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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Ruth Bloomfield

London leavers: 'Moving to rural Wales helped me start a business and buy a house for £169k'

The life of an intern trying to break into London’s competitive fashion industry is not an easy one, and after 18 months of working for no money Alexandra Wall had had enough.

She decided she wanted a fashion career on her own terms, left the capital and set up her own business.

“It is the best thing I have ever done,” said Alexandra, now 31.

Back in 2012 she moved to London from her hometown of St Athan, south Wales, to study fashion.

Leaving London allowed Alexandra set up her own business and buy a home (Handout)

After graduating Alexandra was thrilled to land a job with a streetwear demand.

“They told me they would pay me, they gave me a title, head design assistant, and I managed the studio and a team of interns, but after nine months they hadn’t paid me anything other than basic expenses,” said Alexandra.

“I was working 16 hour days and basically being rinsed.”

After unpaid internships and poorly paid jobs, she decided to return to Wales (Handout)

She decided to cut her losses and got an internship with a high street brand, designing t-shirts and jumpers.

After another nine months, and with no sniff of a properly paid job, Alexandra had had enough.

“I was at a real crossroads,” she said. “I had a choice, either stay and try to make it and face being in debt or go home.”

Alexandra bought her first home for £169,000 (Handout)

Alexandra chose option B and moved to Cardiff where she rented a flat and began to think about how to set up her own fashion enterprise.

During the next year Alexandra met her partner, Ben Williams, 30, who runs his family farm in Pentyrch, eight miles north of Cardiff, and came up with two business ideas.

She now runs the Digital Pattern Library, which helps people design and make their own clothes, and Xandra Jane Designs, which supports start-ups launching fashion brands.

The designer and her partner plan to build their own home on a family farm (Handout)

After that first year Alexandra moved in with Ben (and three generations of his family) at the farm but in 2021, with the businesses up and running and craving more privacy, Alexandra bought a place of her own, a modern two bedroom house that cost £169,000.

“I am very aware that I would not be able to buy a house like this in London on a fashion designers’ income,” she said. “I know I am lucky.”

The house is not the end of Alexandra’s property journey because over the next couple of years they hope to build their own home on the farm.

There are, of course, things Alexandra still misses about London.

“When I was there I was a single woman and socially it was amazing,” she said.

“I loved the pace and the culture but the experience I had in the fashion industry really did burn me. Setting up a fashion business so far from London in a not very fashion forward place didn’t sound like a great idea, but I am so glad I did it," she added.

"I could never go back.”

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