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1 September 2006 ~

Fashion & Wedding Gossip.

  • According to an article in Heat magazine Jordan has recently discovered she has been wearing the wrong bra size, believing her size to be a DD instead of a G. This 'discovery' happens to coincide with her partnering up with Panache to bring out a range of sexy bras for bigger busts. Now Jordan, are we really to believe you didn't know the size of your most famous assets? You could always have stopped any woman on the street anywhere; we all could have told you you weren’t a DD!
  • The Emanuel’s have released a book commemorating the 25 anniversary of Diana's 'iconic' dress (well that's one word for it). The limited edition version is limited to 1000 copies & comes with a swatch of fabric that comes from the original roll of fabric used for her dress & a plaque baring both designer's signitures. They cost a cool £1000 each. Rich Americans will I'm sure be snapping them up like hot cakes. I guess if you're going to take one more stab at cashing in on that old chestnut, the 25th anniversary may be your last shot. For the rest of the us mere mortals (not me, I won't be buying one), there is a £25 version too.
  • The Beckhams have launched his & hers perfumes, let’s hope for them sales go the way of his football career & not her pop career. What I don't understand though is who will buy them? Teenagers & Twentysomethings? Jade's perfume is sold out, so it's obvious people are a) interested enough to sniff them & b) liking them enough to buy them. Maybe I just don't understand the power a celeb has over merchandise sales.

  • Liz Hurley has apparently found the solution to choosing her dream wedding dress - don't choose! Apparently Liz will have 13 wedding outfits as she feels to old at 41 to wear a 'wedding dress'. Not too old for plunge necklines & skirts split to her thigh though! The story goes that for her wedding in Gloucestershire there will be three ensembles, the pre-ceremony, ceremony & party. Then for the three day affair in India, 10 more outfits rotating morning, noon & night. Well it'll certainly make for a confussing wedding album, though I'm sure O.K. or Hello will guide us through it.


'Fashion Babylon' cont:

I was reading this excerpt about the effect of the wrong Celebrity wearing labels & who the 'fictitious' design company in the book outlined they would not loan clothes to & it was so funny, outrageous & vicious, one has to smile at our right to free speech!

I repeat this is a great book & well worth getting for anyone who thrives on gossip & loves fashion. Now 50% off at Amazon.


A couple of useful Wedding Ideas & Tips:

Dress Code:

When it comes to what not to wear to a wedding, unless you spell it out, Wedding Guests will come in all sorts - Jeans, Flip-flops....... I can't understand why people will make more effort to dress up for their office's Christmas party than a friend or loved one's Wedding.

So if you don't want guests to wear hats, make sure you say so on the invites (ala Sophie & Edward). If you want guests to dress up, I suggest you state Black Tie.

Brides sometimes also ask female guests not to wear a certain colour, for instance if you are wearing red, you might wish to veto red, though often that request is like a red rag to a bull (excuse the pun)& the girlfriend of your best man or someone else will swan in, in something both inappropriate & red in an attempt to upstage you. Equally I am always amazed at how many ladies will turn up at a wedding in ivory or cream dresses or bodice/skirt combos, which given most brides wear a bridal shade is a bit mean.

Scary Spice, Posh Spice & a number of other celebs have requested guests all dress in white for their weddings or stipulated some other tight dress code but this will only really work if you are a Celeb.

If you are having a masked ball or costume wedding, expect to have to work at your guests to get them onboard & do all the research to make it easy for them to get the costumes. Some guests will be very anti your idea if it involves more than a little effort & it won't be the same if only half play ball.

The cool way to drink your Champers:

Mini Landon Black Label, Mini Moets, Baby Pipers.................

There are at least half a dozen brands bottling their Champagne in 1/4 bottles that come with branded straws. Models at London Fashion Week are always snapped sipping Mini Moets but I love the look of the Baby Pipers (below). I find the frivolous Pipers are perfect for toasting, when clients come in to collect their gowns.


I generally like female photographers better because they tend to have a better rapport with the bride & have a better eye & I like the ones that will stay on into the evening. I think it's better to pay a bit more for a professional, sober person to capture those great party moments that crop up when the booze starts flowing & everyone hits the dance floor than waste money on disposable cameras & develop image upon image of drunk guest's self portraits! Also with so many people having digital cameras, the need to buy in the disposable kind seems even more pointless.

What I will say is watch your photographer - if you are precious about your dress & want to keep it clean, don't let them sit you on dirty, wet benches, lean you against dirty walls or arrange your train in the mud for the sake of art. Sometimes photographers are a little too focused on the photos & most don't care whether your dress still looks good when you go in to have your meal, just as long as they've got what they want in the can. Remember if your wedding looks great, they'll be keen to get what they want for competition shots, exhibitions & their portfolio & that may come before what you want. Also make sure they know what you want & that you're getting it, keep quiet & you'll be smarting for years about those images you didn't get.

As for the 'getting ready' & 'dressing' shots, just remember your photographer owns the copyright on your wedding photos & you don't want them getting anything you wouldn't want to see in print. So unless you are a very confident bride who is happy to have images of you in a G-sting & veil on the World Wide Web, used in an ad or exhibited at a local or national bridal show, keep your photographer out of the room, no matter how pushy they are (& some are) until you are in a state of undress you are comfortable with appearing in photos. That's another reason to engage a female photographer, some male photographers I have run in to whilst dressing brides are out & out perves. I remember one, who was 'helping' to tidy a bride's hotel room, picked up some lingerie & purred, "mmmm, it's still warm"!!! Vile! Vile, vile vile!



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4 September 2006 ~

Celebrity Weddings part three - The sneeky peek:

Do you remember when Madonna got married to Guy Ritche at Skebo Castle in Scotland? And do you also remember that the public have never seen any pics from the event (well other than photographers standing outside the castle grounds looking desperate)? Well, last week on Ebay a charity raising money for victims of Hurricane Katrina put up for auction the tiara Madonna's wore for that wedding. I must admit I was surprised Madonna a) wore one & b) that it was such a classic, old fashioned affair, we can only guess at what she may have worn it with but here's a glimpse of part of that bridal trousseau thanks to Ebay:

The tiara, which had a starting price of just over £118,000 did not sell, perhaps because it didn't have enough press or perhaps because with no pics of the wedding, how could anyone believe it really was worn by Madonna on her Wedding Day? Certainly people are not as trusting of the whole Ebay thing as they used to be & no wonder with so many fakes & scams going on.

Everytime you place a bid these days you really have to weigh up whether you are taking a risk, Ebay is not the most helpful when things go wrong & talking from experience, often turns a blind eye to bad sellers especially if they are doing the numbers & paying Ebay big & regular auction fees, grrrr.


And talking of Ebay.....

They have this new bit where users can write reviews & guides. Can I just say uh oh & can't imagine they'll keep this going for long!

The often disgruntled buyers have been given their soap box. Some have similar grumbles to me, others are airing problems they've come up against in the spirit of hoping others don't make the same mistakes or are warning of scams & fakes & there is a lot of noise about China.

The Internet & Ebay have been drawing Bride-to-be's like moths to a flame & though I'm sure many have very good buying experiences, it must be said that some do not.

Brides, often on budgets, are looking to Ebay to find the dress they saw in a magazine or shop for less & there are lots of sellers waiting on Ebay to take advantage of this. The Bridal Industry is very anti-internet selling , they have to be seen to protect their retailers (the shops) & most manufacturers will not sell to any company selling dresses online. So apart from the genuine brides selling on their dress, a lot of the other branded dresses offered for sale (like many of the Prada, Chanel & Dior handbags on Ebay) are cheap fakes & the non branded dresses are not what they are promised to be either. Since July this year, a number of brides have put their stories on Ebay's site & I think, in the spirit of making all Ebay buyers a lot for savvy & less vulnerable, they're worth sharing. I have blanked out the reviewers details & the details of the people they name & shame but these can all be found on Ebay's site:

know that when you run in to a bad Ebay seller the experience can be very unpleasant. They can be very rude, if you can get an answer at all, & you don't always see your money again. I use Ebay, I love Ebay - when it works & I have been burned on Ebay though I haven't lost much & we're not talking about anything important.

Though, obviously I have clients on budgets, their budgets are still extremely healthy compared with the brides who tend to turn to Ebay, so this diary entry is not about turning brides away from Ebay in the hope of picking up work & equally, I don't have a shop selling manufactured gowns so I am not financially effected by the sales of knock off branded wedding dresses. I may not work at the lower priced end of the bridal market but I do work in it & I know brides & it makes me sick to think of any bride spending what they have on a dress, that promises to be the dress of their dreams, only to find themselves with no dress, no time & no money to get another one. It is every bride's ultimate horror scenario & as you have read, it is happening. Advice: So before you place a bid & send your money, calculate the risks & don't spend everything you've got if you can't afford to loose it or to run into problems. Second hand dresses bought from the bride or shops that specialise in selling second hand wedding dresses are the safer bet & even if a dress is a 6 hour round tip away - if you want it, you'll make the trip & check the dress over before you take it away. Bridal shops are the other way to go. Yes, they will charge you more than internet prices but they will be genuine goods.

Bridal Shops & manufactured dresses:

That's not to say there are pitfalls with ordering manufacturers dresses from shops too & when I have time I will share some of the stories I hear. You may be surprised to hear that bridal shops have one hell of a time dealing with manufacturers & they're the ones that have to try & make the best of any problems the manufacturer is responsible for when it all goes wrong. And from what I have been privy to, as a friend of someone who stuck their toe in these waters, I can tell you that most of the manufacturers don't care about or respect the women that wear their dresses one bit & don't have much respect for their buyers, the retailers, either! When the dresses are behind deadline, come in the wrong colour, arrive with bits missing, etc. for the retailer trying to sort things out, it can be a case of tell them this, tell them there was a style change, if they call us we'll blame you, we'll say this, sort it out yourself, emails & faxes are ignored, orders misfiled, if some of these manufacturers had a mantra it would be 'just show us the money' and let me tell you a lot of that money goes to China. There are a lot of British designers & their brands who are now owned by a Chinese millionaire businessman & those dresses are, on the whole, all being made up in China & you would probably be surprised at the brands he owns. Talking to brides who come out to buy tiaras, I am amazed how many have no idea where their dress is being made. I'd say look at the label but according to Fashion Babylon - I may rename it Fashion Bible, you only have to sew a couple of buttons on here in the UK to label a garment made in Britain, but still you can see what the label says & ask your retailer questions.

Advice:After taking a paddle in the ready to wear market, my friend would advise that if you're told 12-16 weeks, expect it to be 16+. She'd say allow six months for delivery & eight is better in case the dress has to go back or another one sent.


10 September 2006 ~

Oct/Nov '06 WEDDING Magazine:

I have a Designer Profile in the new issue of Wedding magazine:
13 September 2006 ~

In the spirit of all those school reports kids up & down the country will be asked to write about 'what I did in the Summer holidays', heres my:
Last weekend I went to Harrogate........

Harrogate, for a few days twice a year, becomes home to the oestrogen soaked atmosphere of the BBEH (British Bridal Exhibition). This is the trade fair where manufacturers of wedding dresses, veils, shoes, hats, head-dresses, etc. from the UK & around the world ply their wares to bridal buyers that descend on this quaint spa town from all over the world. Why Harrogate? I haven’t got a clue but it does seem odd so maybe there’s some significant connection between the area & the bridal wear industry?


So, anyway, twice a year a large contingent of our industry – manufacturers, buyers & the editors & fashion teams from the wedding magazines go to Harrogate. As a couture designer I have no real need to go but every once in a while I decide to show my face:

  • to check out the general direction bridal wear is going in - which I can tell you is quite depressing & it isn’t going anywhere fast,

  • see if there are any significant colour themes I should be aware of. In fashion, if blue/brown/grey at various times are labelled the new black, in bridal fashion next season, as it was this season, pink is the new white.

  • say hello to the various magazine peeps I bump in to & remind them that the high end, couture designers such as myself, of which more & more these days are jumping ship & going in to manufacturing (or going half way with a manufactured diffusion ranges), are not represented at the show but are still out there. As you can imagine, it’s easy for them to see a huge number of dresses & earmark things to call in for the next six months of fashion shoots (that’s only three issues) by flitting from one hall to another over the three days of the show & to not give any thought to what the couture designers are up to. Designers like myself do get things called in because you won’t find real couture at Harrogate & you won’t find me or other designers with very distinct signature styles at the show but it then becomes a question of making sure they know you’re still out there & making sure they know what new pieces you have in your collection. If you have a London showroom, you can normally get the fashion teams out for a visit but if you’re out of town you need to be more pro-active. I went to Harrogate to go to ‘Wedding’s party, meet Katherine the new Editor & Alex the newish Fashion Editor & hear what Katherine had to say about the planned changes for the mag.



If you’re not trade & therefore not exhibiting at Harrogate, your chance to showcase yourself to the press is The Designer Wedding Show which showcases the high end stuff to the brides but for various reasons I have so far chosen not to do it – timing wise November is too late to show as I’m well on the way to being fully booked for the following year & I think too that the February show will attract moneyed brides looking to marry within twelve months, so again I’m already well or fully booked. It’s a shame because the magazines do seem to go to the show & give exhibitors columns of editorial but it would be silly to sink thousands into a stand only to have to say to brides “sorry I’m booked”. Plus I have some moral issues with the organisers because they a) seem to have a ‘London is best philosophy’ – they will hard sell London designers into taking stands but don’t seem to look outside London for the rest of the cream of UK designers, b) they have ‘designers’ there that are high end manufacturers or are posh shops that stock American & European high end ‘off-the-peg’ & c) one has to ‘apply’ & prove your worth by filling out a questionnaire detailing the number of employees one has, the price (highest & lowest) of one’s goods, one’s press editorial over the last year & if one has celebrity clients (in which case they want to know who), then there is a bit on the form where you can add anything extra you think may impress them enough to allow you to show at their prestigious event! Now I understand a need to screen exhibitors but what exactly can be ascertained from one’s number of full & part time employees & if a designer has celebrity clients, a good one will be discrete & not brag about who they’ve done! I find the whole thing incredibly pretentious & it’s not like the role call of designers they have got is that impressive (a lot of the biggest names are off the peg via Browns Bride, etc.) or wide ranging, as with what you get from most of the London designers, paying London overheads, the dresses are simple, contemporary & almost exclusively white or ivory & are designed to appeal to a wide audience e.g. ‘err on the side of caution’ Sloane types. If I were in London I’d have to conform or starve, so I’m not in London! Anyway after the initial pounce on London designers to sell the first show, they seem to have enough designers willing to audition via the offensive & insulting form procedure to keep the stands full – personally, I think all they really need to do is view a designer’s website or brochure to decide whether they can take a stand & had they done so they might have a better & more interesting mix.



10 September 2006 ~ 

I met up in Harrogate with a colleague Sunday night to go to the ‘Wedding ’ party & between us we made a sterling attempt to drink to the value of our latest adverts in Champagne, Black Russians & Kahlua & no I did not get liquored up enough to set foot on the dance floor & I probably made more of a pin prick in the bar bill than any dent against the advertising revenue I spend with the mag. A dent would have involved alcohol poisoning & stomach pumping & doesn’t make for a good impression on one’s hosts   ;)  I like the new team & with an Editor with a fashion background now onboard who seems to understand what the magazine needs I have high hopes, plus they had a free bar which will always win you friends.


11 September 2006 ~

Can I just say, the above concoction of alcohol will get you blissfully boozy but have no hangover head or induce nausea at the site of a cooked breakfast, which was great because the exhibition halls seemed to be sans air conditioning on an Indian Summer day - sods! Plus I had to do the three & a half hour drive home that evening. Bypassing racks of gaudy, preformed, ‘ghetto princess’ / lap dancer bodices teamed with vile skirts & OTT shoes & my ‘favorites’, the lampshade dresses we were on the hunt for veils & shoes. 



The ‘lampshade’ as I call them, is a dress that has a stiff cone shaped skirt with fabric worked onto it in a way that says ‘look at this interesting design with it’s extravagant styling & generous use of fabric’, whilst using fabric as sparingly as possible. These dresses will have drapes stretched tight across them with minimal gathering, small swags, the bunching up of small areas to give the illusion of volume & suggestion of layering fabrics to suggest opulence. Slap on a bit of lace, some flowers, feathers or bows & you have a dress fit for a fancy dress party (tish, tish, naughty me), I meant to say Wedding!  What I find really scary is that these are manufacturers dresses with the ‘design’ reflecting a firm nod towards budget & getting the best result from the minimum outlay in fabrics & trimmings because, with many of these dresses being knocked up in China, the labour bit is the cheapest bit. These dresses then get marked up by x2.5 or x3. There is an Aubergine, voluminous ‘lampshade’ dress by Ian Stuart, granted it’s at the nicer end of lampshades, (I don’t know where his are made) in this months Cosmo Bride & it is £3000 – good grief if you’ve got that kind of money to spend surely it’s better to look to made-to-measure couture than buy a dress that probably wholesaled for around £1000 & made the manufacturer a healthy profit from that £1000 – what, in real terms, would be the true value of a any manufactured dress, bought from a shop for £3000? Sobering, isn’t it?

If you want to buy a lampshade, you can buy some very pretty lampshades:



Then there’s the kitsch lamp, this one I own, that looks like a dress (well can can skirt) & this works because it’s kitsch!:



Veils & shoes for my friend & I was on the look out for shoes but only if they were perfect  (I studied shoe design at college & am both a shoe connoisseur & shoe snob!) & was keeping an eagle eye out for anything of mine that might have made an appearance in a manufacturers collection. It’s mainly crown knock offs but my three strand beaded strap has become a regular over the years in a number of UK collections, at least one very big US company’s collection & not surprisingly also appears on a dress on my stalker’s website. I personally have little time for veils & can count the number I have liked on the fingers of one hand but a variation of one that featured on a tv show once, that I really liked, was at the show so I surprised myself & snapped that up in a soft gold shade, plus a 126cm long ivory veil covered in crystals for clients who want a sophisticated & tasteful shower of bling cascading down their backs. I also scored on the shoe front & ordered a gorgeous style in shades to match Elizabeth, Damsel & Ice Queen (gold, red & winter white). Those should be with me in the next few weeks & the jury’s out yet on whether I’ll show those on the site or hold them back as exclusives for my gown clients.

My favorite bit, apart from  two suppers at Bettys tea shop – a must indulgence when in Harrogate or York, was, as it happens, my brief but pleasure giving cruise past the Ian Stuart stand.

Ian it seems is loved by the legions of bridal shop ladies – a Robbie Williams of the bridal manufacturing world. He looks the part, has a slick ad campaign & puts on a good show. He is the winner of at least 3 years of Bridal Buyer’s British Bridal Designer of the Year award which one would be forgiven for thinking was won as a designer in competition with all UK designers but you’d be wrong.



Here's the criteria for this award: 

"Best British Bridal Designer"

Retailer or self-nominated

Judged by a panel of retailers and a member of the bridal press.
Judges will be looking for someone who leads the way and pushes the boundaries in design terms as well as being an ambassador for British bridal design. In addition, judges will be looking for evidence of a willingness to be flexible, and to work alongside stockists to promote sales."

Used, without a clear clarification of what the award means, it sounds like he’s been judged to the best bridal designer in the country which, of course, is a load of tosh, as are the ones awarded by magazines & wedding shows over the years with similar titles that were awarded to a small number of advertisers or exhibitors at their event – the exhibition Yorkshire Brides has such an award, as did a magazine called Bride & Groom years ago (a marketing tool designed to encourage advertisers to spend their money with them with a lure of an award over competitors). We did used to have a British Bridal Designer Of The Year award, which was open to couture designers & manufactures who were judged separately, with categories for different design styles. It was hosted by one of the magazines, was fairly costly to enter & it was the opinion of many that you did not stand any chance of winning unless you had invested a healthy advertising budget in the title. Alas these competitions are never what they seem, just like I know of a couture label that alludes to the fact that the designers are Oscar winners, when the not so impressive truth is that they have, as costume makers, made costumes for films, who’s Costume Designers won Oscars. My friend & I could set up the C&D 'British Bridal Designer & All Round Fabulous Individual Award' & take it in turns to carry the title every other year & who could argue?




With certain manufacturers not all shops are in good enough locations to be allowed to stock their dresses & my friend & I know one shop owner who ‘dresses up’ to visit Ian’s stand in the hope of persuading him to let them have the collection. We had visions of her turning up on the stand with her colleagues as an updated version of Grease’s ‘Pink Ladies’, wearing sugar pink t-shirts with ‘I heart Ian’ emblazoned across their chests in glitter but it turns out ‘impressing’ Ian involved slipping in to a designer suit & having a good pair of shoes & matching bag - did I say ‘impress’ or ‘depress’? Ooh look, a bridal shop owner in a suit, that’s a novelty!

Well, anyhoo, Ian has been using the same pouty/sulky model for his “straw play” adverts who appears to be trying to pull off the tongue in cheek message of each image complete with naked (hide the naughty bits) or semi naked man where she portrays one of three looks, the ‘I’m thinking of having him’, ‘we’re in the moment’ or ‘I just had him’ – sometimes she seems to pull it off & sometimes she looks p****d off. Moving on with the story…… in Bridal Buyer I had noticed an image of said model that is the very image of Grace from this year’s Big Brother. You know the one who bitched, was a sore looser, was booed out of the house twice & was generally loathed by a large proportion of the British public, you know “Horse Face Grace”. In this pic of a dress I now know is called ‘Gina’ the Grace looky likey is pulling the ‘who does that girl think she is pawing my Mikey’ scowl! When I saw it, it did cross my mind that having a model that looks a lot like a particularly odious & hated member of the British public could damage your campaign. You know, you’re looking at the photo & you’re thinking there’s something about it I just don’t like, just like my Mother cannot abide Danny Devito because he looks like our deeply unpleasant neighbor.

Well, as we start to make our may through the rock concert crowd that has blocked off the aisle to watch Ian’s fashion show.....




Imagine a wide exhibition stand, running along a wall, in front of which is an average sized aisle.

Now imagine the stand is set up like a stage with each side blocked off like the wings & a corridor linking the wings at the back, so models walk across the stage & quick change behind.

Then imagine that to stop & see the show everyone has to stand sideways on, in the aisle. Which creates an annoying bottle neck & is sure to irritate your neighbors whose potential buyers have to battle their way through the crowd to get to them or will dash past such a stand's immediate neighbors because they're finally free & want to press on.

Most exhibitors who have fashion shows take central stands & have enough room for everyone who wants to watch to get in to their stand & clear the aisle. Hence not having an adverse effect on other exhibitors.

One has to remember, to the average bridal shop owner, gimmicky fashion shows & all the pomp & ceremony these guys put on, is probably the highlight of their year. It may not be London, Paris or Milan fashion Week but they're never going to go to those, so it might as well be.

.... (Ian hanging back enjoying the admiration), I glance up at the same photo of ‘Gina' - a cropped in version of this image:  


& remarked to my friend “see, she looks just like Grace from Big Brother” & added “kiss of death” just as a girl, I’ll assume was part of his entourage, breezes past, makes it another five paces before processing my comment & spinning around, her mouth open & a ‘deer caught in the headlights’ expression on her face. After a prolonged stare she darted to the front & centre of the crowd & relaying, presumably my comment, to another woman they both preceded to take a good look at us, then at the huge ‘Gracey (pronounced with Manchurian accent)’ photo flanking their stand (& BTW their ad in the BBEH brochure) before more alarmed looks, stares & scowls (if looks could kill), ushering Ian over to relay the comment again, before more starring ensued! Priceless! My off the cuff comment to a friend had caused this very literal enactment of ‘putting the cat amongst the pigeons’ to play out in from of our very eyes!

Rather than thank me or acknowledge my inadvertent public service to their brand, which if acted on, might help sales; as we continued to cruise through the crowd, who were unaware of the mini-drama playing out, we were met with more stares & dirty looks that, lets face it, were plain rude (hey don’t shoot the messenger or look at me like I’m Grace - after all they chose her & if they didn’t have their heads so far up their owns a**es that they didn’t clock this unfortunate coincidence when Grace hit the newspapers in the Summer, that’s their own fault, ‘grace’ is something they could do with). As we cleared the crowd, we cracked smiles that quickly turned into giggles & my friend says, “it was soooo worth coming, just for that!”. “Yeh, it was, wasn’t it”, I said. My friend also remarked that the girl who passed us, you could see it on her face, she knew exactly what I meant.


That evening in Bettys, I also also caught up with Fashion Editor of You & Your Wedding, Peta (who was probably on the verge of weddings overload & the last thing she’ll have wanted was to still be chatting to designers in Betty’s at 8pm) & collected the details of a lovely looking model on the table next to me. Bettys like other places in Harrogate during BBEH are where designers, buyers & magazine folk will congregate. I know designer David Fielden was having dinner in there too because I met his cousin down stairs in the loos. In that respect Harrogate is a little like the tube train out of Olympia about twenty minutes after the National Wedding Show has closed for the evening, I remember when I used to do the show (back when they got in the calibre of exhibitors I was happy to show with), the carriages used to be full of designers on nodding terms who would congregate & gossip on the way back to Earls Court.


So, between two visits to Bettys, an industry party, a successful buying trip, bumping in to & saying hi to my model Emma whom I selected for my next shoot about 18 months ago & still haven’t had time to make the new samples (she forgives me), inadvertently but deliciously upsetting the status quo at Ian Stuarts (my personal highlight), getting another fab model’s card, meeting or reacquainting myself with some key members of the wedding magazines, in summery a good time was had & even though I’d developed one of my ‘hot weather & it needs to storm’ headaches I did remember my most important mission – to buy stock amounts of the very yummy Bettys' Tomato Chutney.





Reported on AOL today.

Madrid Fashion Week is banning skinny models from their catwalks. If they have an unhealthy BMI (a measure of their weight in relation to their height) of 18 or less, they will be excluded from working the runway & will instead be offered medical help.

What a great idea! And a global ban? Absolutely!

AOL have a poll, when I participated earlier this evening, it was shaping up like this:

Are models too thin?

Results: Votes   Per cent
Yes 5,742 91%
No 594 9%

Should the ban be extended globally? -                  

Results: Votes   Per cent
Yes 5,416 85%
No 920 15%

"The Association of Fashion Designers of Spain said that last year 30 per cent of the women flunked the BMI test." AOL

 Diary Feedback:

Clients past, present & very recent have been dropping me lines to say how much they are enjoying the diary. It makes them laugh - so good, it's meant to. This is a non-stuffy zone. 

Whilst I was away in Harrogate, this one dropped in to my inbox from a previous client:


Brides sometimes also ask female guests not to wear a certain colour, for instance if you are wearing red, you might wish to veto red, though often that request is like a red rag to a bull (excuse the pun) & the girlfriend of your best man or someone else will swan in, in something both inappropriate & red in an attempt to upstage you.


"I think I love you. I haven't laughed this much in weeks!"

You've probably guessed that she was all too familiar with this real life scenario!

NB Before publishing this, I emailed back to ask if it was OK to share her comments here



N.B. To my past, current & 2007 clients - if you would like to contribute anything to this diary, email me. Wedding planning tips, recommended suppliers, scary wedding stories, email them in girls.




21 September 2006 ~
You got mail...... & other gripes.

In a world where we have any number of ways of communicating with each other:

  • Telephone – landlines & mobiles
  • Text
  • Email

It strikes me that people have become very bad at communication.



Case in point:


This last Bank Holiday weekend I was expecting a B2B from Yorkshire for a 2007 wedding gown consultation. Over that holiday weekend I had three gown consultations & judging from the prelim telephone conversation I had with her, of the three, this bride was the one most likely to order.


Our conversation covered styles of dress, colours, her liking a particular piece of music which set the tone for the wedding; she was, by all accounts, very excited & looking forward to her consultation. In addition she had enquired about my making a corseted gown for her sister, so I suggested I book the whole of Monday 28th August out for her & her sister’s consultations & the appointment was set.


For my part, I sent the confirmation email & maps, fully expecting to see her on the 28th at 12pm.


Both Saturday’s & Sunday’s brides booked in their ’07 weddings but I must admit that when I walked out of the house to see my Sunday appointment, it did cross my mind to ring & check Monday was still on – my alarm bells were ringing, but then I promptly forgot again.


On Monday at 12pm, I end up sat in my showroom thinking “I knew I should have called!”. At 12.30 I call her mobile (switched off) & leave a message “are you still coming, stuck in traffic? Please let me know…... I'm waiting for you”. The mobile remains switched off when I try it on & off over the next few days. I sent an email enquiring if something had come up & did she wish to rebook her appointment?


As you can imagine, I’ve heard nothing, no phone call, no text, no email.


Now I know there may be a genuine ‘emergency or worse’ reason for her no show but over the years this has happened quite a few times & not just to me but to my colleagues too. When I mention it to my friend later that week, she says “Oh I know, that’s why I won’t open on Bank Holidays – they never come”.


The trouble with holidays & I understand this, is that the idea of rolling out of bed, into your car & heading off on a 3 hour journey down the M1 is no ones idea of fun but if you ask for the appointment & decide to blow it off - call, text, do something to let the mug waiting for you, who’s wasting their holiday waiting for you, not to bother!


Now I’d prefer a call that involved a credible white lie for why you can’t come, I’ll take a really bad one, I’ll even take “I can’t be bothered & want to watch T.V. in bed today”, just make the call & tell me & if you’re too embarrassed to call, text me, even email me!


My gripe with Holiday Monday Bride is that it takes about 3 hours to get to me from her location, so there was plenty of time to have let me know not to bother heading out of the house to meet her that day & there has been time since for some communication from her to say ‘sorry, something came up’, ‘I’ve found a dress elsewhere’, etc. or the very honest, the very understandable ‘I forgot!’.


Over the years I have had brides confirm in the morning they are coming & fail to show in the afternoon & my favourite, the bride who called 10 minutes before her appointment to say she couldn’t start her car & was waiting for the AA & would therefore not be able to come – well thanks for the head up but shouldn’t she have called me an hour earlier when she would have had to have left to have got to me on time?


And it’s not just me that has this gripe. Up & down this country designers get the same no shows & appointments someone else would have happily taken go to waste. And of course the same thing happens to Doctors, Dentists, Hair Dressers, Restaurants – today, tomorrow, yesterday 100’s of appointments are being blown off for one reason or another & there’s no need – a little thought is all we ask!


It’s really hard to try & avoid becoming really cynical & avoid the pigeon holing that starts to occur in any industry when it’s clear patterns of behaviour are starting to emerge.


Another case in point:


Americans. Now I’m sorry to those that don’t fall into this one. I know it’s not all Americans, it just seems to be a high proportion…..


Firstly I am English, then British, at a push I’m European but I am not & have no desire to be, American.


In keeping with a British website & a business that deals almost exclusively with British brides, prices are in Pounds Sterling (GBP on an online currency converter). I could phaff  about having some kind of live currency converter gadgy on the site but a) I’ve no idea how to program that & b) I see no point!


At the top of each album page is an approximate calculation of pounds to dollars & euros to be used as a guide &, AND, on my ‘Overseas’ page I have a link to an online currency converter!


You would not believe, or maybe you would, the amount of emails I get that say one of the following:


‘can you give me the prices for these dresses (X) & (Y)’


‘you don’t have any prices on your site, how much is (X)’


Now expeience has taught me that you have to bare in mind these emails have not been written by some twit who can’t, if their life depended on it, locate the price, right there on the page next to the dress image & that these enquiries are from Americans.

Normally a quick copy & paste of the domain name attached to the email confirms this & with sometimes I can very swiftly, via the screen name, find a members page which will, again, prove the writer is American.


So the emails then translate as:


‘I am American. I do not understand your strange Monopoly money. Go online, key in your prices, get them converted & email me a nice, polite email that refrains from pointing out both how arrogant & ignorant I am!’


So once translated, what’s my motivation to do this? Am I supposed to believe this enquiry will result in anything other than my wasting the next 10 minutes compiling an email to someone who I know is never going to get on a plane – hey, if they are too lazy to Google a currency converter & find out what my currency converts to in their funny money, they’re not going to commit to flights & fittings are they.

I have spent weeks compiling a very information saturated site & have a whole page dedicated to ‘Overseas’ clients, where I have featured a currency converter for their convenience but I think the problem is that when a lot of US users set sail on the net, they assume the whole world trades from the US or if they don’t, they should do!


‘Overseas Clients’ means squat to them – after all they are not ‘overseas’, I am!

So they don’t read the page & find the answers to their questions which also includes the answers to ‘do you have outlets in the US?, ‘do you do mail order’, etc.



I will answer these enquiries, if I have time to, but I keep it short:


‘Please find a link to an online currency converter, GBP to USD, the link to my ‘Overseas’ page, the link to my gowns album where you will find the prices in GBP next to the images. Regards, Chantal.’


And again, I know it’s not all Americans. I have no problems with those that want to double check their conversions & have less of a problem, though they do still cause my brow to furrow, with those that request prices in dollars.   


My gripe here is that Americans act as though everything evolves around America & because you’re not in America you must fall over yourself to make their visit to your site as pain free as possible & tax their brains as little as possible.


When I go on to an US site I firstly check the FAQ’s that they ship to the UK & then do my own conversions & I’ve met Americans that do the same with non-US sites but they are American citizens who have ventured outside of the States & embraced the wonders Europe & the rest of the world.


To my US readers, I say sorry, you may be able to buy almost anything you want in the US but as far as bridal wear design is concerned, we have a more varied & more interesting choice in the UK & if you want a Chantal Mallet you have to travel here, to the UK, to this little insignificant island where I live. The UK has some very talented fashion designers, a vibrant & creative fashion industry - I am proud to be British & be counted amongst them.




Before we leave the US entirely.....


can I just say that I have a big problem with websites that represent the English language with the Stars & Stripes!!!


Heaven forbid the Union Jack represent the English language – Americans would likely either not be able to find the English version of a site because they would not recognise the significance of the Union Jack, just not recognise the Union Jack full stop or take offence to a Union Jack representing the American language!


I am currently on a plane to Paris – work/research stuff & it’s coming in to land so I will have to pick up with my other ‘communication’ stories – bizarre email, etc., ……………………. & there’s touch down…………………tomorrow on the flight back.



22 September 2006 ~

You got mail...... & other gripes cont...



So… where was I? Oh this is a good one:


The other day the phone rings, I pick up, this officious woman says ‘Hold please’ & the phone begins to ring. Now I’ve dealt with officious P.A’s & I am fully expecting to be connected to an adult, probably with a high powered job or maybe a mag, a celeb…. so imagine my surprise when I am connected to a school girl, a very young sounding school girl, who it turns out is doing a project on corsets & would like to come & see one being made (I’m thinking can they spare you for a few weeks)? Now whilst I expect the ‘Hold please’ attitude from a P.A. – it’s rude but these women have a tendency to be, they do like to ride on the coat tails of power, I don’t expect it from some secretary, as a first contact, from a school! Where have people’s manners gone to? Rude phone calls, blowing off appointments, the ‘I can’t be bothered, you do it’ attitudes, lazy emails that miss off half the info you need, it’s enough to drive you up the wall!

It would so help if emails were complete enough to understand what the writer wanted:


“I am looking for a gown like in sleeping beauty but the light blue version. The dress Aurora wore. If you do something like that, I'm a size 6 and how much would it run about.”

?  ?  ?

This drops in my inbox & I feel the need to embark on a round of Charades. Is it a film, a book, a ballet, your local Panto, which version......... you get the picture.

And of course I have my own design signature & this does sound like the writer wants a disneyesque ‘inspired by’ dress & my not doing that, I would hope is echoed in my work & the design & content of my site.


Then there’s the South African lady who sends me this email:


“I have send an e-mail to you before where I told you about my webbsite and my love for the dresses on it. Then I asked if I could order any of them from you in the future. But I haven´t got any answer from you yet. I want to know so I can plan my future orders.”


I had, had an email, there was a link to a site called ‘CATS and COSTUMES and DOLLS’ – scared yet? Where there are pics of the lady’s cats, the lady posing with a little dog, visiting English castles, posing with a wax work of Lady Di & links to pages of dresses she wants. Most appeared to be costumes from films but the ones I clicked on had blanks were the pics should be & before I lost the will to live (the queue in my village post office always has that effect on me too) & spend any more time there, I clicked off. It also reminded me of a physic reading I had from a woman my mother dragged me to once, who didn’t get one thing right & had to be told what I do, only to then tell me I was going to go & live in America (hmm, really?), the deep south no less (around simpering, stand by your man, women with that infamous southern drawl – who did I upset in a former life?) & make period clothes for dolls (like hell I am!!!) – this from a woman who had a constipated dog (she didn’t foresee that) & a bungalow that was full of dolls & cuddly toys (she probably thought this change in career path sounded heavenly). So ‘CATS and COSTUMES and DOLLS’ took me to the scary place ;)


Now I’m not & being asked to copy (& that’s what replicating costumes is) is one of my pet peeves, I don’t appreciate email requests of this nature & my visit to her site just served to irritate me further. I lost any will I had to reply, well the will to pen a polite reply & I try to save my impolite replies (& the unleashing of my wrath) for only the most stupid, ignorant, arrogant or irritating enquiries.


In the end though, I had to reply because I could see this email dropping into my inbox again & again & again until I did.


And talking of dolls, I once had the most amazing email that looked more like a film script, from a woman who evidently was from a community with a bad rep, the writer had to be from the deep south - she told me how she was a good person, a god fearing person (ooh maybe the physic was actually sort of good & she’d tuned in to this future email & just sort of got things all messed up) because what this god fearing woman wanted (god was mentioned quite a bit & I believe I was also addressed as Mam) was for me to look at the image of a doll she had attached, which she said she would buy & send to me, so that I could replicate the dress the doll was wearing for her wedding dress. Bless her ;)   I penned a very nice reply suggesting made to measure might be quite pricey, she’d need to come to the UK & that she should look at some of the off the peg stuff she could get in the US – someone asked me the other day who I’d suggested (suspecting exactly who I’d suggest) to which I replied Ian Stuart of course!


Ooh yes, the Paris trip went well, I came back with some grand ideas about where the future of Chantal Mallett is going but I'm not sharing those here, well not yet, you never know who's reading ;)

What I can say is Easyjet may be convenient but the walking starts before you even leave the UK - they have the gates furthest from the departure lounge & seem to always leave late. And Paris........ it involved a hell of a lot of walking, it was hot (I hate the heat) & when I wasn't walking I was queuing & sometimes politely waiting to be served by French people that would rather chat & ignore you than work - in France it does not pay to be polite! The whole two day Marathon was topped off with a late departure from budget airline's Terminal 3 at Charles De Gaule with the crappy Duty Free shopping & one caf (I meant caf, cafe would suggest too much sophistication) - I didn't even get to bounce down those funny tubular walkways they have). Then there was the twenty minute queue around the block before being herded like cattle around the zig zag route they set out with those posts & tapes to go through Passport Control, whilst they blasted hot air on us (it felt a lot like we were being punished for being part of the EU), the non-EU queue hardly had anyone in it & a further fifteen minute wait for the baggage. I was at Charles de Gaule at 4pm (3pm UK time) & didn't get out of Luton airport until 7.40pm (I was due in at 6.30). Travelling is so exhausing, I think inventing teleporters should be up there with solving world hunger, fixing the ozone layer & curing all diseases.




26 September 2006 ~

Other online diarys & blogs of note, part one:

I found out today whilst emailing Marian Keyes from her website to inform Marian that I know of a shoe shop in Harrogate that caters for little feet (Marian mentioned her love of shoes & lack of choice for her european size 35 feet in the latest issue of Marie Claire) that she keeps a diary. Now I am not a big reader, I give my eyes enough eye strain but I do like her articles in Marie Claire & the collection in the one book I do have of hers, so I've signed up for the newsletter & will log on from time to time to read her diary:


Also whilst chatting to Kirsten, one of my 2007 clients, today it was decided that it would be a fab idea for Kirsten to keep a diary (which will be published here) of her experiences during the run up to her wedding / renewal of vows / wedding take two. 

Whether it's just about her experiences with the services she's getting from me over the next year or whether it will encompase other 'wedding' related bits, we'll have to see how it shapes up - it was a glimmer of an idea this afternoon & a draft of the first entry arrived in my inbox tonight, which I liked very much (Kirsten says, it turns out, she rambles on a bit. I'd like to say, in what way wouldn't that fit in here - my whole diary is one long ramble!). Her diary will always appear in the same colour box, so it will be easy to see when something new has dropped in.



27 September 2006 ~






 Kirsten's Diary - the Wedding, Take Two.


Kirsten is one of my 2007 clients. She lives in London & for her 10th Anniversary is having a Renewal of Vows ceremony in a Scotish castle - her Wedding, Take Two.


She's an excellent person to keep this diary because she's not worried about keeping the whole thing under wraps & this time, the lady knows what she wants - I am really pleased she wants to contribute to this section of the site & am looking forward to reading her future entries.



Where do you start when you are looking for a wedding dress?  It’s very difficult and although there are stacks of magazines with various bridal designers plastered all over them, you don’t necessarily know what will suit you or the style you want and how much they cost.  Now what do you do if you are doing an over the top renewal of vows (because you have regrets and things you couldn’t afford when you got married) and therefore you are not even going to be a bride and so veils and white are probably out by default!?

Don’t get me wrong, there are a million things I loved about my wedding, not least marrying my man and becoming “Mrs” as well as a beautiful church, oh and on our December wedding day it even snowed, in London!  BUT I didn’t feel like a princess, and it was in our local pub, where oh so romantically, we had met.  Just not the fairytale wedding us girls dream about.  Sorry girls but if you get it wrong, you will regret it!

As it is 10 years in 2007, we decided to take the plunge.  We have our house and our cars, and as yet we do not want to start a family, so why not spend lots of money on a Renewal of Vows ceremony?  Which, by the way, our neighbour refuses to call anything but a wedding and is going to be in a castle in Scotland.  So I am back to my original question, where on earth do you start looking for a wedding dress?

I had no money when we got married and I desperately wanted a nice dress.  The option of £200 designer wedding dresses in department stores were not yet available.  A dear family friend offered to make my dress, as well as the cake, which made the wedding even possible.  I spent hours searching out a pattern I liked that had ‘simple’ on the label, because she had never made a wedding dress before.  The design I found was very simple, and in black, on a model looked fine.  However, in gold crepe, on a rather large girl, frankly I looked hideous.  Through no fault of my wonderful seamstress, it was singularly the most unflattering garment ever.  I looked awful!  I regretted it bitterly, and I made a promise to myself that I would absolutely not regret my dress for the Renewal of Vows.  I was looking forward to trekking round bridal stores and trying on dozens of fabulous gowns and finding my princess, dream dress.  I was in for a shock!

Dress hunting was not the heavenly and fun experience that I expected.  I phoned a local designer’s store, and was politely told that my budget should be enough to get me a dress from them and the style I had seen in a magazine was priced (just) within my budget.  She told me to get in touch and pop in when I had time.  Well having decided to pop in and ask when would be a good time I was met by a rather different response.  I reiterated my budget, and having just lost a stone in weight, asked whether there would be anything I might be able to try on.  No!  Come back when you have lost the weight, there is nothing we could show you.  Apparently a discussion with someone about what I was looking for was also out of the question.  My budget was possibly enough but she doubted it……  sufficed to say I left in tears and decided there and then to never go back.  I was tempted with a “Pretty Woman” moment, as my husband said add £1000 to your budget and go back and tell them you will now not be spending it there.  While I didn’t have the guts for that, I took my new budget and approached a designer in London.  She was absolutely lovely and I had seen a particular dress I loved.  While my old budget couldn’t take it, my new one just about could.  I went to see her and had a 15 minute discussion about what I wanted.  The dress I liked, I was assured, would suit me down to the ground and could be ‘made to measure’ for me.  She discussed the possibility of adjusting various aspects, such as colour and cut and was helpful.  However, although a nicer experience, I had no view of what might suit me and what wouldn’t and I wasn’t really confident that my budget would stretch to her suggested alterations. 


Then I remembered a website I had come across when I got married.  Way beyond my £50 budget at the time, it might be what I was looking for now…… and Chantal Mallett.

Prices were within my budget according to the gallery and they were amazing dresses.  Only problem was, none of them were really something I could see myself wearing for my dream day.  I am not into big skirts and my thighs definitely would not take wearing a slim fitted skirt.  So maybe she is not for me……..Well I loved the sense of style and the ‘feel’ of the designs so I called Chantal to ask if adjustments could be made to the slimmer skirts so they would be a bit more forgiving.  “Of course” was the answer I got back so it was definitely time to make an appointment. 

Driving up to Luton, I really couldn’t see a 3 hour appointment being necessary and had been really surprised that she gave so much time to potential clients.  It soon became clear why.  To my utter amazement we spent an hour with a can or two of diet coke, while we looked through dozens of designs, photographs, fabrics and sketches so I could get a feel for what she did.  Then she got a pencil and paper and we started designing my very own unique, individual dress.  I had no idea that this level of true couture service would apply to someone like me, with my budget!  This has not been my experience of designers or wedding dress shopping.  Only Hollywood starlets get their couture designers making one off wedding dresses don’t they?!?

Well no, that is the point. This is what couture is meant to be and thank god I found her.  And my wedding (sorry but don’t know what else to call it) dress problems were over.

I had used Chantal’s website as inspiration and had done a storyboard of styles and ideas that I liked so she could get an idea of what I liked.  They were incorporated into a dress design that I had never imagined I would be able to have.  With only two sketches, she had perfected the design for my dress and we had chosen fabrics and styles.  Having loved the Fleur de Lys dress in navy blue, I still felt that I wanted a more traditionally bridal colour.  But the more I looked at the design and as soon as Chantal brought out the most stunning gold lace, the ivory and pale pink fabrics just didn’t do it justice.  Navy blue and gold it was.  It was stunning and all I had was a drawing and some fabric samples in front of me but I loved it.  It was my princess dress and would fit in the grandeur of the castle perfectly. 



Because Kirsten is already married & this gown is for a Renewal of Vows

ceremony, the design & colour scheme are not a secret from her husband, so

Kirsten is happy to share her images, in advance, of the day.


The design takes it's inspiration, loosely, from Grecian/Roman style draping,

mixed with the look of a particular costume from the film Gladiator,

whilst featuring a flattering, hip skimming skirt & an 18th century corset

base with the tied shoulder straps from the Ophelia design.


And to my utter amazement, couture did not mean adding several thousand pounds to the prices on her website.  They were an accurate guide of what you would be paying. 


Well I truly believe that every bride to be should have the opportunity to have a dress designed just for them and remain utterly in awe of the fact that I have a picture of a dress designed just for me, that will be made for me and that I helped design.  Words fail me but how cool is that!



*  Keep an eye out for the blue boxes in the coming months for more musings from Kirsten. *


2006: Entires for MAY  .  JUNE  .  JULY  . AUGUST  .  SEPTEMBER   .  OCTOBER  .  NOVEMBER  .  DECEMBER