Leeds Forum

Interview Rebecca Connell

From a cubby hole on a Rothwell industrial estate, we meet the Leeds-born fashion designer behind the glamorous Rebekah Murphy label

Interview: Rebecca Connell

"I design everything, one collection can take me several months"

Rebecca Connell makes outlandish party attire for females on a slightly alternative bend: her label, Rebekah Murphy, is not for your casual weekend reveller, these are high concept designs from a trained eye and a keen sense of trend.

As a Leeds fashionista, you may remember Rebekah from their shop in the Corn Exchange: nowadays, however, she can be found humped over a sewing machine with two cohorts from a small, unassuming operation set up in Rothwell, on the outskirts of Leeds, where her new collections are designed, handmade, stitched up, racked, packaged and sold to designer outlets across the UK, from Manchester to Scotland, Liverpool to Harrogate. When we meet, she’s busy at work, with a tape measure around her neck, fabric strewn throughout the room and the chatter of sewing machines buzzing in the background.

“I design everything,” she tells me. “One collection can take me several months. I start designing quite early and then source my fabrics. Then when I get the fabrics, I usually start to change my ideas when I start putting things together.” Like the way an artist might? “Yeah, maybe so. If you have an idea you can sketch it down, but it can be completely different when you make up the pattern and play around.”

Connell takes a distinctly hands on approach to her work, like most keen advocates of the indomitable sprit of the Leeds independent designer. She’s not alone in her trade: thanks to a highly prestigious art college and its associated fashion students, not to mention the links that Leeds has always traditionally held as the apex of the textile industry, the city has always helped to promote the creative output of new, young designers with the opportunity to make the most of small outlets to sell their goods and studios to make them.

“To be honest, I didn’t have a plan in the beginning,” she says. “When I finished college I did a HND, applied to go to uni but I didn’t get in. So I thought I’d just set up on my own. I did a craft stall in the Corn Exchange making belts, bags and customising things.” After a time in the Corn Exchange, Connelly is now keen to stick solely to the supply chain. “It’s so hard running a shop,” she admits. “Some weeks it can be busy… it’s so unpredictable.”

Her new high summer collection (pictured) is mostly on a nautical theme, and she’s putting the finishing touches to the dresses as we talk. Her style has changed considerably through the years, but she has always maintained a pattern of adding a slightly edgier twist to more traditional high street fashions. With such eye catching designs, we think this will be a Leeds label to really watch out for.


Model shot by Rebecca Hull photograhpy. Model: Xavier Xavier. Make-up by Rachel Chapman for Clarins


Posted on Wednesday 28th April 2010

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