Clothes aren’t going to change the world


Clothes aren’t going to change the world. The women who wear them are.”  Anne Klein

To spend a Thursday afternoon with Lesley Farrow and Jane Conlin is a pure joy, because they are women after my own heart. They are professionals.

If you needed to herd cats, they are the women you’d turn to and between the devil and the deep blue sea, they’d be your life raft; one handing out stylish and sustainable life vests and the other drinks, while steering a course for home. Organising the annual fashion show at the town hall, held last Thursday October 13, only took them about two weeks. Two weeks and a lifetime in the fashion industry. Lesley started at Harrods, moved to Jaeger and then to Fenwick, before opening Niche, her own boutique on Cinque Ports Street. Her business partner and husband, is the celebrated goldsmith and jeweller Peter Farrow (more of which another time). Looking down Jane’s CV you will find a chain of fashion boutiques, long before the title of councillor was added to her name. Her husband Lyn, also provided a vital role that evening, more of which later.

The autumn fashion show organized by Niche Fashion

Now in its ninth year, the show raises money for the Rye, Winchelsea and District Memorial Hospital and the Rye & District Community Transport service, currently numbering three buses. All the money comes from ticket sales for the event and a raffle on the evening. The PA system is Reg Marchant’s contribution and the mayor, Andi Rivett, donates the use of the town hall. The glass of prosecco on arrival, is where Lyn steps back into the picture.

On this particular afternoon, five models were rehearsing their clothes changes and running order. Each woman had been fitted to show five to six outfits, all from the boutique. Lesley’s focus is to emphasize how she buys her garments to flatter all different ages, sizes and shapes.

The skill of a leader is to motivate and bring out the best in their team and Lesley and Jane weren’t short of willing helpers, happy volunteers and enthusiastic supporters. Come 7pm, Lesley took to the microphone and lovingly described every outfit, from its origin, to its colour and its versatility. Relaxed and happy models, including Jane herself, paraded in front of a full house of spectators drawn from the town, the boutique and the hospital.

Jane Conlin takes to the catwalk at the autumn fashion show organized by Niche Fashion

The hospital is the other half of this story. Jane used to be on its committee. After meeting Lesley, they put their heads together and the idea of a fashion show was born. Paula Riley, the present Chair of the Fundraising Committee and Chair of the Friends, was in the front row and gratefully led the thanks, as Lesley was presented with a bouquet of flowers. So far these women, who would be embarrassed if I called them extraordinary, but I will, have raised about £12,000.

Lesley Farrow and Jane Conlin head the models who put on a very professional show in Rye Town Hall

They would also pull me up, very politely and correctly, if I didn’t mention everyone who helped them to make the evening possible. Sarah Jempson, Joanne Nye, Leila Jenkinson and Sally White modelled alongside Jane. The hats came from Herald and Heart on the High Street. And Christina Hurst, Olena Karabuliu and Suzanne Lewis all played their part.

Next year will be their tenth anniversary show and anyone who knows them won’t want to miss that; remember what Anne Klein said.

@nicheboutiquerye @ryehospital @heraldandheart


Image Credits: Chris Lawson .

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  1. Well done Leslie, Jane and your team of budding helpers for what was a lovely evening and such a worthy cause too! Looking forward to next year!


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