Look Book launches first capsule collection

Words by:
Caroline Bingham
Featured in:
April 2013

Two fashion graduates from North Lincolnshire have just launched the first collection for their fledgling fashion label, Stella & Alf.
Charlotte Hay from Healing and Paris Hodson from Caistor may have grown up only a few miles apart but they didn’t meet until Paris volunteered as a model for Charlotte’s graduate show at Westward Ho College, Grimsby.

Paris was just completing her own fashion foundation course at Hull College of Art and Design and the two girls have been firm friends ever since.

“We just clicked,” explained Charlotte, “in that we both have a similar philosophy about fashion and even then we spoke about the possibility of one day launching our own label.”

Initially courses and careers took them to London. Charlotte studied a design and marketing degree at the London College of Fashion and then worked alongside a freelance fashion and celebrity stylist, styling for the likes of You Magazine and celebrities such as Dannii Minogue for X factor. Paris meanwhile studied for a fashion design BA at Westminster University. A work placement with designer, Sophia Kokosalaki gave her experience in a design studio and the confidence to move to Edinburgh to help launch a footwear concept store, Shhh… shoes.

“We registered the company in January 2012 and I moved back to Lincolnshire last spring,” continued Paris. “The inspiration for the label’s name came from my grandparents Alf, a Grimsby fisherman and Stella his wife. Although their lives were far removed from the fashion world, it was the value they placed on their clothing as an investment and classic design which withstood the test of time which matched our own ethos.”

The care labels on all of the pieces in their first capsule collection bear the legend, ‘Made in Lincolnshire’ and since the beginning of the year Stella & Alf has been based in a studio at William Blyth Artisan Centre at Far Ings, near Barton.

Their Look Book illustrates beautifully their aims to slow fashion down and restore the emphasis to quality of fabric, design and finish. The designs are contemporary, elegant and transcend age.

Charlotte explained where they are sourcing their materials: “We wanted to break our supply chain down to buy as locally and environmentally soundly as we could. Our wool crepe is manufactured in the UK while the wool yarn for our knitwear is from Bluefaced Leicester sheep and is spun in Yorkshire.”

Other materials, including the linen, is from EU countries, so that the girls can be assured that it has been fairly traded, organically produced where possible and ethically traceable in its production.

Paris and Charlotte have carefully researched which pieces might make up an ideal capsule wardrobe and out of the fifteen garments in this first collection their top five are a tailored trouser, a tailored jacket, blouse, shift dress and jumper. Additionally there is a T-shirt and pencil skirt which could equally be interchanged. A super soft cotton top has already made the headlines by being worn by Mary Portas (see side panel). The Look Book includes models from three generations; an eighteen-year-old, a thirtysomething girl and a lady in her mid seventies. All wear the collection with their own style and a selection of jewellery by Daniella Draper showing the versatility of the design and its timelessness.

This clean and minimal quality begins with Paris’s pattern cutting, to toile and finally to beautifully crafted stitching, seams and finish.

Paris and Charlotte sell their clothes through fashion parties and pop-up events and are looking to take on a local seamstress to work in the studio. Clients can call in Monday-Friday 11am-4pm to view the collection and a bespoke design service is available. Seasonal, limited editions will be added to the core collection but never straying from the girls’ commitment to keep it local and sustainable.

Stella and Alf must be bursting with pride to have inspired this budding fashion house.

Charlotte and Paris have received a handwritten thank you card and a Twitter mention from Mary Portas after her recent visit to Portas Pilot town, Market Rasen. Hearing she would be making the trip, the girls contacted Sarah Lamballe, who manages PR for the project and sent one of their super soft cotton tops to be presented to Mary. The result has been her enthusiastic endorsement of the item from their capsule collection. She wrote:

‘I get given many things (I know I’m spoilt) 80 per cent of the stuff goes to my charity shop. However, your beautiful top is on me now. I love it. What a talent you are. Kindest Mary’

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