With wedding season approaching, we chat to designer, Charlie Brear to find out what brides-to-be should really be wearing this season.
Can you tell our readers your journey into bridal design?
I’d been working as a successful fashion stylist for 10 years and really fell into the bridal market spontaneously. During a video shoot I’d been briefed to source a collection of vintage wedding dresses and post-shoot, I found myself being Inspired by an alternative to traditional wedding dresses; I guess I had an ‘epiphany’ which led to the launch of my business – The Vintage Wedding Dress Company in 2005 – selling one-off original pieces which could then be restyled and worn after the bride’s big day. The huge success of this, coupled with me discovering a new-found passion for all things bridal, led me to begin designing my own collection.
In 2007 we launched our first capsule collection of made-to-order gowns, offering a modern twist on vintage glamour. This was quickly followed by the introduction of ‘Additions’ – a collection of unique styling pieces to complement the main bridal line – which took the wedding world by storm and has since become the brand’s signature offering.
In 2013, coinciding with a company re-brand to ‘Charlie Brear’, the first red-carpet focused ready-to-wear collection was launched and this shares the same strong, contemporary edge and aesthetic as the bridal offering. Today, Charlie Brear is stocked in over 50 bridal boutiques globally and also retails from our central London flagship.
What is the ethos of Charlie Brear?
Recognising the role fashion plays in a woman’s sense of identity and personal style, Charlie Brear is all about creating a strikingly stylish aesthetic for women with a strong sense of self; a look that’s in keeping with her own signature style and ultimately, is fashion-led, cool and contemporary.
Where/how do you find your inspiration?
I’m inspired by so many things – from my immediate setting to the glamour and glitz of the screen and stage.
For example, for the Spring 2019 bridalwear collection (launching as we speak and available to order from June at our flagship and internationally from Sept), I drew inspiration from the 1970s French film ‘Day for Night’ starring Jacqueline Bisset. The collection focuses on ultra-feminine silhouettes with flow, movement and clean lines. Taking the brand back to its roots with a strong emphasis on our much-loved signature styling additions pieces, ‘Day for Night’ effortlessly fuses the understated romance of the gowns with the flattering detail of jackets, overdresses and skirts. I really believe it embodies the cool, contemporary style that has become synonymous with the Charlie Brear brand.
In addition, our collections are produced ethically from start to finish in London, something I feel very strongly about. With its amazing heritage of cult fashion, the capital and the inspiration I take from all of it, helps keep our designs fresh and our product innovative.
What wedding dress trends have you seen emerging for SS18?
Weddings tend to be much less formal now and consequently brides are more confident in choosing a look that reflects their own sense of style, rather than having to follow traditional notions of what bridalwear should look like. Brides are seeking out modern, effortless styles that maintain elements of tradition.
Jumpsuits are a huge trend at the moment as are two-piece dresses. There’s a lot less formality these days in terms of what brides should wear and women have the confidence to wear a more casual outfit that’s just as striking as a more traditional gown. As with brides, there’s no set rules for bridesmaids these days. Bridesmaids are often now seen in an array of dress styles and colours to suit their individual body shapes.
What advice would you give brides to be when choosing their wedding dress?
Women want to look like the best possible version of themselves on their big day. They want their dress to ‘wow’ but also be in keeping with their signature style. We advise all brides to wear something they feel totally at ease in – both physically and emotionally. A beautiful bride is one who appears relaxed and comfortable, and so it’s important to pick a wedding day look that reflects you – whether that’s soft and romantic or pared back and minimal.
Go to a dress appointment with an open mind as you may suit a style that’s completely different to what you had initially thought. Be honest with your stylist/designer as they have a wealth of knowledge and ultimately want to help you find ‘The One.’ Be open to trying on outfits suggested by your stylist as these are often the best surprise! Do come with an idea of the vibe you want to create especially if you are planning a big event – think of the venue, flowers, bridesmaids etc and how you envisage it all coming together. If you have the confidence go alone and buy alone, we always get the best looks when a bride does not have the pressure of pleasing others!
What is your ultimate wardrobe staple?
Dresses and jumpsuits. I have included jumpsuits for the last five years in our bridal collection as I have always been obsessed with them. I have a lot of vintage ones and vintage dresses. I like anything that is one piece that you can throw on and wear with flats then switch to heels and style up later in the day if needed.
How would you describe your style?
Contemporary and fuss-free. To give you an idea, I got married in 2006 in an original 1960s dress that was one of the first pieces I sourced for the new business. I only decided to wear it a few weeks before the big day. It was laid back and I loved everything about it. I do love to mix it up though and love jewellery; I like to be spontaneous with what I wear.
You are a mum and businesswoman, what has been your ultimate achievement.
Juggling it all! As well as a growing team to manage, I have three children including a set of twins so having the devotion and sheer determination needed to oversee a business alongside family life is definitely my ultimate achievement.
Living in London, can you recommend some favourite family friendly spots (restaurants/shops/cafés)?
I love hanging out locally in Queen’s Park at The Whippet, Parlour or by the bandstand on a rug when it’s sunny. I love The Oak or Pizza East in Notting Hill with the kids and my husband at the weekend. Southbank is great on a clear day, there is so much to see and visit culturally and for fun, The Tate, the aquarium and tons of street performers. Always Selfridges or vintage markets for shopping – with or without the children!
Do you have any exciting projects you are working on that you can share with our readers?
We’ve recently been working in collaboration with style influencer Jessie Bush of @wethepeoplestyle to design her bridal looks for her two recent weddings. Her first dress was our Nyika gown which has just launched for 2019 and we created an incredible custom made dress for her second wedding which took place in Mallorca this month. Styling elements of the dress will be available at our flagship from June and at stockists later in the year.
What advice would you give mums out there who want to start their own business?
Today, anyone thinking of starting out on their own in any industry, needs a really high level of sheer determination to grow a successful business. You need to work hard and expect the unexpected. Be aware of how fast things change and recognise that today’s market is much more transient. For mums doing it, it’s about ensuring the right balance between business and family, which is no easy task. Sometimes you will feel like you are failing at everything but other times you will really appreciate that no one else is telling you what to do with your life and your time.
When you are not busy working, what do you like to do to unwind?
Spending time with family and friends! Eating dinner out in my London favourites – Roka, Nobu and anything Soho House related. Taking a yoga holiday with girlfriends once a year, massages and facials are now even more decadent when I get to take them. Enjoying family holidays abroad and I love Center Parcs for some proper British holiday camp stuff! Of course shopping too.
Do you have any top tips for first time mums?
Towards the end of your pregnancy simply accept that you will be big and tired, exercise as much as you can and rest at any opportunity. I hate resting but I really had to.
When it comes to preparing for the birth, be prepared to expect the unexpected! My first was natural and super quick and I really wasn’t expecting a quick one with my first.
If you’re having twins, like I did the second time around, the best advice I can share was from a twin mum friend who was a first time mum to twins. It was to treat them when they are very new like one baby – i.e. one problem for both. Do everything at the same time as much as possible and if they are ill or up in the night don’t separate them. You will make so much more work for yourself if you start doing things individually. Create routine, whichever one suits you but know that you cannot have it all ways. A stricter day gives you a better night, a looser day gives you more freedom but you will pay for it later!
Whether you have one or two babies on the way, invest in a Jumperoo. They are revolting looking and will take up your whole house, but are possibly the best money you will ever spend for 20 minutes of hands-free baby fun.
What is your motto?
Instead of seeing change as a set back see it as an opportunity.