Derry is a city with textiles and design in its DNA, and after a lull in the industry following the demise of the shirt factories, it is now slowly but surely beginning to make a resurgence.
In recent years local fashion and textile designers have established a strong, fast growing network of talented and ambitious creatives keen to establish the city’s reputation as an innovative and exciting design hub.
One of the main calendar highlights for local designers is Fashion Fest, an annual event that has gradually established itself as the biggest fashion showcase in the North West. Organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council the event is a springboard for new talent, offering the opportunity for designers to show new collections and gauge the local market.
This year’s show on October 19th promises to be as vibrant as ever, with an extra touch of glamour brought by designer Chloe Dougan, who will debut her new collection of Drag Wear designs on the night. Not something you see every day at fashion events, but an exciting display of daring avant-garde design.
Since starting out in the industry Chloe followed the traditional path, developing a range of elegant and more conventional collections, but with her new Drag Wear label ‘Call Me Sophia’, she’s able to push the boundaries of style even further.
“I studied Fashion and Textiles at UUB, and after graduating I became Artist in Residence at the Duncairn Arts Centre and have since taught sewing classes and launched and developed my own clothing and design business,” Chloe explains.
“I’m hugely influenced by fabrics and textures. I love to work with lace as I love the detail and the embellished look it gives to an outfit. My pieces are recognisable because of this detail! I love to create show stopping pieces that really make an entrance.”
Always keen to try new things, and not afraid to come up with some more challenging style statements, Chloe decided to explore the opportunities within the growing Drag and Costume business.
“In every collection I’ve made I always include some more daring or ‘out there’ pieces. “These pieces are perfect for Drag and Costume and so I decided to split my business into two sections. The ‘Chloe Dougan’ side creates more elegant, demure pieces and the ‘Call Me Sophia’ side - the name of my Drag and Costume business - showcases my more avant-garde creations. This way I am able to show more aspects of my creativity in different ways.”
With a different market comes different demands, and Chloe is enjoying the freedom afforded by a more flamboyant approach to fashion.
“There are no limits to the shape, colour or style of my Call Me Sophia pieces which is why I love the freedom of designing and working in this industry,” she reveals.
“The bigger, more detailed the outfit the better - each one is totally unique and can take up to 40 hours work. Each look is embellished with rhinestones, ostrich feathers, pearls, gems or lace which makes them show stopping and beautiful.
“I’ve been so happy that this side of my business has taken off, I have clients from all over the UK and Ireland enquiring about looks. I’m booked up months in advance and I’m totally loving each new challenge along the way. It’s just been amazing so far!”
With a keen audience of dedicated followers of fashion already snapping up the seats at Fashion Fest, Chloe is confident that the event is the ideal platform for her fabulous new collection.
“The talent of our NI drag queens is incredible! I think Fashion Fest is a great and fun way to incorporate drag and fashion in a playful and entertaining way, showing some very glamorous and captivating looks on the runway.
“I’ve been so lucky to have such great support in the first year of my Drag and Costume business and I’m confident this can only get bigger and better! I would love to design for some international Queens and have my work shown all over the world.
“This year I’m thrilled that my work will be reaching an even bigger audience when it features on the RuPaul Drag Race UK in October! I’m really excited to see where this now takes my brand.”
Tickets for the event are available online now at derrystrabane.com/fashionfest and via Eventbrite priced £18.50 Standard / £15 Students. A limited amount of VIP tickets are available to purchase at £25 which includes reserved seating/VIP Goodie Bag and Bar waiter service. Complimentary refreshment and Goodie bag on arrival on all tickets purchased.