A season of firsts, celebrating the Emerveiller Fashion Show: a dazzling success.

The task of the Creative Lives' Creative Shout Out programme was to shine a light on Black creativity in Sheffield.

For a seasoned Sheffielder this was a season of firsts: finding Nigerian Salsa enthusiasts; a refugee theatre group; a Somali women’s sewing group who welcome all comers; and an international choir that sings in many languages. Then there were the local craft group get togethers that made live radio while meeting in the Radio Sheffield radio theatre, and Creative Lives-run workshops on writing and podcasting. And then there was the discovery of a growing network of young, mostly Black fashion creatives. 

The celebration of this discovery led to more firsts. It was the first time Creative Lives has been directly involved in helping to host a fashion show which took place at Sheffield Cathedral in April 2024. For many of these mainly young, mainly northern, Black fashion designers involved, it was their first time sharing their collections in Sheffield, to an audience of close to 300 and at such a prestigious venue. 

"I am still in awe after the stunning display at the ÉMERVEILLER FASHION SHOW! Every moment was truly filled with wonder, captivating us all with incredible designs and unforgettable creativity."

For our Community producer, Jennifer Vernon Edwards, it was also her first time to help to project manage a team of amazing fashion creatives. Over 6 months Jennifer worked with Paris Hendricks, Streetwear fashion designer Desmond Nwose, afro hair champion Saiphty Currie, and Dean Abi Thompson from Sheffield Cathedral to help hone and shape their vision to host a fashion show. The event left the gathered crowd awed, making good on their promise to offer Emerveiller a sense of 'wonder'.

Jennifer also tried her hand at stage-management, supporting a backstage team of around 150 people; dancers, models, designer teams, hair and makeup artists, photographers and videographers!

"It was a thrilling experience. I loved witnessing the joy of brand designers showcase their designs and marvel at each other's creativity. Seeing these, volunteer, but incredibly professional models facilitate showcasing original designs, and implement all they had been learning from model trainer Destiny Umaru was incredible."

"It was amazing to see it all coming together; hearing the music and other elements of the show enhance the visual spectacle (choirs, soloists and dancers), and to work alongside the brilliant Sheffield Cathedral events team, and ultimately follow talented young people taking a creative aspiration from start to incredible finish!"

Connections and next steps

There is much creative convergence to celebrate here: not just a great show and amazing audience figures, but the connections and partnerships which formed as a result are a gift. Designers and creatives met and connected, and Sheffield Cathedral was warmed by a rich 'congregation' of creatives and fashion enthusiasts diverse in age and ethnicity and so delighted by the experience. Many stayed well beyond the event's end, captivated by that very real sense of Emerveiller.

BBC Radio Sheffield benefitted from some great content in the form of interviews from those involved: designers, models and supporters. And the organising team uncovered new cheerleaders and encouragement, not least from Creative Lives and the their project Creative Shout Out focussing on creativity in Sheffield’s Black Communities.

We are extremely grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund for their support for this project.