Sunderland duo open fashion studio above bookies

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Success in the fashion world is a sure bet for best friends Jacqueline Marlee and Fay Winwood – Alison Goulding reports.

A FASHION studio above a bookies in Wheatley Hill? Why not? say Sunderland graduates Jacqueline Marlee and Fay Winwood.

Marlee and Fee Printed Apparell.  Fay Winwood and Jacqueline Marlee, right.

Marlee and Fee Printed Apparell. Fay Winwood and Jacqueline Marlee, right.

 Like a growing number of young people, Jacqueline and Fay have found an uncoventional way to make their career dreams come true.

 Swerving the expensive rents and soaring overheads that murder start-ups, the canny pair negotiated the use of the upstairs room of Johnny Ridley bookmakers, on Wheatley Hill Front Street.

 Now they are entering the third successful year of their fashion label Marlee and Fee, which includes t-shirts, tops, bags and jumpers hand-printed by the creative duo.

 The seeds of the venture started when the two collaborated by chance on a university project to design a magazine.

 Both were studying fashion, product and promotion at the University of Sunderland.

 Fay, 24, explained: “It was coincidence, really, because the day we were asked to partner up my good friend was off. Me and Fay just looked at each other.”

 Jacquie, 26, said: “I’d done a Foundation course at the London School of Fashion so I arrived in the second year of the Sunderland course as the new girl.

 “When I teamed up with Fay we realised we worked so well together. We like doing different things.

 “The other bond is that we were obsessed with The Hills (a reality tv show set in LA following the lives of fashion interns) and I had a Blackberry.”

 Fay, who lives in Shotton, said: “I was so jealous of that Blackberry! Even now I could sit and watch The Hills all day. We loved Lauren Conrad, we loved the lifestyle, the clothes – everything about it.”

 The two friends graduated in 2011 and set about starting their own label, which quickly outgrew their respective family homes.

 Fay said: “We were toying with the idea of doing our own thing but we didn’t know where to start, so we approached The Prince’s Trust.

 “Our mentor there organised for us to do a week of business study to develop our plan and think about attracting customers and marketing.

 “We just knew we wanted to make clothes and print them. They sat us down and said: “Ok, you need to start with t-shirts and bags.”

 “We’ve developed so much since then, but we’ve kept the first t-shirts we made.

 “Gradually, we learned what people like and improved the quality and design.”

 Fay said: “We were moving everything between our houses and it was getting way too much, so we decided we had to get some kind of studio.

 “We didn’t want to pay as the Prince’s Trust had warned us not to get locked into renting an expensive space. They taught us to keep our overheads really low and manageable.

 “My dad works for Johnny Ridley bookies and mentioned they had an empty room upstairs. I came to have a look at it was so us. It was perfect. We moved in just before Christmas. It’s rent-free, which we’re so thankful for, but if they ever need to store something up here we make it fit.”

 Jacquie and Fay started out by taking their designs to Newcastle’s Sunday Quayside Market.

 Jacquie said: “The first time a lady came over and bought something was great. We were so new to it we didn’t think we should make her actually pay. We felt we should just give her the t-shirt!”

 Fay added: “After that we looked for constant feedback from family, friends and customers about what they liked.

 “We started with two t-shirts and a bag and then signed up to take our business to the Clothes Show, at which point we realised we needed much, much more.”

 Jacquie and Fay then arranged a contract with American Apparel, buying their base clothes and then redesigning and reprinting them under the Marlee and Fee brand.

 Fay said: “We did very well at the Clothes Show and it was really useful to talk to the other businesses.

 “After that, we launched the website and ASOS approached us and asked if we wanted to sell in their marketplace.”

 Just like at university, their skills compliment each others.

 Fay said: “I’m good at detail. I’ll work on one small thing and Jacquie will storm on and print 1,500 t-shirts. I can’t decide things but Jacquie makes me hurry up. We don’t argue at all.Then we do the photography together. We’re building it slowly but surely.”

 As well as starting the business, Jacqueline had her daughter, Lola, eight months ago.

 Far from being overwhelmed, she feels motherhood and self-employment go hand in hand.

 Jacquie said: “It’s worked out so well. I had been working part-time at River Island, so after my shift I’d be rushing here and there trying to get everything printed and done. Since I had Lola I’ve been able to focus just on Marlee and Fee.

 “I’m actually quite laid back and my mum Maureen and partner Neil really help with Lola.

 “Neil has pushed us a lot. We’ve been really lucky. We get good support.”

 Now the girls have started collaborating with Durham Creatives, a mentoring scheme, to spread the word about their label.

 Fay said: “They’ve been really helping us to capture customers and get the word out there.

 “Our dream is to see our brand selling in stores as a concession. We really love selling our clothes at markets too, so we’d like to keep doing that.”

l For more information, fisit www.marleeandfee.co.uk A FASHION studio above a bookies in Wheatley Hill? Why not? say Sunderland graduates Jacqueline Marlee and Fay Winwood.

 Like a growing number of young people, Jacqueline and Fay have found an uncoventional way to make their career dreams come true.

 Swerving the expensive rents and soaring overheads that murder start-ups, the canny pair negotiated the use of the upstairs room of Johnny Ridley bookmakers, on Wheatley Hill Front Street.

 Now they are entering the third successful year of their fashion label Marlee and Fee, which includes t-shirts, tops, bags and jumpers hand-printed by the creative duo.

 The seeds of the venture started when the two collaborated by chance on a university project to design a magazine.

 Both were studying fashion, product and promotion at the University of Sunderland.

 Fay, 24, explained: “It was coincidence, really, because the day we were asked to partner up my good friend was off. Me and Fay just looked at each other.”

 Jacquie, 26, said: “I’d done a Foundation course at the London School of Fashion so I arrived in the second year of the Sunderland course as the new girl.

 “When I teamed up with Fay we realised we worked so well together. We like doing different things.

 “The other bond is that we were obsessed with The Hills (a reality tv show set in LA following the lives of fashion interns) and I had a Blackberry.”

 Fay, who lives in Shotton, said: “I was so jealous of that Blackberry! Even now I could sit and watch The Hills all day. We loved Lauren Conrad, we loved the lifestyle, the clothes – everything about it.”

 The two friends graduated in 2011 and set about starting their own label, which quickly outgrew their respective family homes.

 Fay said: “We were toying with the idea of doing our own thing but we didn’t know where to start, so we approached The Prince’s Trust.

 “Our mentor there organised for us to do a week of business study to develop our plan and think about attracting customers and marketing.

 “We just knew we wanted to make clothes and print them. They sat us down and said: “Ok, you need to start with t-shirts and bags.”

 “We’ve developed so much since then, but we’ve kept the first t-shirts we made.

 “Gradually, we learned what people like and improved the quality and design.”

 Fay said: “We were moving everything between our houses and it was getting way too much, so we decided we had to get some kind of studio.

 “We didn’t want to pay as the Prince’s Trust had warned us not to get locked into renting an expensive space. They taught us to keep our overheads really low and manageable.

 “My dad works for Johnny Ridley bookies and mentioned they had an empty room upstairs. I came to have a look at it was so us. It was perfect. We moved in just before Christmas. It’s rent-free, which we’re so thankful for, but if they ever need to store something up here we make it fit.”

 Jacquie and Fay started out by taking their designs to Newcastle’s Sunday Quayside Market.

 Jacquie said: “The first time a lady came over and bought something was great. We were so new to it we didn’t think we should make her actually pay. We felt we should just give her the t-shirt!”

 Fay added: “After that we looked for constant feedback from family, friends and customers about what they liked.

 “We started with two t-shirts and a bag and then signed up to take our business to the Clothes Show, at which point we realised we needed much, much more.”

 Jacquie and Fay then arranged a contract with American Apparel, buying their base clothes and then redesigning and reprinting them under the Marlee and Fee brand.

 Fay said: “We did very well at the Clothes Show and it was really useful to talk to the other businesses.

 “After that, we launched the website and ASOS approached us and asked if we wanted to sell in their marketplace.”

 Just like at university, their skills compliment each others.

 Fay said: “I’m good at detail. I’ll work on one small thing and Jacquie will storm on and print 1,500 t-shirts. I can’t decide things but Jacquie makes me hurry up. We don’t argue at all.Then we do the photography together. We’re building it slowly but surely.”

 As well as starting the business, Jacqueline had her daughter, Lola, eight months ago.

 Far from being overwhelmed, she feels motherhood and self-employment go hand in hand.

 Jacquie said: “It’s worked out so well. I had been working part-time at River Island, so after my shift I’d be rushing here and there trying to get everything printed and done. Since I had Lola I’ve been able to focus just on Marlee and Fee.

 “I’m actually quite laid back and my mum Maureen and partner Neil really help with Lola.

 “Neil has pushed us a lot. We’ve been really lucky. We get good support.”

 Now the girls have started collaborating with Durham Creatives, a mentoring scheme, to spread the word about their label.

 Fay said: “They’ve been really helping us to capture customers and get the word out there.

 “Our dream is to see our brand selling in stores as a concession. We really love selling our clothes at markets too, so we’d like to keep doing that.”

•For more information, visit www.marleeandfee.co.uk