirley Bassey. It didn't matter to the audience; their applauding and smiles confirmed this. They were captivated by the use of colours, embellishments and silhouettes.

 

Here's the plan for our scenes:

 

Scene 1 – Whimsical – for the playful little girl within us all

Sea Foam silk and flowers Victorian style corset with long fishtail skirt

Chartreuse silk corset with hand made lace decals, crystals and silk tulle skirt

1930s style ice blue silk dress with crystal detail

 

Scene 2 - Alternative – for second time brides & glamorous individuals

Black crystal corset and short organza skirt

Purple lace and crystal corset with long ballgown skirt

Black feather corset with bias cut skirt

 

Scene 3 – Traditional – for the ladies who simply must have a white wedding

White lace and crystal simple corset with long fishtail skirt

White lace and crystal Victorian style corset with long fitted fishtail skirt

Champagne gold dress with diamante belt

JP showstopper silk corset with dramatic ballgown skirt

 

Now we have evaluated the work, the show and written up lessons learned, as you do with these things. We have set aside the garments and they will become available to purchase over the coming months. More photos of the outfits will be added to the website soon. 

If you are interested in purchasing one of the samples please contact us for details. Email info@juneparsons.com Phone 07825587803.

 

June's team of 3 Seamstresses, 1 Milliner and 1 Assistant were brilliant at getting the collection together with such short notice.

 

Would we do it again? Of course.

 

What's next?

Avoca - Family history - Part 2

June went to the Avoca mill in Ireland with her family in May.  She was delighted to see the weaving process still in place with many of the original designs by the three Wynne sisters still being made.  June was able to see memorabilia including photographs of the sisters, letters from the Queen's palace for items received, original weaving tools along with original woven garments and blankets. 

Looking around the countryside, it's not difficult to see where the sisters got their inspiration from.  The landscape is a mixture of peat fields, rocky hills, stunning flower meadows and it has a micro climate which enables tropical plants to grow there.  The people are friendly and welcoming.  Avoca is a very large set up now with two main sites and some cafes.  As well as high quality clothing, Avoca produces food, drinks, stationery and accessories.  It has grown immensely since the days of the Wynne sisters took over the dying mill.  These days it produces fine woven fabrics including silks and these are often incorporated into the designs of June Parsons. 

Family Links to Avoca Handweavers, Ireland – Part One

Discovering Avoca

June Parsons has been incorporating Avoca fabrics into her creations for many years and her most recent creation Le Tour de Yorkshire outfit was made using a sublime Tweed green wool fabric from Avoca. The fabrics are superb quality with beautiful natural colours of heather, lavender, grasses etc. Much to June's delight, she recently found out that her family have profound links with the Avoca Handweavers.

Coming from a family of dressmakers and tailors on my mother's side, I'm pleased to discover there are also links to textiles on my husband's side of the family. Wonderful!” June Parsons

June will be travelling to Wicklow in Ireland at the end of May 2015 to learn more about the Parsons family history and its links to the Avoca Handweavers in Avoca village, Wicklow.

Avoca, a piece of history

Founded in 1723, the Avoca Handweavers produced cloth for local people. In the 1920s it looked like the mill was closing. The sisters, Emily, Winifred and Veronica Wynne (cousins of June's Father in-law, Robert Parsons) believed they could do something about it and developed it into a successful business. Emily Parsons (Robert's mother) told how they went to the Wicklow hills to pick heather to make dyes, so introducing colour into the fabrics. Their eye for colour was widely acclaimed, and they sold their products in Europe and America. They invented the car rug, most useful in the days before cars had all the comforts we know now.

The fame of their fabrics rose when they were used by an Italian designer, Elsa Schiaparelli. The material was also used for a waistcoat for King George VI and baby blankets for the children of Queen Elizabeth II.

The three sisters worked very well together, each having her own strength in one or more areas of the business. One of their talents was how they combined colours that very often reflected what they saw in nature. The tweeds were almost indestructible. They were wonderful, highly intelligent, versatile women – way ahead of their time in terms of `liberation'. They never married.” Graham Wynne (Grandson of their brother, Jack)

Graham Wynne's parents, Pat and Una Wynne took over the business in 1959 (after Emily died and Winifred and Veronica could no longer manage things due to age and declining health) and saved it from extinction. They kept it going as best they could, and continued to employ weavers until a property developer named Charlie Houlihan purchased Tigroney House (the three sisters' home), the land and the business in 1974.

The business now has a range of cafes, shops, visitor centre and weavers. Details can be found at their website www.avoca.com

Thank you Robert Parsons for details of the family history.

Part Two to follow after the family trip to Avoca.

Le Tour de Yorkshire Outfit

Aside from designing and making beautiful clothes, we love cycling for its health, sustainability, fun and social benefits. We also love our outfit inspired by Le Tour de France which set off from Yorkshire in 2014.

This weekend sees Le Tour de Yorkshire taking place over 3 stages in the beautiful county of Yorkshire.  Stage 1 starts today and in honour of this occasion, our Le Tour de Yorkshire outfit is now available to view on our website!

Here are some details about it. 

The outfit is made of fine green hand woven wool which reminds us of the Yorkshire countryside. The skirt is fully tailored and is teamed with a corset which has bicycle chain wheels attached with semi precious beads. The chain wheels have been processed to achieve a gold finish which is set off perfectly against the green wool.  We love the link between the metal chain wheels and Yorkshire's industrial past. 

The fascinator, shoes and clutch bag have small bicycle chain wheels and gold silk ribbon rosettes attached with crystals and semi precious beads.

The clutch bag was commissioned to the talented Sheila Wise.

More photos can be seen in the Gallery.

 

Current Projects

This month sees The Spiral Mill working toward finishing a couple of projects including a beautiful ensemble we have called English Garden.  It's a corset and skirt in Sea Foam green satin with lace, silk flowers, Swarovski crystals and leather adorning the front of the corset.  It brings to mind fresh spring meadows with blossomed trees. 

We have started a pair of 15th century stays (early British name for corset) in black satin coutil with a matching black fluid satin skirt for a New Year's Eve Dinner Dance.  The embellishment is being finalised and the finished stays will be a combination of contemporary and historical elements.

There are plans in the pipeline for a limited range of ready to wear corsets with optional matching skirts for 2015.  More on this as we progress forward.

Exciting future plans include a return visit for June to The Oxford Conference of Corsetry in August 2015.