Lenshina and I became friends as members of the local transition network and have a shared interest in the environment, Fairtrade and social justice. I had established BagAge in 2005, selling reusable shopping bags, many of them Fair Trade, as a response to the prolific use of plastic bags. I opened my first shop in Newcastle Emlyn in 2010 and the Fair Trade product range grew. My passion for Fairtrade led me to establish Newcastle Emlyn Fairtrade Group and we became a Fairtrade Town in 2014.
Lenshina had lived in Cardiff for many years working as an engineer for a large manufacturing company but dreaming of a more sustainable life in the country (and watching too many re-runs of the Good Life). She eventually made the leap in 2010 and since the birth of her beautiful daughter, we call her the Managing Director, had been looking for a sustainable and ethical way of earning a living that can fit around the demands of caring for a child.
One day I bumped into Lenshina while she was walking around the castle trying to get Ceridwen to sleep. We got chatting and decided that our unique combination of senior moments and baby brain were an ideal combination for a joint business. So Fair and Fabulous was born, if only someone had told me about Lenshina’s secret passion for dressing up!
Now I’m all for seeking ways to promote our business but it seems that Lenshina spends a lot of time using any excuse to get yours truly in some mad cap get up so that it can be blasted around social media in the vain attempt to draw people to the shop. Just look what she has made me do over the last three years.
It all started shortly after we moved into our current premises, 17 Sycamore Street. It was early October and Lenshina was already planning our first dressing up extravaganza, Halloween. It was a relatively sedate start to our dressing up exploits but we have developed our Halloween theme over the years. How I got persuaded to dress up as a cat I will never know, not a good look!
Each December Newcastle Emlyn is transported back in time with it’s annual Victorian Evening. This event has been running for over 25 years and remains as popular as ever so the first Wednesday in December the town throngs with people many dressing up in Victorian attire. For us, at Fair and Fabulous this is too easy and we try to take a sideways approach in our interpretation of ‘Victorian Dress’. For our first Christmas we did pantomime, a genre of seasonal entertainment that first appeared in Victorian times. So here we are as a couple of Pantomime Dames, it does help having chums in our amazing local theatre company, The Attic Players who loaned the costumes.
The following year we went all Dickensian, our shop was a homage to the story of A Christmas Carol and guess who drew the short straw? So there I was dressed as Scrooge with a very fine nightshirt, Long Johns and a sour expression. Lenshina made a most humble Bob Cratchet, I took the opportunity to be in character and was thoroughly mean to Lenshina through out the evening! Lenshina’s daughter, Ceridwen was an excellent Tiny Tim, her Dad, Ian, the Ghost of Christmas present and Fair and Fabulous friend and former employee, Elin was very regal in Victorian dress. Each year the Town Council runs a competition for best dressed window, best dressed establishment and best dressed lady and gent. We won the best dressed establishment for our efforts and I, as Scrooge, the best dressed lady?? I ask you!
Our last years efforts were also rewarded with 2nd place in the Best Dressed Establishment category. This time we drew inspiration from fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, classic tales that were popular with the Victorians. Ceridwen was a gorgeous Little Red Riding Hood, Elin Puss in Boots, Lenshina was Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, I was the shoemaker from The Elves and the Shoemaker and guess what, I won the best dressed lady again! I’ll confuse the judges next Christmas by being dressed in a woman’s costume!
Our most recent foray into dressing up was when the clock was turned back to the 1950’s, for the town’s Vintage Day on Easter Saturday. The weather was atrocious but it didn’t stop us having fun with the music and the petticoats, kindly loaned by Gabrielle of Gabrielle’s Gallery (she likes a bit of jiving!). Customers were really taken aback, they never thought we could look quite so sophisticated. However never fear, dear reader, I’m sure we will revet to our ‘off the wall’ ways at the next opportunity to dress up!