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By George! What a lucky break for young designers
TUCKED away in a picturesque corner of the Cotswolds, a fashion mastermind is hard at work.
After more than 50 years in the fashion business, George Davies the founder of clothing chain Next, the creator of Asda’s hugely successful George range and Marks and Spencer’s Per Una, is showing no signs of slowing down.
The 71-year-old, who has 80 FG4 stores in the Middle East and is expanding his range of children’s and womenswear to the USA, is getting ready for Cheltenham Fashion Week.
Inspired by students at Prince Henry’s High School, in Evesham, at a recent prize giving ceremony, George said he wanted to give something back to the community by getting involved in the event.
Just as he does with his clothing lines, George is taking a hands-on approach to his role as a judge during fashion week, and has already been down to see the set up at Gloucester College. He will be judging three student fashion shows and is offering top prizes including a day in London with one of his designers and a week’s work experience at his design studios in Draycott, near Campden.
It is the first time he has taken part in the event and is looking forward to seeking out some new talent.
“Young people are very important,” he said. “It’s easy to give money but it’s more important to give time. I’m always very open, particularly if it’s local.
“I’m really looking forward to it. Who knows?
“I might find the next George Davies. My business will always be a young people’s business.
I’ve never become stuffy and old. I just love it.”
Originally from Southport, near Liverpool, George moved to a farm near Broadway 22 years ago.
He opened his Draycott design hub, just outside Blockley, in September 2001, at the same time he launched Per Una at Marks and Spencer.
It seems fashion and Blockley go hand-in-hand – in the 18th century the village was famous for its silk production with six mills, which were powered by the fast-flowing Blockley brook.
They provided work for about 600 people who prepared silk for ribbon-making factories in Coventry. The silk mills may no longer be in use, but George and his team are hard at work on next year’s spring collection.
And if his upcoming projects were not enough, the opening of a new Italian restaurant, Prego, in Broadway will keep him busy for the next few months.
He says the restaurant, which is due to open in early November, will have a “relaxed” lunchtime menu with a more formal evening offering.
“Twenty years ago I bought a restaurant in France,” he said.
“What I’m trying to work out is how to arrange a service where local people can be picked up and taken home at the end of the night.
“Watch this space,” he said.
Cheltenham Fashion Week runs from Monday to Friday.
To find out more about events and tickets, visit cheltenhamfashionweek.