London Fashion Week

A WOKING designer is poised to expand her business after a successful first appearance at London Fashion Week.

Vaishali has developed a reputation for timeless elegance with a contemporary twist, producing special occasion and bridal outfits through her label Vz Perfection. She provides a home service for clients looking for anything from a wedding dress to a prom gown or a work suit, and her designs can be seen at the weekly craft market in Mercia Walk, where she has had a stand for the past 14 years.

A showstopping ensemble is modeled on the London Fashion Week catwalk

The designer studied at Guildford College after moving to Woking from India 18 years ago.

In June this year, Vaishali was called by her former tutor, Sam Jones, inviting her to showcase her work at London Fashion Week.

She accepted immediately and, at the show last month, presented her Dragonflies collection with hand-printed images of the insects embroidered on to garments created from silk and infused with Georgette and Chiffon.

Vaishali said that dragonflies are a symbol of strength, hope and change, especially for women.

“Fashion to me, is an expression of personality. I wanted to celebrate the way I am and create garments I would wear – something new but classic, for all ages, which could not be found in the high street.

“As I worked on my collection, it felt more about the empowerment of women, of self-discovery and growing confidence – not just for me.”

Vaishali’s clothes are designed to be practical as well as stylish

Vaishali is a strong advocate for sustainability and Fairtrade and uses ethically-sourced natural fabrics.

Vaishali took 16 outfits to London Fashion Week and stuck to her theme of practical clothes that can be worn by women of all sizes.

“London Fashion Week was overwhelming. There were seven designers and initially I was number four. But when they saw my ‘showstopper’ outfit, I was moved to last place because they said ‘we can’t show anything after this’.”

One of the highlights for Vaishali was having her designs modeled by broadcaster Charlie Webster, who is a friend of the designer and her IT account manager husband Kishore.

Designers have to be invited to London Fashion Week and the organisers have indicated that Vaishali will be back next year. “I also hope to go to Milan, but Woking is what has made me and where most of my customers are and I want to be recognized by the local community,” she said.

For the full story get the 10 October edition of the News & Mail

A FORMER Woking teacher has found a second career as a catwalk model, travelling the world and appearing at London Fashion Week.

Michelle Ball, who worked at The Hermitage, Sythwood Primary and Horsell Junior, was spotted by a photographer two years ago and has returned to a modelling career she started at the age of 14.

Michelle strikes a pose

After first being discovered at Guildford railway station, Michelle spent two years as a model before she left to focus on her education and eventually moved into teaching.

Now aged 37, Michelle travels to countries such as Austria and Belgium and recently took part in  the week-long fashion highlight in London.

“When I was younger I did a few catwalks and really enjoyed it but had to put modelling to one side,” Michelle said.

“Then the opportunity came again and I didn’t want to be one of those people who looks back and thinks, ‘what if?’”

Michelle has a four-year-old son, Josh, who sometimes goes with her to shoots.

Michelle modelling for Sebastian Cartier

“Josh is the main reason I left teaching, as my work-life balance wasn’t very good due to the ever increasing amount of paperwork and admin I had to take home with me. I am now lucky enough to be able to choose how often, where and when I work; I fit my modelling around my son and I now have a great balance, especially when my son gets to join me on set.”

Michelle is thoroughly enjoying her new life but in many ways misses her time as a teacher.

“It’s something I’d always wanted to do since the age of about 5, and I miss the children terribly,” she said.

For the full interview and pictures get the 28 February edition of the News & Mail