Yukon jeweller to showcase Canadian designs on runway during London Fashion Week

Shelley Macdonald, a Whitehorse jeweller, was invited to showcase her designs during London Fashion Week — and her Kate Middleton earrings had nothing to do with it.

'And I kinda had a cheeky little smile on my face, and I said, so it’s not because of Kate Middleton?'

Shelley Macdonald's handmade jewelry will be showcased in a runway show on Feb. 18, at Devonshire Square in London. (Vanessa Falle Photography)

Shelley Macdonald, a local Whitehorse jewelry designer and goldsmith, was invited to showcase her designs during London Fashion Show — and it wasn't because of her famous ulu earrings that adorned Kate Middleton's ears last fall.

"So that's one thing that I'm actually really happy about," said Macdonald.

Macdonald's modern ulu earrings became famous after Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, wore a pair during her visit to the Yukon.

Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, at Carcross, Yukon, last September. She's wearing Shelley MacDonald's modern ulu earrings in bronze. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

"It has been non-stop. I had no Christmas break. I worked all through Christmas, all through New Year's," said Macdonald, who said she would often work overnight in her studio.

Since the royal visit, Macdonald says she's made more than 1,300 pairs of earrings. She has to make an additional 120 pairs for gift bags for the London Fashion Week event.

The invitation

Macdonald said she woke up on Nov. 22 to an email inviting her to Fashion Week of her choice — New York, London or Paris.

"And, you know, obviously [with] the internet and scams, I needed to know this is real. So I called them up," she said.

The company, Oxford Fashion Studio, is an agency based in London that finds designers for their runway shows. The representative on the phone told Macdonald that they've been watching her hand-made fur designs for a while, and had chosen her out of several thousand designers around the world to participate in the company's runway show during the Fashion Week.
Since the royal visit, Macdonald says she's made more than 1,300 pairs of these earrings. She's making an additional 120 pairs for the London Fashion Week. (Christian Kunz Photography)

"Each year, my team and I review more than 8,000 designers issuing invitations only to extraordinary designers with original concepts. Each show features eight to 10 carefully selected designers," wrote the agency's designer relations representative Ryadal Sturt Chapman in an email.

When Macdonald asked her if they knew about her Kate Middleton connection, the representative asked her, "What do you mean?"

"And I kinda had a cheeky little smile on my face, and I said, 'So it's not because of Kate Middleton?'" said Macdonald, laughing.

"London is one of the main fashion weeks in the world. And it's particularly known as a place of discovery of emerging talent." - Ben Barry, Ryerson University School of Fashion

Macdonald will have six models strut her designs on the runway on Feb. 18 at Devonshire Square in London.

But one of her biggest worries isn't being on the international fashion stage.

"When this all happened, the first thing, I was like: 'What am I going to wear?'" she said. "You know, because I work from home, I don't buy expensive clothes because I'll ruin them."

'A place of discovery of emerging talent'

London Fashion Week is one of the "big four," says Ben Barry, associate professor at Ryerson University's School of Fashion.

"London is one of the main fashion weeks in the world. And it's particularly known as a place of discovery of emerging talent," said Barry.

He said a lot of the newest, most innovative designers often participate in London's Fashion Week to break into the world stage.

This fur necklace will be one of the pieces that will be on Macdonald's runway segment during London Fashion Week. (Christian Kunz Photography)

"There's an opportunity on the runway to be taken seriously as a new, unknown designer, that you don't have in New York, Paris and Milan."

Macdonald's craft is making a splash in the fashion industry and it's good news for Canada, said Barry.

"[It's] great for Canada," he said. "Canada is still working to establish its fashion identity, so this is a very interesting time for a Canadian to be seen on a world stage."

And having a designer based in Yukon will "share a story of Canada that's much more reflective of Canada," says Barry.

"It's very inspiring to emerging talent to know that you don't have to live in one of the major cities to be a practising designer," he said.

Macdonald says she's going to have to consider expanding her business soon.

"I think the reality is starting to hit," she said.  

with files from Sandi Coleman

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