Unsung hero: Jenny Eason

Founder of the Midlands Fashion Awards, Jenny Eason, isn’t in it for the glamour or prestige but the desire to support the region’s brightest and best young talent

Jenny Eason’s serene exterior and soothing voice belies the energy and vibrancy it’s taken to get the Midlands Fashion Awards not just off the ground but thriving – all while holding down a demanding ‘proper’ job. By day, Jenny supports teenagers at two schools in the Midlands with careers guidance as well as providing a non-judgemental ear and advice on a range of personal issues; a job she has done for 14 years. “The level of personal problems can be serious including drugs and sexual abuse. It’s odd dealing with such crucial issues one minute and fashion the next. Certainly varied!” It was a group of Jenny’s students that inspired the decision to launch MFA five years ago. “It’s expensive to put a collection together and without contacts or funding it’s hard to progress. A handful of fashion students came to me with this dilemma and I thought I could help.”

Having had zero experience in events management, Jenny began planning something that would give the students an opportunity to showcase their talent in an awards-style setting. In her spare time Jenny started building up contacts, checking out venues and organising a programme that would appeal to entrants and the fashion world alike. In its first year the event attracted 75 applications which were whittled down to 25 designers with 200 guests attending on the night largely through word of mouth. The 25 chosen designers were predominantly from local colleges, but now the scheme attracts talent from much further afield. The challenge is to keep the event true to its roots celebrating Midlands talent while embracing the interest from designers outside the region. Jenny would like to introduce national and international areas to accommodate this interest. It’s not only the winners that go on to enjoy a career.

MFA has proved a successful springboard for most entrants who have made connections and met the right people as result. “Many have gone on to full-time employment. Some are working in the US – in LA and New York. One designer was invited to showcase at an off-shoot of New York Fashion Week.” Jenny allows herself a little time off from planning over the winter which she spends catching up with friends and family before embarking on the next event. Not one for standing still, she says: “I’d like to see the event grow even bigger – 300 guests attended our last awards. I’d like to get more established designers on board too. I plan nine months in advance, so I don’t see much of my friends, but it’s worth it.”