Belfast's only fair fashion market, the Fashion Souk, has been running every second Sunday of the month for the last 6 months, and will open its doors again this Sunday from 1-5pm in the Ulster Hall.
Brigitte of Purls of Colour has been selling at the Souk since it started trading on 14 February 2010, and loves the great atmosphere, the comradery amongst the traders, and the chats with the customers. So she decided to dedicate another article to the Souk (the first one is here) and spoke to two people about what makes Belfast's Fashion Souk so special.
The Green Stylist and Souk Organiser, Alyson McElroy Jones
Aly's passion is to make people "engage with their wardrobes", so that they really think about what they are wearing, where the items come from, and to consider the environmental and social impact of their buying choices. "Only when you see the designer-makers of clothes do you get an idea of the work that goes into a piece of clothing or accessories", she states enthusiastically.
Aly started the Souk in 2008 as a name and an idea, namely to introduce young upcoming designers to the Irish market through fashion shows and PR for local designers. In December 2009, Trans became interested in promoting Irish designer-makers through a market, and the first fair fashion market in Belfast was born on a three-month trial basis.
This trial-experiment has now gone from strength to strength, and the Souk attracts over 600 vistors a month. Aly emphasises that there definitely has been a shift in thinking in the last two years. When she started talking about green styling, many people would not buy second hand, while now they do. The recession certainly had an impact on buying patterns.
1960s floral house dress, The Little Blue CottageFunding for the Souk has now stopped, so the market is self-financing, and needs the support of designer-makers, sellers and visitors more than ever:
"The Souk is really important, because it opens people's minds to second hand and locally made fashion", emphasises Aly. "It is the only fair fashion market in Northern Ireland, it is accessible and regular. The Souk is unique, because it is a market solely dedicated to fashion and accessories, and offers something different and unique to the shoppers.
Lace tea dress dated c.1915, made with Alençon lace, The Little Blue Cottage
Asked about future plans for the Souk, Aly is hoping to open a second souk on a different Sunday in the North Coast area, and also eventually one in the Armagh/Newry area. She also wants to offer green styling on a regular basis, and is hoping to have the Belfast Souk not just on a Sunday, but as a monthly weekend market.
For the Christmas shopping season, Aly plans to open a pop-up shop in Belfast for a week.
This might be something for Etsy Ireland to get involved in?
Etsy Sellers and Stallholders at the Souk, Cerian and Jemima of The Little Blue Cottage
The Little Blue Cottage sells vintage clothing, handmade vintage inspired items and recycled reworked fashion. Their products reflect the ethos of the Fashion Souk. Two sisters, Cerian and Jemima, travel two hours from Leitrim in the Republic of Ireland to sell at the Fashion Souk each month.
1970s Milkmaid style wedding gown,
The Little Blue Cottage
The Little Blue Cottage
Cerian explains why: "There is limited opportunity to sell vintage and handmade fashion locally to us so events like The Fashion Souk provide a good opportunity for us to expand our online business and meet new customers! Because the Fashion Souk is a monthly event, it means that customers in Belfast can come back and see Little Blue Cottage regularly. If someone is looking for something specific, they know where they can come and talk to Little Blue Cottage in person."
Cerian adds: "We also find that we get quite a few people signing up to our newsletter on our website in the days that follow each Souk, so it is good PR as well as a profitable day."
1920s olive green flapper dress, The Little Blue CottageCerian will be bringing some of these items featured in this article to the fair with them but they will all be available in the Etsy shop over the coming weeks. She will have plenty of bargains and reductions at the August Souk, because she needs to make some space before her baby arrives in September.
So come along to the Fashion Souk this Sunday to update your late summer/autumn wardrobe. Support the Souk, support the Sellers!
Aly also has a green fashion and lifestyle show every Saturday morning from 10-11am on Feile Radio. It also has its own Facebook Page.