Charlie Brear: Design Secrets for the Ultramodern Bride
"I always love a veil."
“If you can do something that you really love, it doesn’t feel like work.”
Behold the cool edginess of designer Charlie Brear’s bridal website: eighties crimped hair and spooky eyes accent the clean-line, glamour-studded, fresh designs. Edgy is not what you’d expect from a bridal designer, but this working mother of three is leading a cult of brides who just want to be different in their choice of cut, fabric and print. Charlie explains to Samantha Stonehouse how she became a bridal designer, what inspires her eclectic style, and how she juggles her work and family. She also gives us bride-to-be tips – as well as a sneak preview of her new, ultra-modern, design ideas.
Hi Charlie, where do you get your inspiration from?
I find inspiration absolutely everywhere – from archived fashion editorials and architecture, to museums and places abroad. I can be anywhere, doing anything, and something will catch my eye that might inspire a certain silhouette or print.
There is a lovely story about how you started your bridal label. How did it all begin?
I’d been working as a stylist for ten years when, inspired by a bridal story I was commissioned to shoot, I was spurred on to design my first capsule collection of made-to-order gowns. Next, I produced my first full collection, shortly before launching Additions – a range of unique styling pieces to complement the made-to-order line. In 2013, I launched my first mainline fashion ready-to-wear collection, which shares the same strong contemporary and feminine aesthetic as our bridal offering. Today, Charlie Brear is stocked in over 60 bridal boutiques worldwide and also retails from our central London Flagship.
Can you talk us through your 2018 mainline bridal collection?
Bold, glamorous, fearless and seductive are all words that describe the 2018 Charlie Brear Mainline Collection. With a subtle nod to seventies Cher and referencing the film Pretty Woman, taking nineties attitude and grit mixed with sophistication, the mood is fun and relevant to this season’s easygoing bride. Both the seventies and the nineties are eras close to my own heart.
How do you juggle running a hugely successful bridal label and a young family?
We moved our studio to Queen’s Park a year ago after the birth of my twins (I also have a six-year-old daughter), because working at the showroom and office in central London and being a hands-on mum had become such a difficult juggle. Being close to home has made running the business so much easier – I have a much better work/life balance.
Every day is different, which is why I love my job, but I always try to grab a decent breakfast with the kids before I take Mabel, my eldest, to school and, when I can, I get to a yoga or pilates class before heading home to see the family at around 6:30pm. We all eat supper together and relax, and then it’s time to sleep and do it all again the next day.
How would you define your style?
Because of my background as a stylist I think I am fairly eclectic and also pretty opinionated about what looks good and what doesn’t. I might make a huge effort one week and be swanning around in heels, and then spend the next month in jeans. I think my own personal style does influence the overall look of our collections – I like simplicity and clean cuts – but just like styling, designing is also about your client and being able to change things up and make them work for different occasions and tastes. Textiles and fabric are my passion – it’s these that pull a collection together, and that’s probably where my personality and personal style get expressed the most.
To veil or not to veil?
I always love a veil. It adds a bit of drama, and when will you ever get that chance again?
From sketch to dress
When we start to design a new collection, we begin by gathering inspiration and brainstorm the look and the feel we want to achieve. Every decision – from silhouette to fabric choice – needs to be in line with our core brand aesthetic, which is clean, contemporary and fashion-led. Next, samples of each look are made and test-driven on fit models. Dependent on what looks good, we make a final edit and the collection is born. As well as retailing from our central London Flagship, we sell from bridal boutiques across the globe. From the moment a bride-to- be picks out her dress, it typically takes four to six months to make-to-order.
What are you currently working on, and what’s next for your brand?
I’m currently working on Mainline 2019 – you can expect to see new shapes with an edge, lux fabrics, a little added colour and even some print for the new season. We are also selling a select collection of Charlie Brear in The Wedding Gallery, an amazing new concept wedding department store in Marylebone, London.
What advice can you give brides on how to conquer that overwhelming feeling when you are about to start dress shopping? It should be fun and happy – but many find it daunting.
Try not to be close-minded. Whilst it’s good to have a clear vision of what you want, it’s also worth trying on styles you wouldn’t ordinarily choose. We dress so many brides who end up opting for something completely different to what they originally had in mind. It sounds obvious, but I would always recommend turning up to your appointment with freshly washed hair and makeup. How you look and feel when you’re trying on dresses will really affect your overall perception.
Do you have a favourite fabric that you like to work with?
In addition to traditional sand-washed silks, crepe de chine silks and fine grain satins, I love experimenting with new innovative fabrics each season. I like finding new graphic laces and interesting textured fabrics especially if they are not particularly bridal-looking in their raw form.
What has been your most memorable and proudest moment so far?
Finding out that I was having twins was pretty memorable! Really, I’m immensely proud of how far the brand has come and that we are still flourishing and growing in today’s challenging marketplace. I really believe we have something unique to offer, our collections appeal to modern brides with a confident and unique sense of style.
My favourite item of makeup is…
My all-time favourite perfume is…
Jo Malone Lime Basil and Mandarin
My guilty pleasure is…
I don’t go anywhere without...
When I come to Oxfordshire…
I love the farmshop and deli at Soho Farmhouse
Your nearest Charlie Brear Stockist is Ellie Sanderson, Beaconsfield
Ellie is a huge fan of Charlie Brear: “I first fell in love with Charlie Brear a few years ago and I am delighted to have them in my Beaconsfield store. Her style is soft, romantic, vintage but oh so modern. The blend of fabrics and colours she uses are brilliant, pure white, soft blue and pink mixed with incredible laces and soft stonewashed silks. Charlie’s dresses are for girls who want to look utterly unique by blending all the separates and for girls who also want to push the boundaries a little with their wedding style. We have over 20 pieces in store including a silk jumpsuit and a suede flying jacket. We are all totally smitten.”
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