Manchester born and bred Mandy Davenport, tells her story of famous faces, fetish wear and the life of a secret seamstress.
Nestled away in a studio in Trafford is Mandy Davenport, 62, a seamstress who’s designs you’ve probably seen but her name you will never have heard.
When Mandy was 14 she borrowed her older sisters dress, when she went to put the dress back she realised she’d ripped it, without a second thought Mandy took to the sewing machine and repaired the dress. It was her first time on a sewing machine but it certainly wouldn’t be her last.
For six years Mandy worked in the Northern Quarter’s Abakhan Fabrics, when one day a woman came into the store asking for a seamstress. Mandy, who had never made anything for a paying customer, decided to put herself forward. Having made countless garments and sewing being a big part of her life, she thought why not? And threw herself in the deep end.
“It was one woman, one dress. And then all of a sudden business was booming, there were people asking for me! It was like everyone knew who I was.”
Carrying on with her work in Abakhan’s, Mandy decided to rent a studio in Stevenson Square so she could fulfill her hobby of sewing, even now Mandy insists that sewing is a hobby and not a business. She speaks of the cut throat nature of the business and how she has always stayed true to her values and believes that making the customer feel comfortable is the most important thing.
“I never have and I never will let anyone down.”
During her time Mandy has built up a loyal set of customers and takes on requests that are fairly different from her usual dress or skirt orders. Whilst working at Abakhan’s, she began working a lot with transsexuals, her judge free attitude makes every customer feel comfortable, whilst doing so Mandy says she had some rather crazy requests but never refused anyone. After experimenting with more erotic designs and fabrics, Mandy started specialising in rubber wear and became a seamstress for fetish groups, as well as her usual customers!
“I’ve heard and seen it all in this business. The weirdest thing I was asked her was a body bag made out of rabbit fur, it was for a fetish group.”
From fetish to famous, Mandy has sewn for them all. In 2005, a friend of Mandy’s came to her and offered her work on Katie Price’s infamous wedding to Peter Andre. Although she didn’t work on the dress, Mandy worked endlessly on waistcoats and decorations for the carriage, sworn to secrecy she had to carry on without telling anyone and of course wasn’t credited once for her hard work.
It seems like Mandy has always been the secret seamstress, transforming people’s designs and then having to take a back seat whilst everyone else takes centre stage.
“I’m on my own and business is business.”
After a short break from the seamstress life, Mandy bought her current studio, a little understated place in Trafford, somewhere for her to carry on with her hobby. Once again making a name for herself in any area she lays her thread, Mandy began working with Flenci Rose, a designer based in Manchester, Flenci came to Mandy with a handful of intricate designs that were to be made and showcased at Liverpool Fashion Week.
This was the first time Mandy had worked on a collection for a fashion show and even attended the event in Liverpool to see the garments she had worked so hard on. Although it was Mandy who had put the pieces together and spent over a month constructing the collection, her name wasn’t mentioned once. The secret seamstress strikes again.
Mandy has worked with Misha B from the X-Factor, Cleo from Cleopatra and more recently Leanne Brown from The Real Housewives of Cheshire. And for once, Mandy’s name has been mentioned! She was finally credited as ‘lovely Mandy’ for making Leanne Brown’s skirt, a small victory for a talented woman.
Mandy has said she wants to now pass on her talents and give something back.
“I want to teach young people, people battling addiction, people trying to get back into work. I want to give something back and help people by teaching them a skill.”
A hobby, a business and soon a way of helping others. Mandy Davenport is a hidden gem in a profession of egos and money. She’s stayed true to herself and although her name isn’t in lights, Mandy knows her hobby, she knows her business and she knows what makes her happy.