Leon in the Artsenal Inoxis gallery, which will host his charity slow fashion show. / W. RADFORD

A keen eye for fashion that respects our planet

The 44-year-old has used slow fashion to help worthy causes and to highlight the importance of recycling

TONY BRYANT

There are countless expats on the Costa who use their talents to help worthy causes and local charities and 44-year-old Leon James Patras is no exception. Since arriving in Malaga from South Africa five years ago, Leon has used his professional skills to not only raise money for charity, but to also highlight the importance of protecting the natural resources of our planet.

Born in the UK in 1978, Leon's family moved to Zambia when he was just three years old. In 1989, the family then moved to South Africa.

On leaving school, he took a year off, before enlisting on a three-year degree in acting, producing and directing. However, he did not do much professional acting work, instead, he headed into the corporate world, working in the pharmaceutical industry, a business he says he did not particularly enjoy.

Leon's youth and early years in South Africa have been recorded in a series of books written by his mother, Ann Patras, a trilogy which records the family's journey from the UK to Africa and how they coped with their new lifestyles.

Leon decided to come to live in Alhaurín el Grande in 2017, after his parents had retired to the Costa del Sol in 2010.

"South Africa was so far away, and I thought it would be best to make the move seeing as I had no family there anymore. One of the things that appeals to me is that Spain is very similar to life in South Africa. The relaxed lifestyle and the weather are very similar. For me, Spain is like a small piece of Africa in Europe," Leon says, in his distinctive South African accent.

On arriving in Malaga, he began thinking of ways he could use his "energy" to do something he enjoyed. One of his passions is horses, so it wasn't long before he began volunteering at the local horse sanctuary in Alhaurín el Grande.

"I started helping out at ARCH, and after about three years, a position became available for a general coordinator, which I was offered. When I joined the organisation, the charity was being run well, but because I have a background in quality management, I wanted to put a few new processes into place," he explains.

Leon also wanted to get back into theatre production, so he began searching out local amateur theatrical groups, like The Andalusian Performing Arts Society (TAPAS), and The Occasional Performers Society (TOPS), with whom he collaborated on several projects.

Promoting recycled fashion

Although he says he is not a designer, being someone who is fashion conscious and also someone who cares deeply about the planet, Leon began using his production skills to host slow fashion shows.

Slow fashion encompasses an awareness and approach to fashion that considers the processes and resources required to make clothing.

Leon's first show took place in a warehouse in Alhaurín el Grande and was dedicated to steampunk, a style that consists of a combination of Victorian clothing and rough industrial aesthetics that encompasses a keen eye for details.

"The steampunk show came about because I had a 40th birthday party and we needed a theme. I decided on steampunk because I really like the look and feel of it. The party went down so well, it gave me the idea to do my first steampunk show in 2019," he says.

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Leon is now getting ready to present his second show, a charity event in aid of Cudeca and ARCH, which he will host at the Artsenal Inoxis gallery in Alhaurín el Grande on Saturday (tomorrow).

Apart from raising funds for charity, The Slow Fashion Show aims to encourage shopping at local charity shops, where the materials for the new show are almost exclusively sourced.

He has organised the show with a friend, Lisa Howard, who Leon says makes "phenomenal steampunk outfits".

"I have had a lot of help with the show, and I could not have done this on my own. We have come up with some great designs that are all made from second-hand clothes. I want to emphasise that we can't just keep throwing clothes away just to buy new fashions. We might be able to afford it, but the planet cannot," Leon concludes.