We’ve always loved the gorgeous gowns created by UK designer Charlotte Balbier, so we were thrilled when she took time out from the studio to have a chat with us. We found out more about the creative process, what’s it like to come from bridal designer royalty and what her own wedding dresses (yep, that’s plural!) looked like, as well as taking a sneak peek at her new Balbier Separates collection…
As the daughter of a renowned bridal designer – Amanda Wyatt – have you always wanted to work in the wedding fashion industry? How has your experience and background made this possible?
I was brought up surrounded by bridal dresses, materials and sketches of bridal gowns. I actually come from a very long line of bridal as my grandfather manufactured gowns in the 1960s and ran a successful bridal business for generations. We have a bridal empire going on and we love it every day!
Where does your inspiration come from?
I want Charlotte Balbier gowns to be fresh and modern. Our aim is to be one step ahead of the game and this is evident with our new Separates Collection. This was created to celebrate a bride’s individuality and break the rules. There are 11 inter-changeable separates all designed for the bride to build and create her own individual look. You can mix a satin slip with a lace topper and a satin sash or a ballgown with a cropped lace bolero.
Can you talk us through your creative process from initial idea to finished gown? Is there a specific part you enjoy the most?
Firstly there’s the idea; this comes from research, scribbling down ideas and gaining inspiration from shows and Pinterest. I also love to hear feedback from my brides on their favourite gowns, shapes and materials. I’ll look to haute couture and catwalk shows for inspiration and fashion trends. Some of my favourite designers are Dolce & Gabbana, Balmain, Alice Temperley, Valentino, Oscar de la Renta and Blumarine. I’ll sketch down the idea and work with our seamstresses to pick out the most suitable materials and trims. A gown might be created a few times before we decide on the final gown. I’m a complete perfectionist so the dress needs to fall right, be the best shape and fit! I love to work with French lace, soft silk chiffon and delicate soft satin. Designing a wedding gown from sketch to dress is a process that can take around 12 weeks altogether. Each dress is hand-stitched by artisans.
What’s the best bit about designing wedding dresses?
The ultimate best bit about designing a bridal gown is seeing the gown on the bride on the best day of her life. Being in bridal is a feel good job because you are a part of a girl’s most treasured day of her life. We love receiving photographs of a bride wearing her dress on her big day.
You designed your own dresses for your wedding in 2013. What did they look like and was it easier to create your own gowns?
Choosing my gowns for my big day was a tough decision! I wanted a timeless elegant look that was very feminine and stayed true to my style and personality. I have always adored Grace Kelly’s look on her wedding day as even today her gown and overall wedding style still looks relevant and beautiful. The day dress was a silk organza full ballgown skirt with a deep French lace trim, fitted to the natural waist with a sash and flower detail. The bodice was fitted and boned with a sheer tulle neckline and three quarter length sleeves, and the train was cathedral length with diamante buttons all the way down. The dress had a zip fastening and an oversized hand tied bow, and was completely ivory in order to be a traditional dress. The evening gown was a small A line skirt with godet fit and flair. I used gold French lace fabric with a small spot tulle over a soft Champagne satin. Both these gowns are in my 2015 Iscoyd Park collection — the day gown is called ‘the Charlotte’ and the evening gown called ‘Iscoyd Park’.
Your 2016 ‘Willa Rose’ collection marked your 12th anniversary in British bridal fashion. What inspired the Bohemian theme for the gowns?
Boho-inspired and free spirited floaty chiffon styles have been popular from my last two collections so I developed these styles for 2016 and the Willa Rose Collection, creating more beautiful, pared down simple gowns. Equally, though, the big skirt is very much back and brides love the layers of tulle ballgown style skirts (as do I!). I also adore mikado as a fabric to work with and love to create show stopping gowns in this glorious fabric, such as my ‘Tarron’ gown. The Willa Rose Collection captures exactly what a Charlotte Balbier bride is all about. My brides certainly have a sense of their own individuality.
Do you have a favourite dress from your collections so far? If so, which one and why?
It’s so hard as I honestly love every gown as they all represent a part of me and what I love. I do have a favourite gown though – the ‘Lilac’ dress. This dress is the ultimate for feminine English rose brides who want to celebrate their femininity and girly side – this sums me and my style up in a dress! I have a total ‘if I had my time over again’ moment about this dress and wish that maybe I had worn it for my wedding day.
If you could choose a famous bride (from past or present) to design for, who would that be and what dress would you make for her wedding day?
It would have been an absolute dream to have created Kate Middleton’s gown for the Royal wedding. She went for a traditional gown but I’m sure her sister Pippa will be more fresh and adventurous when it comes to choosing her gown.
What does today’s Balbier bride look like and how do you aim to provide the perfect dress for her?
A Charlotte Balbier bride is confident and daring in her wedding dress style, wedding day and every day fashion choices. She always remains true to her feminine side and expresses that through her Balbier gown and wedding day, as well as celebrating her individuality and style.