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GFW19: From backstage to catwalk – Billie Rose Hart’s English heritage collection

5th June 2019

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When I meet Billie Rose, I think she’s one of the models as she’s wearing her blue painted oversized white coat, walking around to see how it flows in the dressing room.

When I ask who the designer is, she smiles and we start chatting.

Billie Rose Hart trying on a piece from her collection // Image credit: Camille Dupont

Billie Rose is a third-year student at the University of East London having come south from her native Lancashire. Although two of her relatives are artists, what really inspired her collection are the stories her grandparents told her about their pride of working in the mills, factories and mines of the north. Once the pride of Britain, much of the work in the North of England died with the decline of the mining industry, leaving near-indelible social scarring to match the landscape where evidence of digging is common. Rather than looking at this through a prism of sadness, Billie-Rose decided to transcribe the pride and history of the region and how it could regenerate. “I think that fashion could be a way to get new jobs there”, she tells us.

By doing more than just designing the collection she helps bring her story to life. She places fabric design and sourcing at the heart of her concept. By using local resources – the Mac she designed uses the same fabric as Barbour, some of the cottons were made in Huddersfield – she honours the skills that are still available in the area and the craftsmanship of the area’s workers. All of the materials are “sustainable and durable” and this works, each fabric feels strong and hard-wearing whilst demonstrating a clear flow and flair. She also asked her artist brother, Vince, to contribute. He’s the artist behind the painted bag, coat, and other items of clothing, making the collection even more personal.

Last changes before the rehearsal // Image credit: Camille Dupont

Her work breathes respect for the old and feels nostalgic whilst also giving a modern take on utility wear. “My collection is made to make those who wear it comfortable and powerful.” “The suit, for instance, is inspired by menswear”. For this piece, she incorporated parts from a worker’s tool bag, giving this a delicate shade lighter blue over the trousers, accentuated by the taped seams, softening the straighter shape of it.

Billie Rose also used the different classic 20th-century workwear shapes, slightly altering them to give them a modern edge; the classic boiler suit becomes a stylish yet practical piece with its bright yellow hand-painted apron bag and her rain-wear includes the all needed rain scarf turned hat and protective raincoats in incredible red brick colours.

It screams empowerment.

As Billie Rose starts putting the finishing touches to each outfit with the dresser, she demonstrates the practicality and simplicity of her designs, and looking around the dressing room, the models seem at ease with the clothes. They are comfortably walking around in them, not constrained in their movements and seem to genuinely enjoy wearing them. That’s where the strength of the collection lies. She went to the core of each piece and although her pieces are worn by women she says, “Men have tried them on too and it looked good on them too”, “I see them as being androgynous”.

When asked if she’s nervous about the show only one hour away, Billie Rose says with a big smile, “no, not really.” And why should she be? She’s already the director of Hanmattan Clothing, which she founded in 2009 and now has a global consumer base. She doesn’t strike one as a woman worried about her future. And I’m not nervous about her future either, with her impressive eye, confidence and boldness. She might just surprise those who thought that nothing more could come out of those northern mines.

Follow Billie Rose Hart on Instagram - @rosehrt

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Lead image Credit: Camille Dupont

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