Wednesday 24 February 2010

Belfast’s Fashion Souk: up- and recycled, handmade, and fashion conscious!

Belfast’s First Fashion Souk opened its doors for the first time on Sunday, 14 February 2010 in the Ulster Hall Lobby. This new exciting fair fashion market for second hand and handmade clothing runs on a trial basis for three months, during which it has to prove its worth for more funding, but it was about time that Belfast gets a proper clothes market!
Purls of Colour stall at the Fashion Souk (yes, and me…)

Our city certainly has plenty of charity shops to donate your unwanted clothes, but no dedicated market to sell your old darlings. Last month, I tried to sell some of my clothes at St George’s Friday market, but I realised quickly that most visitors there were more interested in bric-a-brac. If you want to sell your previously loved clothes, there are some shops that take vintage or designer clothes, like Déjà vu on the Lisburn Road, or the Rusty Zip on Botanic Avenue, but the Fashion Souk certainly fills a huge void. It gives fashion designers, artists and craftspeople an opportunity to showcase and sell their creations, and people who are clearing out their wardrobes can do likewise.

The Fashion Souk is Belfast’s first fair fashion market, intended to reduce the amount of clothing we throw away every year. Recently some powerful advertisements printed on Belfast Metro buses and black taxis appeared, telling us how many bus- or taxi loads of clothes we throw away each week. Scary!

The fashion souk is organised by Aly McElroy Jones, who organised the Changing Rooms, an initiative to make fashion fairer and more sustainable, and Belfast’s Stitch and Style workshops and fashion shows, where people have the opportunity to learn how to customise their clothes, and also see how customised and handmade clothes look on a catwalk. I’ve exhibited twice at the Stitch and Style shows, and have to say it is amazing to see your own creations modelled at a proper public fashion show.
‘As Pink as you can get’ Purls of Colour scarf modelled at the Stitch and Style Show, November 2009

Exhibiting and selling at the Fashion Souk was great fun, and it was amazing to see all the different stalls and creativity displayed there, for instance, there are belts made from bicycle tyres, rainskirts made from old tents, and rucksacks made from Coca Cola tins.
I have a whole list in my head of all the things I want to buy if I ever come into money.

And it wasn’t just Belfast stalls, since I spotted our very own CraftyIrelandTeam member Missy Bonkers from Galway, who was one of the crafters who had come up from the South. Team member Lilgreenshop from Belfast also was there as a customer, but we didn’t manage to meet up!

Running a stall at such an event is fascinating. As a non-driver, I am so used to bring my suitcase of knitted accessories to a stall, but this time, a friend of mine drove me, my knits and my boxes of second hand clothing to the souk. My non-driver mind forgot so many things I could have taken, like a big mirror and my wire mannequin. Still we set up, and I had a wonderful time chatting and selling to customers – although I did not sell any of my Purls of Colour creations. I did sell some of my previously loved clothes, and I am glad they found new homes, since I found it hard enough to part from them, even when I hadn’t worn some of them for years!

Chatting to some other traders, I heard the same thing again and again, namely how difficult it is to sell your handmade items, because people always expect to pay cheap chain store prices for everything. So I learnt that is really important to drive the handmade message home, to let people know what makes your item so special and more costly than chain store items. I find this quite difficult, since I am not a born seller, but I am planning to have some information at my next stall about the process of handknitting. And I will definitely bring a mirror…

The Fashion Souk is a great event for sellers and buyers alike. It showcases the talent of Ireland’s fashion community, and the buzz of creativity is infectious. It celebrates the joy of dressing up or down, of difference and wearing one-offs, and of shopping for clothes while you are doing your bit for the environment and reduce waste.

And it had cupcakes, which are the rage here in Belfast at the moment.

Dates of the next two Fashion Souks, which take place at Belfast’s Ulster Hall Lobby from 1-5pm:

Sunday, 14 March 2010
Sunday, 11 April 2010

For more information or to book a stall, email

There are also Stitch and Style workshops (no fashion show though) at St George’s Market on 6 March 2010.

For further information:


  1. I love Belfast, there's always interesting events going on! sounds like fun, well done lads!

  2. Thanks so much for this info, Ruth(?) I live near Newry and had no idea this event was happening in Belfast. Might try the next one, as it's only an hour away from me.

    (Didn't I meet you in Limerick's Bedford Row market? Your cards are great, and your clothes range is briiliant, too:)

  3. oh I like the sound of it, I wonder if I could convince my other half to drive up to it, will have to twist his arm lol :)


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