HARROGATE-based couture designer Jillian Welch has created a selection of showstopping gowns exclusively for the Great Yorkshire Show. Inspired by the theatre of the catwalk, Jillian has used a range of different fabrics to create the gowns, with four revealed at a recent fashion shoot held on the Cowling family farm in Harrogate and four more waiting to be unveiled on the Kuoni Catwalk in the GYS Fashion Pavilion.

Jillian says it was a wonderful challenge designing the dresses. “Creating something a little bit different but which still has a connection to Yorkshire has been great fun. A beautiful gown can transport the wearer into someone else allowing them to step into a make-believe world for a few hours. That was what I wanted to capture for the catwalk. I want every woman there to think ‘I would love to wear that dress’.

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The 64-year-old has been designing and making clothes for 40 years. She started her career in London working for different designers while creating her own designs in her spare time. She is married to Julian, who is half Canadian and an active partner in the business, finishing garments with the beautiful covered buttons he both creates and expertly sews into place.

The couple decided to try life across the pond, moving to Canada where they lived for 33 years. While out there and finding her own work sold very well, Jillian decided to branch out on her own business-wise. The couple returned to England seven years ago, settling in Harrogate, and Jillian opened her own shop on Westmoreland Street soon after.

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The shop is open on Tuesday and Saturday and along with the bespoke pieces she creates for any occasion, there is a range of ready-to-wear garments which can also be altered to fit.

The Great Yorkshire Show’s Fashion section, which has been part of the three-day-event for more than 20 years, is set to get a makeover this year with a new presenter, new home and a new entrance, opening into the heart of the showground. There will be more seating around the Kuoni Catwalk and 7,000 visitors will now get the chance to watch this hugely popular show.

ITV Calendar’s Christine Talbot is the new presenter, an opportunity she said she was delighted to take up. “The Great Yorkshire Show is one of my favourite events and when I was offered the chance to present the fashion show I was delighted,” she says. Christine is being dressed by John Lewis for her new role.

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Joining Jillian as a debut GYS Fashion Show designer will be Yorkshire sheep farmer Sarina Dean. Looking at ways to diversify, Sarina decided to explore the different ways wool from her sheep could be used and started making capes for family and friends. Setting up Galijah - a fusion of her son’s Gabriel and Elijah’s names - the brand has gone from strength to strength with orders now coming from as far afield as America and Japan.

The family’s 250-strong flock is made up of several breed types and after trials with wool from their rare breed Manx Loaghtan sheep, which was a bit too coarse to dye the vibrant colours they needed, Sarina experimented with different wool types. The capes were sold mainly locally in the farming and equine community, but word soon spread and they set up a website for on-line sales, which also includes a range of dresses, skirts, gilets and accessories.

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“I thought about how we used our wool and investigated the idea of unique tweed capes," says Sarina. "Now, in order to keep up with demand, my mother has now become involved with the design and sewing process too”.

As well as finding the perfect fabric from the wool from their own sheep, Sarina is also working with Marton Mills, a traditional family owned weaving mill near Otley.

“We think our clothes are a little different to anything you can buy in the shops and we can’t wait to see the reaction of people at the fashion show at the Great Yorkshire Show," she says. "It’s all happening so quickly and we are very excited about the future”.

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Show Director, Charles Mills says: “We are delighted to be showcasing the work of a Yorkshire farmer on the Kuoni Catwalk. The show is one of the biggest agricultural events in the UK and it’s about showing the diverse way on life on farms throughout the country Sarina’s work does exactly that.”

The fashion show will be produced by Bernadette Gledhill with hair and make-up by students from the White Rose Beauty Colleges from across Yorkshire.

  • The 161st Great Yorkshire Show will be held on Tuesday July 9 to Thursday July 11 at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate.
  • The Kuoni Catwalk will take place each day at 11am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 4pm, with a one-off celebrity special on Tuesday, July 9, at 2:30pm. Tickets are on sale at https://greatyorkshireshow.co.uk/ticket-information/