AT first glance, this may look like an odd fit.

MLA, based near Pocklington and one of the biggest suppliers of police protective equipment in the UK, is switching from balaclavas to ballgowns and turning its hand to couture fashion.

Luckily, it couldn't be in safer hands because the new venture is with Yorkshire-born designer to the stars, James Steward.

Seeing is believing - and fashion lovers can witness the artistic collaboration at first hand on Saturday night in York when the double act will be staging a catwalk show as part of York Fashion Week.

MLA will be launching items from an eveningwear collection designed by James at the Indie Runway Show at York Art Gallery on Saturday at 7.30pm

James has designed for many well-known names. He designed a dress for Kylie Minogue which she wore to the Brit Awards aftershow party, a top for Victoria Beckham for a TV interview and several red-carpet dresses for Katherine Kelly. He even designed and made singer Corinne Bailey Rae’s wedding dress.

York Press: Performer Kylie Minogue - James made a dress for herPerformer Kylie Minogue - James made a dress for her

James said he was delighted to be involved with York Fashion Week, which runs from today until May 6. He will be showcasing nine pieces from his new eveningwear collection at the show on Saturday evening.

With more than 25 years’ experience, his time as a designer has taken him all over the world where he has been involved in an impressive range of fashion shows. He has shown his designs at Vancouver Fashion Week, a private show in Barcelona, Belfast Titanic Museum, Leeds Corn Exchange and The Great Yorkshire Show.

James said: "I’m so excited to be involved with York Fashion Week. We have been working hard behind the scenes to create a really special collection and it’s one I’m very proud of.

"The catwalk is where everything comes together, the culmination of months of hard work, and seeing the garments on the models is incredibly rewarding.

"There is always such a great atmosphere at these events, with lots of excitement backstage. It will be a great night.

"It’s been a while since I have been involved with a fashion show so I’m really excited to be part of York Fashion Week.

"Art and illustration have always been a huge inspiration for me, so to be showcasing this collection at York Art Gallery will be an amazing experience."

York Press: Yorkshire-born designer James Steward. Photo by Gareth BuddoYorkshire-born designer James Steward. Photo by Gareth Buddo

Joy Lupton, director of MLA, who has teamed up with James to create this new label known as Lupton Steward, will be modelling some of the pieces.

She said: "Having modelled at various fashion shows over the years, it’s really special to be modelling our very own collection, many of which have been created especially for members of our team, who I know will look incredible on the catwalk."

It marks quite a change for MLA. The company designs and supplies every police force in the UK with equipment ranging from public order helmets to flame retardant balaclavas.

However, the MLA team has been working with James for the past few years.

In this new venture, James will work with clients to create their dream, made-to-measure outfit, for everything from mother of the bride to race day dresses. There will be an initial consultation with James, who will sketch out a bespoke design with the client. The team will then create the pattern, make the toile for an initial fitting, and then create and fit the garment.

Joy added: "There is a wealth of talent in our production and sewing rooms. We pride ourselves on being able to cater for specific requirements from individual police forces and it is the talent and vision of the team we work with, which enables us to do this.

"I have a real passion for clothes and fashion and have had several pieces designed by James before he came to work with us. It made sense to utilise the expertise of James, along with our brilliant seamstresses."

Besides creating couture gowns, James has been working on police protection designs too, specifically on a low-profile blunt protection garment for the American market.

James, said: "It’s amazing to be getting into fashion with the support of a such a talented team. I’ve enjoyed turning my hand to this new side of design and learning about all the fabrics and textiles involved in creating specific pieces for the police market, but fashion is where it all began.

"I love to be able to work with individuals to create something which is going to make them feel full of confidence and I’m really excited to have this opportunity to do this again with the support of MLA."

The project is being led by MLA production manager, Aimee Duclos who studied at London College of Fashion. To arrange a consultation with James, contact Aimee by email:

* York Fashion Week runs from today until May 6. For the full programme, visit: