TWO designers who won a fashion competition celebrated the opening of their first shop in Bayswater.

More than 60 guests attended the opening of a boutique in Porchester Place, which showcases Julia Smith's womenswear collection and Joanna Stoker's footwear designs.

The pair were the winners of First into Fashion, a competition run by the Church Commissioners and London College of Fashion to help young graduates kick-start their own retail fashion business.

The prize was a rent and rates-free shop for six months in Bayswater's Connaught Village, with a contribution towards a shop fit-out.

They will also be mentored by prestigious shoe designer Jimmy Choo, who will be on hand to advise the designers during their six-month occupancy.

Julia Smith said: "There are enormous pressures on designers who are starting out and trying to establish themselves, and this competition has been a fantastic opportunity for Joanna and myself.

"Everyone in the Village has been very welcoming, and we're looking forward to becoming part of the community and making our new business a success."

The designers were selected by a panel of top judges led by Grazia magazine's fashion editor-at-large Melanie Rickey, who was on hand to support the the new shop at the launch event last Wednesday.

The judges were particularly impressed with Ms Stoker's beautiful shoe designs, and her detailed business plan, which took into account the financial implications of running a shop.

They also admired Ms Smith's strong ethical values, while keeping the collection fashionable.

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