“With our tenth birthday looming, I really wanted to do something special to celebrate”

Chloe James Lifestyle’s Donna Nichol discusses her celebration fashion show inside St Albans cathedral

Why did you decide to host a fashion show?

We have been putting on fashion shows twice a year for some time now, but they are normally held in a local restaurant and seat around 80 people. They regularly sell out way in advance and very often within 24 hours of the ticket release! With our tenth birthday looming I really wanted to do something special to celebrate a decade on the high street, so I started looking around for bigger venues and thinking of ways to put on an event that was reflective of our achievements.

How did it feel to host an event after all the lockdowns and uncertainty?

By the time we actually came to host the event it had been postponed three times due to the pandemic and we were actually 11.5 years old! It felt incredible to be in such beautiful surroundings with a wonderful audience who were really excited to be out. The good vibes were palpable!

Why did the choose the St Albans cathedral for the event?  

To me, the cathedral is the beating heart of St Albans whether you are religious or not. It’s the thing that signifies home to me when I spy it in the distance when I’m coming back from somewhere. The building is absolutely beautiful and I feel truly honoured to have been able to put on our tenth Birthday Fashion Show in its stunning South Transept.

How many guests attended?  

Over 220 guests attended including Alison Lowe MBE and Down Your High Street CEO Dan Whytock. Fifty front row ticket holders were treated to a limited edition Chloe James Lifestyle tote bag with gorgeous gifts inside from Black Colour DK, Estella Bartlett and Whiteleaf jewellery.

How many looks were included and how did you choose your models?

Twelve models aged in their 20s to 50s, from sizes 8 to 16 and all different body shapes, showcased 84 outfits going from casual to party. While I want the models to look stunning, I also want the audience to be able to identify with them and maybe think “wow, that looks great on her and she’s my age/body shape”. I want to push the fact that fashion and style is everyone. There are no age limits!

Did you have any contingency plans in place in case of covid cases?

I had more models than usual in case anyone caught the dreaded Covid. Two of them actually did, but thankfully were better by the time of the show! It was a close call though, and we could have managed with nine or 10 if we had to. I also had around 10 volunteers lined up to help and lost four of them in the last week. But everyone was incredible – it was definitely a team effort!

Who styled the models and how did you choose each look?  

Each model comes in for a fitting session two weeks before the show. I try to have an outline plan of looks I want to work through and style up outfits accordingly. These sessions take around 1.5 hours. When I’ve done everyone I work on the running order. This time I started with cosy, casual daywear and coats and worked my way through to full on party sequins!

Did customers pay for tickets and were they able to buy garments directly after the show?

Tickets were £35 standard and £45 front row. The event included a champagne reception, live music from STAJE (St Albans Jazz Ensemble), an hour-long catwalk show and pop-up shops from Chloe James Lifestyle and Scream Pretty jewellery (who were also celebrating 10 years in business!) plus goody bags for the Frow. We closed the shop at 3.30 pm on the day and from 4-6pm we moved a lot of it down to the cathedral. This was quite a feat as our boutique is on the first floor!

Are you planning to host another fashion show in the near future?  

I will probably do our regular spring/summer and autumn/winter events next year where we hold the catwalk show in a local venue and guests come back to the shop afterwards. Saying that, the cathedral event was fantastic and, of course, once you’ve done it once it gets easier!