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Alicia Sotherland
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Skechers Boys Lights

A FASHION studio above a bookies in Wheatley Hill? Why not? say Sunderland graduates Jacqueline Marlee and Fay Winwood.

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Fay said: Vans Disney Shoes

Swerving the expensive rents and soaring overheads that murder start ups, the canny pair negotiated the use of the upstairs room of Johnny Ridley bookmakers, on Wheatley Hill Front Street.

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Jacquie and Fay started out by taking their designs to Newcastle's Sunday Quayside Market.

Like a growing number of young people, Jacqueline and Fay have found an uncoventional way to make their career dreams come true.

"We didn't want to pay as the Prince's Trust had warned us not to get locked into renting an expensive space. They taught us to keep our overheads really low and manageable.

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Fay added: "After that we looked for constant feedback from family, friends and customers about what they liked.

"We started with two t shirts and a bag and then signed up to take our business to the Clothes Show, at which point we realised we needed much, much more."

Fay said: "We were moving everything between our houses and it was getting way too much, so we decided we had to get some kind of studio.

"My dad works for Johnny Ridley bookies and mentioned they had an Skechers Boys Lights empty room upstairs. I came to have a Mbt Shoes Jambo

"Gradually, we learned what people like and improved the quality and design."

Skechers Boys Lights

"The other bond is that we were obsessed with The Hills (a reality tv show set in LA following the lives of fashion interns) and I had a Blackberry."

look at it was so us. It was perfect. We moved in just before Christmas. It's rent free, which we're so thankful for, but if they ever need to store something up here we make it fit."

Fay said: "We did very well at the Clothes Show and it was really useful to talk to the other businesses.

"After that, we launched the website and ASOS approached us and asked if we wanted to sell in their marketplace."

Jacquie and Fay then arranged a contract with American Apparel, buying their base clothes and then redesigning and reprinting them under the Marlee and Fee brand.

"We just knew we wanted to make clothes and print them. They sat us down and said: Vans Rose Gold Glitter

´╗┐Sunderland duo open fashion studio above bookies

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Jacquie said: "The first time a lady came over and bought something was great. We were so new to it we didn't think we should make her actually pay. We felt we should just give her the t shirt!"

Skechers Boys Lights

"When I teamed up with Fay we realised we worked so well together. We like doing different things.

The seeds of the venture started when the two collaborated by chance on a university project to design a magazine.

"Ok, you need to start with t shirts and bags."

Jacquie, 26, said: "I'd done a Foundation course at the London School of Fashion so I arrived in the second year of the Sunderland course as the new girl.

Both were studying fashion, product and promotion at the University of Sunderland.

Fay, 24, explained: "It was coincidence, really, because the day we were asked to partner up my good friend was off. Me and Fay just looked at each other."

The two friends graduated in 2011 and set about starting their own label, which quickly outgrew their respective family homes.

"We were toying with the idea of doing our own thing but we didn't know where to start, so we approached The Prince's Trust.

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Skechers Boys Lights

Fay, who lives in Shotton, said: "I was so jealous of that Blackberry! Even now I could sit and watch The Hills all day. We loved Lauren Conrad, we loved the lifestyle, the clothes everything about it."

Skechers Boys Lights

"We've developed so much since then, but we've kept the first t shirts we made.

Skechers Boys Lights

Now they are entering the third successful year of their fashion label Marlee and Fee, which includes t shirts, tops, bags and jumpers hand printed by the creative duo.

"Our mentor there organised for us to do a week of business study to develop our plan and think about attracting customers and marketing.

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