Alana House visited by award-winning fashion designer Patrick Grant

AWARD-winning British fashion designer Patrick Grant visited Alana House women’s community project in Reading on Friday (30 June) to meet women who have been learning to sew.

The women have been involved in an initiative called Out Of The Box making craft items for sale, which has been running at Alana House in partnership with offender support organisation New Leaf, for almost a year. Many of the women taking part have also been learning to sew at another weekly session offered at Alana House, a women’s community project run by Parents And Children Together (PACT) to support vulnerable women.

Patrick, also known for his starring role as a judge of BBC2 show The Great British Sewing Bee, chatted with some of the women and was shown items they had made to sell, which include clothing, jewellery, tote bags, knitted items and woodwork. 

Patrick was visiting in his role as Founder and Creative Director of social enterprise Community Clothing, which supports skills development, job creation and regeneration in communities that rely on the textile and garment manufacturing industries. He was accompanied by Community Clothing CEO Lucy Clayton.

He was interested in New Leaf and Alana House’s work with vulnerable women and was keen to meet some of the women who had been taking part in the Out Of The Box project. 

He was also shown around Alana House and told about the wider work of the centre. Last year 190 women accessed Alana House in Reading and its satellite service in West Berkshire, for groups, courses, drop-in sessions and one-to-one support. 

Patrick said: “Community Clothing aims to make really good quality, affordable clothing in British factories during their quiet periods. Fashion is really seasonal and factories have loads of spare capacity. This is a way to bring prosperity back to UK factories.

“We are also trying to do everything we can to encourage people back into clothing-making and there are opportunities for some of the work to be done outside factories. We are investigating anywhere where people are sewing where there may be opportunities to make it a commercial, viable thing and people can make a living out of it.”

Natausha van Vliet, Director of Business Development at PACT, said: “This was a lovely opportunity for the women who have worked so hard on this project to be inspired and enthused by meeting Patrick. It was also a fantastic opportunity to showcase to him the fantastic work that is going on at Alana House and the many ways in which we are empowering vulnerable women into making positive life changes by helping them to develop new skills and build their esteem and self-confidence.”

Alana House, which celebrated its seventh birthday earlier this year, was awarded The Howard League for Penal Reform Award in the Community Programme for Women category in 2014.

To find out more about Alana House and its programme of activities, which include weekly drop-in sessions, see www.alanahouse.org or call 0118 9217640.