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Exhibitor Insights: Holly Winter Couture



Choosing your wedding dress can seem like such a difficult choice. With so many options available in bridal boutiques throughout the world it can often feel as if you can't see the tree tops in the forest of designs. Some people find the whole bridal boutique experience quite stressful - having to take your wedding party with you to try on dress after dress to find your perfect one can often make you feel quite pressured. Sometimes the best route forward is to start from scratch and design your own, that way not only do you get the dress of your dreams catered to your body precisely but you can do it in isolation that becomes something just for you.


Todays supplier spotlight focuses on Holly Winter Stevens who makes your dreams become reality at Holly Winter Couture. We chat to Holly to find out more about the process, what makes her tick and some great pieces of advice when it comes to planning your special day. So let's begin...


Can you tell our readers what it is you do and why do you do it, what makes it so special for you?

I'm a bridal designer and dressmaker. I've been sewing since I was five and dressmaking is a lifelong hobby that became my profession by (very happy) accident. Previously, I worked in PR. I was taught how to sew by my mum, how to make clothes by my grandma and how to use an overlocker by Great British Sewing Bee former judge May Martin. A little interesting fact about me is that I'm a grammar pedant and language lover with half-decent German, French and Japanese plus a smattering of Russian and Spanish.


Everything I make is bespoke and made to measure so I create something unique for each bride that's perfect for her. It's emotionally a very intimate process to learn her style, what she finds beautiful/hideous, what she loves about herself, etc so we get to know each other (and each others' secrets) really well.


It's a physically intimate process too as usually by our second meeting, the bride in her undies in the fitting room at my house in front of lots of big mirrors while I experiment with fabrics and take measurements. It's a very exciting time of someone's life to meet them and I also love the smugness credits I get from seeing The Dress (or 'not dress') before anyone else. :)


When chatting to potential clients how would you describe you unique selling point? Why do you think brides and grooms find this so special?


I'm a creative and very determined sort and have yet to meet a dress or design challenge I couldn't take on. Mostly though, it's down to the rapport with each bride and how well we click. I think (or I certainly hope) that I know when to advise and offer my ideas and when I need to just shut up and listen. Some brides come to me because they already know exactly what they want and just need me to make it real; others have gathered ideas from magazines and Pinterest as a starting point and some are overwhelmed by all the options or confused about what will work for them

I like to use styles and motifs not usually associated with weddings and give them a feminine, bridal edge. For example, I'll make wedding jeans in a shimmery ivory denim embellished with handmade fabric flowers and embroidered butterflies with pearls apparently suspended between the seams. Or I'll make lace that isn't the usual floral but made instead from embroidered motifs of birds, banners, or phases of the moon. I'm never afraid to experiment.

Tell us a little about the process you go through with couples - how do you start?


All good things start with tea and nice biscuits. We'll usually have already had some contact over email, phone or via my social media channels where we have shared a few ideas so that when we meet, we can have a good chat to get to know each other even better. We the pore over pictures, play with fabrics and samples, sketch and whittle down some ideas. After the initial meeting, I'll design some options and source fabrics to give accurate costs before we meet again to confirm the final design and fabrics and I can take measurements. I'll then create a toile (mock-up) for the bride to try on to make sure the fit is right before I make the final version in the chosen fabric.


What are the big upcoming trends within bridalwear?

Vogue's over-riding 2020 wedding trend is individuality, which I suppose could be interpreted as no trend, as everyone is doing something different. For me, although the concept itself isn't new, the greater acceptance and public discussion of gender fluidity is finally hitting the wedding realm, which is why my muse for the bridalwear samples I've created for Chosen is 1930s Marlene Dietrich in her bowtie and tux. I find trends in body confidence and even body parts more fascinating; right now, I'm getting a lot of requests to make bums look bigger, which I assume is the Kim Kardashian effect. I can't decide whether it's ridiculous or reassuring that different body types come in and out of fashion.

What do you find the most rewarding part of your job?


Seeing the bride radiantly happy and confident that she has a dress/outfit she's going to absolutely rock on her wedding day. This is especially true if she was anxious before we met that she wouldn't find anything that she felt great in or was worried about being the centre of attention, which is very common.

What do you think is the hardest part of planning a wedding?


For me, it was the seating plan. We had a big wedding and ensuring exes were separate and the opposing political factions didn't have to glower at each other at dinner over their respective Daily Mails and Guardians was a major feat of logistics.


If you could give couples planning their wedding one piece of advice - what would it be?


There is no 'should'. You don't have to be swept along with what anyone or anything tries to tell you you 'should' have if you didn't want it. My epiphany was when a wedding magazine extolled that every tealight "must have" its own teeny tiny silver filigree chair. I now reassure any brides fretting about the finer points that if they end the day married to the person they intended to, the day has been a success. Everything else is just detail.

Holly Winter Couture will be joining our inaugural fair taking place in the beautiful city of Oxford this February 16th between 11.00am to 3.30pm. We will be taking over 3 spaces, across 2 levels in the amazing Modern Art Oxford and can't wait to bring you a selection of the best creatives covering Oxfordshire and its surrounding borders.


More more information about the event click HERE where you can also purchase your tickets with a 25% discount off on the door prices if you book by 11.30pm on Saturday 15th February 2020.


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