25 years of the Clothes Show

Charlotte Lilley looks back at 25 years of Birmingham's Clothes Show

25 years of the Clothes Show

Vinnie Jones opens the Clothes Show 1999

It began in the late 1980s and launched the careers of Erin O’Connor, Cat Deeley, Holly Willoughby and Vernon Kay.

And now Clothes Show Live is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Thousands of fashionistas young and old make the annual pilgrimage to the Birmingham NEC where the show has  made its home.

Check out our fave clothes show moments in our gallery:


The annual fashion exhibition was officially launched in 1989 in London following on from the success of Clothes Show TV which aired from 1986 until 2000.

The hit programme was produced by Pebble Mill Studios in Edgbaston and was originally broadcast as a way of bringing high fashion into the homes of the general public.

It was hosted by former newsreader Selina Scott and designer Jeff Banks, who were later joined by former fashion editor Caryn Franklin.

The exhibition has been held each December at the NEC since 1990 and is often compared to London Fashion Week, the only difference being the crowd who scream, clap and cheer as each model, especially the men, strut their stuff on the catwalk.

Over the years, it has charted the changing face of British fashion and visitors to the five-day event have seen a range of flamboyant outfits make their way down the catwalk, including oversized hats, fur coats, rara skirts and a £2,500 Ben De Lisi dress worn by actress and former wife of Liam Gallagher, Patsy Kensit in 2000.

Famous faces are often spotted in the front row, including stylist Gok Wan, TV presenter George Lamb, X Factor winner Alexandra Burke and Hollywood actor Vinnie Jones, who officially opened the 1999 show.

And many celebs take to the catwalk themselves, including model Jodie Kidd who has appeared in a number of striking outfits on the runway since the 90s, including a huge white faux-fur coat.

In 2003, socialite Tara Palmer Tomkinson graced the catwalk wearing a red mini dress, sunglasses and plastic boots, but she was upstaged by Caprice at the 2006 show who turned up in a pink ballet costume complete with tutu.

Katie Price even donned a white wig and sparkly silver playsuit with white over-the-knee boots at the show in 2009.

Popstars including The Saturdays, The Wanted, The Spice Girls, JLS, Blue, The Sugababes, Alesha Dixon and the late Amy Winehouse, have performed at the show and this year’s confirmed celebs include Peter Andre, TOWIE’s Amy Childs and Made in Chelsea stars Oliver Proudlock, Jamie Laing and Caggie Dunlop.

This year visitors will be given the chance to have their photograph taken with the stars in a paparazzi pen and there will be entertainment provided by Capital FM.

Managing director Gavin Brown has been involved since the beginning.

“Clothes Show Live has come a long way in the past 25 years,” he said. “I will never forget the first event that took place in 1989 where 40,000 people packed into the Olympia Exhibition Centre to see the first truly experiential exhibition in the country.

“We had mounted police on the pavement controlling the crowds which snaked around the whole block. Radio One even went on air to advise the public that if they didn’t have a ticket not to turn up and try and buy one on the door.

“Now we are at The NEC and can comfortably accommodate the 140,000 visitors that turn up over the five days of the show and we will incorporate Britain’s and Ireland’s Next Top Model Live and Take Me Out Live in the evenings.

“At its height The Clothes Show TV programme had around nine million viewers every Sunday night and was a British institution.

“Following a 13-year absence since the cult show, it has been brought back to life and since June it has been hosted by YouTube and is fronted by well-known fashion and beauty bloggers as well as up-and-coming talent.”

Last year’s show saw around 120,000 visitors spending up to £20 million over five days and this year’s show looks set to be even bigger.

To mark its 25th milestone, the exhibition is launching the first ever live stage version of TV’s Take Me Out with Paddy McGuinness.

Each day, 10 girls attending the show will be selected to join Paddy and 20 other contestants on stage. They will then be given the chance to chose from a selection of bachelors once the catwalk has finished.

Model agents including Select Model Management will also be circulating the arena seeking out girls with a look that could turn them into the next big supermodel.

Every year, thousands of hopefuls flock their in a bid to become the next big modelling star.

And for some now household names, the Clothes Show Live is where it all began.

Erin O’Connor was on a school trip from Brownhills Community School when she was scouted during a visit in 1995.

Since then, the Brownhills beauty has gone on to become a supermodel and has walked the catwalk for the likes of John Galliano, Christian Dior and Donna Karan. A 24-year-old Holly Willoughby was also spotted by model scouts at the show and has gone on to carve out her hugely successful presenting career.

So too has Cat Deeley. The Great Barr schoolgirl was discovered in 1990 aged just 14. Modelling opened the door to presenting and she has gone on to become a well known face on British and US television screens.

Likewise, Vernon Kay travelled down to the show from Bolton in 1998 and was signed up by a model agency.

The face of this year’s show is 22-year-old Jade Thompson from Stoke-on-Trent, who competed against thousands of hopefuls to be crowned the winner of TV show, Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model in 2011.

She said: “It’s a huge honour to be the face of Clothes Show Live 2013.

“I am a big fan of the show and was actually scouted while visiting in 2011. I am proud to be an ambassador this year, as the show celebrates 25 years at the forefront of the fashion of tomorrow.”

This year there will be a number of interactive stands and stalls selling 500 fashion and beauty brands as well as music products and upcoming designers will be showcasing their work.

There will also be fashion demonstrations, unique boutiques, tempting bars and stylists on hand to offer fashion and beauty advice and Caryn Franklin will also host a series of seminars and ‘how to’ sessions.

The show’s main attraction, is the fashion theatre, which hosts the world’s largest catwalk show and an array of spectacular music and dance performances.

A total of 40 models and dancers will showcase the latest high-street, designer, boutique and couture fashion collections and people will be able to watch hair and beauty tutorials backstage. Students will also have the chance to win educational bursaries and work experience placements with fashion labels including Nica and Fable Label.

Show director Maryam Hamizadeh said: “The Clothes Show Live Creative Awards programme provides up-and-coming talent with a unique platform to showcase their work with the opportunity to be recognised by leading fashion industry professionals.

“Students will have the chance to win educational bursaries and fantastic work experience placements. This year’s awards include a Young Artist Award, Young Journalist Award, Design a Print Award and a Make-up Artist Award, so if you’re looking to be the next big thing in the world of fashion then I would encourage you to check it out.” Up for grabs at this year’s show are cash prizes, trophies and the chance to have work published online and in partnering magazine titles, as well as the opportunity to participate in future Clothes Show Live shoots and events.

Over the years, 1.2 million students age 16-21 have attended the Clothes Show and previous award winners have gone on to secure work placements and jobs with industry leaders, including Asos, Monsoon and Marks and Spencer, as well as starring in modelling campaigns.

The show is the largest consumer fashion event in the UK and is the ultimate day out for both young and old fashionistas.

It promises something for everyone, with more high street brands than ever before and the chance to see some of the latest trends on the catwalk. Clothes Show Live runs from December 6-8, with tickets starting at £28.

For details call 0844 5811 256 or log on to www.clothesshowlive.com

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