Belfast Telegraph

I was sure I looked so cool in my LBD and pointy stiletto boots...

By Frances Burscough

Looking back at some things I wore ten years ago, there are likely to be a few cringes Belfast Fashionweek has been in full swing this week and so as the Belfast Telegraph’s catwalk correspondent, I’ve been up to my eyes in all things à la môde, dashing from catwalks to computers to meet my deadlines.


Although it’s a bi-annual event, this season is extra-special because it marks the tenth anniversary which is certainly worth celebrating. After all, it’s not that long ago that something like this was virtually unheard of in Northern Ireland.

When I first arrived in Belfast in the late Eighties (from Manchester) the fashion industry here was really struggling. In fact, there really wasn’t one to speak of. I know this only too well, because at that time I was a designer myself and I just couldn’t find work.

It was pre-Victoria Square, pre-Castlecourt and very few of the big name fashion houses I was used to seeing across the water were present on our high streets. In order to get an idea of current trends you had to ascend the antique staircases of Anderson & McAuley or peruse the posh boutiques on Bloomfield Avenue.

As for actual design studios, they were few and far between, operated by individual designers with tiny budgets, and they definitely weren’t hiring.

So after spending the first year lugging my portfolio from pillar to post and scouring the job sections for anything even remotely connected to fashion design, I decided to change tack and became a fashion writer/illustrator instead. All of which explains how I got into this field in the first place (which people are always asking me!) and also why I’m so happy to see how far Belfast has come.

But back to Fashionweek and now that it’s in its tenth year you can safely say that the city is firmly established as a fashion capital on a par with many of its European counterparts.

And a lot can happen in a decade, particularly in terms of trends.

Florals, animal prints, modernist monochromes,

tartans, polka dots, Aztec, Hi-tech Fairisle, folklore, fluorescents, gothic, baroque, old romantic, new romantic, new age, crisp linens, stretch Lycra, preppy, tweedy, nerdy, nautical, geometric, drop-waist, high-waist, long and layered or micro-mini ... they’ve all been and gone and come back again once or twice at least in that time.

If I look back at some of the things I was wearing ten years ago, it’s likely there will be a few cringes. For example, when I first went to cover the shows it was super-cool to mix and match lots of different tactile textures and to sparkle or shine where possible in the process. Less wasn’t more. More was.

So a typical outfit might include a velvet jacket with fake fur collar, a bandage dress with cut-away panels that revealed glimpses of a micromesh bodysuit underneath; shiny patent boots with fishnets and lashings of statement jewellery. All topped off with bouffant back-combed hair and glittery make-up. It was all about making an entrance.

There have been some memorable entrances and exits along the way too, some of which I’d rather forget.

Back in the day, when Fashionweek’s opening show was held at the beautiful renovated Northern Bank buildings, I remember walking in and feeling quite confident that I looked suitably cool and trendy, wearing an LBD with pointy stiletto boots, my hair swept up into a Sixties-style beehive, jet black smoky eyeliner fringed with fluttering falsies and coral lipgloss.

As I sashayed in, with my glass of West Coast Cooler in one hand and a show schedule in the other, I glanced around to see who was there and whom should I see but Ivana Trump walking towards me from the opposite direction.

“Bloody hell! Ivana Trump!” I remember thinking. “That ageing socialite gets everywhere! I wonder who invited her?”... until I realised that the opposite wall was a full length mirror.

And that was the last time I wore my hair in a beehive.

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