Stockist Spotlight: Jessica Charleston



JESSICA CHARLESTON



Please could you give a brief introduction on yourself and your company to my readers who may not have come across you before…

I'm a couture wedding dress designer and maker living and working in the beautiful city of Bath. I offer a very personal service where brides-to-be will see me from start to finish, from the initial consultation to the day they collect their dress. I design and make everything in my shop and workspace where I also have a collection of dresses to try on and some gorgeous accessories. All my dresses are made to measure whether you choose one of my existing designs or a completely bespoke dress.

How did your business get started and what were the ideas behind it?

The seed was probably sewn in childhood [excuse the pun!]. My mum made a lot of our clothes and taught me and my sister how to sew and I used to draw mini outfits in numerous notebooks. I quickly learned that I didn't want to use paper patterns but to make up designs of my own so whilst trying to find my true calling many years later I enrolled in pattern cutting courses at London College of Fashion. A masters course brought me to Bath and allowed me time and space to develop my skills and push my creativity. I was already taking commissions by this point so the transition into setting up my own business came quite naturally.

Why did you choose to focus on weddings?

A wedding dress is a really personal garment, it will take more time to create and probably cost more than any other garment you will ever wear. I love fabrics and I love creating beautiful heirloom dresses. So focusing on wedding dresses allows me to be really creative. I also love the interaction I have with my clients which is why I particularly like working on bespoke projects.

What inspires you as a wedding dress designer?
I'm inspired by so many different things. Nature, art, architecture, dance, historical costume, traditional dress from around the world and quite simply fabrics. Sometimes a sample of a new fabric will make me desperate to create a new dress. I'm also really interested in sourcing new eco-friendly and fairtrade fabrics.


Can you tell us about your favourite designs and why they are your top choices?

My Orchidee dress is probably my favourite, the silk organza folds take inspiration from origami and the reverse wrapping bolero is a reinterpretation of the Kimono. I love Japanese design.
Genevieve is my second favourite. I adore the pattern in the lace which really dictated the design of the dress - it's super feminine. It flatters most figures and can be both elegant and bohemian at the same time.

Do you have any words of advice for brides to be in choosing their wedding dress?

Every bride wants to look and feel amazing on their wedding day but it's also really important that they feel comfortable so fabric choice all the way down to the lining is crucial. Having a dress made to measure also ensures a perfect fit and I'd recommend choosing a style which truly reflects your personality, after all your partner is marrying you not your dress!


Please could you go into more detail about your bespoke service, from when the bride first contacts you to picking up their dress before the big day?

When a bride to be first comes to my shop we talk about the wedding day so I can get a feel for the style of the wedding then we talk in more depth about what ideas she has for her dress whether she has tried anything else she likes and what she doesn't want! Then she'll usually try on some of my sample dresses to get a feel for different styles and fabrics. Whilst in the dresses we'll usually discuss various fabric options and look at different laces and silks. I usually allow around 2 hours for each consultation by the end of which we'll have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't. Then I do some sketches based on what we've discussed.

If the bride decides to go ahead with a bespoke dress we'll look at the sketches together and come up with a final design. Then I'll take the bride's measurements and start work on the pattern. I always make a 'toile' which is a mock up of the dress to refine the fit and style and small changes to the design can be made at this point. It's reassuring for the bride to know that she will see herself in the silhouette of the dress before it is cut in the final fabrics. Once we're happy with the toile I'll make any changes to the pattern again before starting work on the actual dress. There's normally a total of around four fittings throughout the process with a minimum of about six months from start to finish.

What has been your career highlight so far?

Probably moving into my shop a year ago. Up to that point I was working from a studio but now I'm in a really good position and I have loads of fun dressing my window every month.




Do you have any goals or aspirations for your company in 2015?

My business has grown steadily over the last 7 years so more of the same would be good! And of course I'd be really happy if one of my clients happened to be fairly high profile!

Do you have any tips for anybody thinking of setting up their own business in the wedding industry?

You have to be passionate about what you're doing, it's an incredibly rewarding industry to be in but it's also very hard work and usually requires very long hours, particularly in the summer. Brides-to-be are very savvy these days and there's so much competition in the wedding industry. Find your niche, if you offer something unique and deliver it with passion then you're half way there!



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