Meet our ‘Maker of the Month’ – Anthony French

After moving away from his hometown of Doncaster to study and work in Oxford, Anthony returned to the borough six years ago to launch his Mexborough based business, Anthony French: Refresh.

Anthony designs and creates garments and textiles ranging from ladies clothing to soft furnishings for the home such as blankets and throws.

His business is part of Business Doncaster’s Handmade in Doncaster programme that offers free tailored support for local entrepreneurs looking to kick-start or grow their business.

We sat down with Anthony to learn more about him and his business…

How did you set up your business?

“I’d been doing traditional jobs in the past and had been made redundant a few times in a row but I’d always has a passion for fashion and textiles.

“I suppose my interest started when I was young. We are quite an arty family, my father was good at woodwork and my mum was a hand-knitter so I got the love of texture from her and practicality from my dad.

“30 years ago I went back to university in Oxford and a school of fashion in Maidenhead. As a poor student, I worked regular jobs but eventually I decided to set up my own business to pursue my passion. I set up in Oxford in 2012 but I wanted to move closer to family and friends so I moved back here 6 years ago.”

Tell us more about what your business does…

“I work from home in Mexborough and make the garments and textiles myself. I do soft-tailoring and can make items bespoke to size. I do everything - day wear, blouses, occasion wear, wedding dresses.

“I also make kids wear, t-shirts, printed designs or embroided. I can turn my hand to anything.

“Everything is made-to-order and all of our stock is online either on our website, Etsy or Amazon. However, if necessary, I can come out to you.”

Why did you join Handmade in Doncaster?

“When I moved back to the area, the Handmade in Doncaster group really appealed to me. Not just because I am local but also because it is supporting local produce and local business.

“I have attended a few of the events they organise and it has been nice to meet other local businesses.

“We’ve done table top sales and had a few meetings. We were also part of the Doncaster Business Showcase a couple of years ago which was great exposure for our businesses.”

“Having other people’s input can restart your imagination. It’s a lovely group of people.”

What are the benefits of being a part of it?

“It provides an opportunity to get out and network which is nice.

“I think the isolation of working for yourself can sometimes be draining and Handmade in Doncaster offers encouragement.

“Having other people’s input can restart your imagination. It’s a lovely group of people.”

Your business has also signed up for ShopAppy, a town-based website which gives you a 24-hour shop window. What made you sign up?

“It was another opportunity to promote my business and is free until 2022 thanks to Doncaster Council so it was definitely worth a try.

“I think the idea is great! The fact that it’s local and aims to boost footfall on the high street is a good thing.

“Who knows I may be back on the high street at some time myself.

“I’ve also been to some of their webinars which are very helpful.”

You moved to Mexborough six years ago. What is Mexborough like as a place for business?

“I like it here. It is a cross between the country and the town. Currently it has been a good place to do business.

“As a resident I also find it very convenient. The market is great for the fresh fruit and veg they supply.”

What does the future hold for your business?

“Well, it’s coming up to Christmas and I have lots of stock available.

“If anyone is interested it needs to be booked early. I can do anything from party wear to Christmas jumpers!

“Aside from Christmas, I’m also hoping to show some of my items at a fashion show in Hull later in the year too.”

If you’d like to learn more about Anthony French: Refresh visit his website: af-refresh.uk/

The Handmade in Doncaster programme offers access to a newsletter, participation in a members area on Facebook, access to business support, a ShopAppy online store for free and test trading opportunities.

If you are a hand maker in Doncaster and are interested in joining, please contact Gemma White on gemma.white@doncaster.gov.uk or call 01302 737364.

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