It’s a small world – if you want proof, consider Anh Mao.
Born in Vietnam to Chinese parents, she moved to Newcastle as a child and has now designed a dress which will grace a Chinese catwalk.
A thousand hand cut rose petals take some sewing
At the end of October 2010 Miss England will be wearing one of Anh’s creations as she competes in the Miss World competition in Sanya.
For a girl who took to sewing because her English wasn’t good enough to be a lawyer Anh has done pretty well.
And pretty is the word. Quirky too. Anh designs bridal and eveningwear and there’s no shortage of flounce and sparkle, frills and flutter.
It’s a far cry from Vietnam, which she and her family fled as refugees in 1979.
They were helped by the Red Cross and offered a choice – London or the north-east of England.
They finally arrived here in 1980 when Anh was 10. She was shy, easily bullied and didn’t know a word of English.
Clothes and fashion weren’t her first choice: "I wanted to be a lawyer or a barrister, something to do with the law, but my English wasn’t good enough.
"I decided to do fashion because I thought ‘Well, I haven’t got another choice’.
"Being 10, arriving to England, you know nothing about the culture, know nothing about the language."
Fitting Miss England
It’s not the first time Anh has been involved with Miss World. She’s been both a judge in the competition and, in 2007, designer of the Miss England eveningwear wardrobe.
Then, in September 2010, a Miss England organiser telephoned: "She ring me up, she say Anh I know you’re very busy but it’s the 60th anniversary of Miss World.
"Do you think you have the time to fit Miss England in, designing her dress?
"And I think, ‘Of course I’ll do it, it’s a very good opportunity.’ I mean there are many designers across the UK, it was an honour for her to ask me."
It is not just about the honour – although she doesn’t get paid for this dress Miss World is a good platform for showcasing her design.
The seven dresses she has lent Miss England, Jessica Linley, will also help get her work seen.
From imagination to reality in only three weeks
She only had to make one dress for the competition final but she had just three weeks to do it.
The 1,000 hand cut taffeta and organza petals, and the beading, kept her and her assistant busy.
It’s a good job she’s quite happy staying up until the small hours of the morning to finish some of her creations.
She’s used to being busy. So busy, in fact, that she might not have time to go to the finals on 30 October and see whether Miss England wins first hand.
Anh has lent Jessica seven other dresses for her trip to China
Perhaps more fruitful might be the nomination she’s received for the Miss World designer award.
She doesn’t really believe she could win: "I think I would faint to be honest. I mean I would love to win but you are up against the whole world of 126 designers, not that I don’t have confidence with myself but I think it was an honour anyway to represent England."
If she does win, she says, she’d be putting Newcastle on the fashion map, like London and Edinburgh, and that’s more important to her than any trophy.
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