Valleys fashion project earns praise from Vogue | - South Africa News

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Children in black clothesImage copyright C Schneidermann/C James
Image caption The exhibition It’s Called Ffasiwn (Look it Up) offers a new view of Merthyr

The streets of Methyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent have been used to show that fashion can come from a world beyond New York, Paris and London.

Charlotte James worked as creative director for Stella McCartney, but she and a French photographer have been helping children in her hometown develop creativity and new skills.

The four-year project aims to “subvert stereotypes” of working class towns.

And Vogue magazine said it showed the area was “teeming with promise”.

Image copyright C Schneidermann/C James
Image caption Spring, Gurnos 2017
Image copyright C Schneidermann/C James
Image caption Demi, Bryn Farm, 2018

Aimed at children aged between eight and 14, Charlotte was eager to work in a community that “rarely gets an opportunity to experiment with, or be seen in,” the creative industries.

Workshops are aimed at building self-esteem through learning fashion industry skills such as customising clothes, sewing and styling, as well as creating ideas.

Image copyright C Schneidermann/C James
Image caption Nia (Valentine Disco Party), Gurnos 2018
Image copyright C Schneidermann/C James
Image caption Ghosts, Merthyr 2018

Photographs by Cardiff-based Clementine Schneidermann, showing the children and their creations, are in an exhibition It’s Called Ffasiwn for the project which began in 2015.

“The title came about after the first workshop and shoot,” said Charlotte.

“The girls were outside dressed up in their costumes and the boys on the estate were calling them names. Instead of being put off, the girls shouted back, ‘It’s called fashion, look it up!’

“The photographs show that while the valleys wear the marks of time, they’re no match for the elixir and hope of a new generation – the project is a celebration of this.”

Image copyright C Schneidermann/C James
Image caption Valentine Disco Party, Gurnos Social Club 2018
Image copyright C Schneidermann/C James
Image caption Summer Street Party, Merthyr Vale 2018

Charlotte said widespread access to the arts can be a problem because opportunities are often limited to larger cities where rents are high and internships are often unpaid.

“If your parents aren’t working in the creative fields then there’s no easy access to art and the creative industry feels far away and impossible,” she added.

Image copyright C Schneidermann/C James
Image caption Last Days of Summer, Blaenavon 2018

French photographer Clementine, who has lived in south Wales since 2012, said: “It was a really good decision to decide to stay in the valleys.

“We wanted to show that things can happen outside London.

“You don’t have to be in London, Paris or New York to make these kind of projects,” she told BBC Radio Wales’ Good Morning Wales.

And their project, organised with the help of the Gellideg Foundation Group and Coed Cae Interact, has been well received.

Vogue writer Laird Borrelli-Persson wrote: “Not only do these photographs challenge ideas of status, they take fashion out of its ivory tower, and literally on to the street, the housing project, and the lush valleys of south Wales, places far removed from centres of industry and sophisticated design ateliers.

“These hills are no less alive, however; in fact, they are teeming with promise and, yes, fashion.”

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