On my rare days off, I love to unwind by watching classic films and musicals. In the 1961 movie version of West Side Story, the character Maria sings ‘I Feel Pretty!’ while prancing about with pastel coloured tulle. I saw this and knew instantly that it would be the name of my next bridalwear collection.
The bridal market has grown hugely since I started out. There are almost too many labels for brides to choose from, particularly now that the High Street has entered the market. Some bridalwear collections include a vast array of dresses – often variations on a similar theme – so I made a conscious effort to counter this trend with ‘I Feel Pretty!’
Taking Broadway musicals as my inspiration, this 2020 collection is a showstopper that really captures the essence and theatre of my signature styling. Expect luxurious fabrics, an array of pretty colours and exquisite detailing crafted from caviar pearl beading, deco inspired sequins, shredded tulle textures and sea shells embroidery.
I originally sketched up at least 45 designs, but these have been edited down to just 24 pieces. Each dress is completely unique and has its own reason for being included. There’s a marked contrast between the daringly dark mauve gown, the pale grey, strapless dress embellished with oversized roses and the slinky, beaded number that has a 1920s Flapper vibe. All so different and memorable in their own way.
As always, I’ve tried to cover all bases with a design for every possible wedding scenario, whether it’s a beach, registry office, cathedral or country castle. There are romantic ball gowns with a twist, cute tea length dresses, SJP-inspired frills and more understated, slim-fitting gowns. Traditional this is not!
The collection was unveiled for the first time at London Bridal Fashion Week which gave me a good feel for how it is going to be received. It’s reassuring when buyers tell me that the designs stand apart but are so obviously identifiable as mine. The response was brilliant and Ian Stuart stockists have already placed their orders ready for next year’s brides.
Many of the ‘I Feel Pretty!’ gowns have detachable elements such as sleeves, jackets and trains, creating two looks from day into evening. Matching veils have also been specifically designed to complete the perfect look. Custom changes are available, as well as plus sizes and made-to-measure.
This collection will hit the stores from October and I can’t wait to hear what you think. 2020 brides are going to be spoilt for choice!
Bringing out a new collection is such a lengthy process that it seems like an age since I actually designed this season’s bridalwear. It’s wonderful to see Folie Frocks finally available at Ian Stuart stockists nationwide – and of course at our very own Blewcoat store.
There is no theme as such. We just made a conscious decision that this collection would only include pieces that carry my signature styling and scream Ian Stuart loud and clear!
They are structured, high fashion gowns that create a dramatic silhouette – a strong contrast to my last bridal collection, Le Jardin, which is more dreamy and romantic.
I’m always asked what the inspiration was for any given collection and on this occasion I can honestly say it was the real brides that I meet at The Blewcoat. I love chatting to them face-to-face to understand what they dream of for their big day and it was such an honour to be recognised for Best In-Store Design at this year’s bridal Bridal Buyer Awards.
The current trend is for ethereal, boho-style wedding dresses so I like the idea that Folie Frocks is a sassier, more glamourous option for brides who want an alternative to the vintage look. This new collection offers a wonderful palate of colour options, luxurious fabrics and as always, the potential for each gown to be customised to the individual.
Folie Frocks has options for brides that are marrying in a cathedral, on a beach, in a town hall or at a woodland festival. I have to bear in mind that we have brides who are in the 60s getting married for the first time. Not everyone wants a Cinderella ball gown which is why diversity is so crucial.
When we first released images from the Folie Frocks photoshoot, the reaction was amazing (particularly to the more dramatic dresses like Flamingo Flair, which is the one that looks like it’s covered in feathers!) It means we can all breathe a sigh of relief after months of hard graft. I sincerely hope that the reaction to Licence to Frill, my lastest Occasion Wear collection, is just as encouraging.
I hope you enjoy the Folie Frocks gowns, whether or not you are getting married!
What a memorable summer this has been!
The Channel 4 show about my flagship London store finally aired after months of nervousness about how it would be received. And just to add a bit more pressure, we had two days of catwalk shows to launch my latest Occasion Wear collection, Licence to Frill! Not to mention the photoshoot we had to organise for Folie Frocks, which is next year’s bridal collection.
I’m extremely happy (and relieved) that the response to The Posh Frock Shop has been so overwhelmingly positive. Up to a million viewers tuned in each weekday to see what goes on behind the scenes at The Blewcoat (the most common complaint being that the half hour show wasn’t long enough!)
There were so many memorable, funny, tear-jerking moments and I’m really proud of how our small team coped with the pressure of filming on top of running the business as usual. It was stressful at times, but also a lot of fun.
We are used to people getting their kit off at The Blewcoat, but burlesque dancer Miss Strawberry Moon took it to a whole new level! And who could ever forget the Chihuahua bride, or Belinda, who needed an outfit to match her parrot?!
We are lucky to have such a unique mix of clients and hopefully the show portrayed us as real, down to earth people who genuinely want to help women look their absolute best. I think our passion for the job was evident.
Lots of women are daunted by the idea of going to a ‘posh’ boutique which is one of the reasons I agreed to do the show. They will often say to me; “I’d love to wear that if only I was younger/slimmer/taller/more confident.”
Experienced designers know how to dress ANY body shape and there should be no snobbery about who can and can’t shop in boutiques like mine. I honestly believe that anyone can look incredible given a bit of help from the experts.
I am very aware that not everyone can afford designer clothes, but cost aside, my collections are accessible to all women, irrespective of age, shape or size. Each dress is a labour of love and the amount of skill and time that goes into making them is reflected in both the quality and the price.
Lots of you are asking whether there will be another series of The Posh Frock Shop and the honest answer is that we really hope so. The production company has announced that they are now planning the next series so it looks promising. We will let you know when there is any update.
You can imagine how nerve-wracking it was to open ourselves up to criticism, so I want to say a big thank you to each and every person who has been in touch to say how much they enjoyed watching us. I have been so touched by all the supportive messages and words of encouragement. I’ve even had gifts in the post, such as the adorable hand-knitted scarf I’m wearing in the photo. I never expected viewers to be so thoughtful and generous.
Thank you once again for all the love and loyalty shown to me and my team. Hope to see many of you at The Blewcoat sometime soon. You will always get a very warm welcome.
Not long now until the wedding of the year and I for one, cannot wait to see that dress! Whatever Meghan wears, it’s safe to say that it will be seared in our collective memories and will become an icon of its age. Who can forget Diana’s puffy sleeves that so perfectly capture the essence of 80s style?
A wedding dress is symbolic of an individual’s sense of self, which is why it’s so important to work with a designer who understands who you are and what you are about. You might have your heart set on a dress you’ve seen in a magazine, but it takes someone with years of experience to really know how to make the best of a woman’s figure.
That dress you are yearning for is not always the one that flatters you most, so my advice is to opt for a designer that you identify with and trust completely. My clients know that I am 100% committed to making them look and feel fabulous, not least because how they look is a reflection of me as a designer.
Ms Markle is a force to be reckoned with and a breath of fresh air for the Royals. I hope to see her in something a little bit edgy to reflect a new era of British royalty. Rumour has it that she may even wear two dresses on the big day. This would give her scope to keep the traditionalists happy with something demure and romantic for the ceremony, followed with a sexier, more revealing number for the evening, just to make clear her intention to be a thoroughly modern member of the Royal clan.
I’m a firm believer that brides should not feel restricted to wearing ivory or white, but I think perhaps one of my statement black gowns would be a step too far for a royal wedding, even for a modernist like Meghan. She is said to be a fan of the whimsical, romantic look so she would appreciate my current bridal collection, ‘Le Jardin’ which is all butterflies and meadow flowers with dreamy, romantic veils. The royals love a tiara so I’m willing to bet Meghan will be wearing one, in true princess style.
I hate to bring it up, but we have Meghan’s first wedding to go on, which gives us a clue to her sense of occasion. As this was a beach wedding in Jamaica (a far cry from St George’s Chapel), she chose a simple, strapless gown – a paired down look, perfect for a non-traditional ceremony.
I’m known for customising and accessorising my designs to make them unique to each bride and Meghan’s first wedding dress is a classic example of how a dress can be elevated with something as simple as a sparkly belt. I love her jewel encrusted version which made the dress that extra bit special (even if the husband didn’t turn out to be Prince Charming after all!)
Come May 19th, the eyes of the world will be on Meghan and I’m sure she is really feeling the pressure to get her look just right. The power of a dress means that we will be talking about it for years to come.
I relate to Harry with his cheeky sense of fun and down to earth approach. He seems completely enthralled with his sassy bride-to-be so I wish them lots of love, luck and laughter.
Enjoy the celebrations,
Hello 2018. It’s certainly going to be a biggie for me so let’s hope it’s a memorable year for you too (for all the right reasons, of course!)
I have been sworn to secrecy for months, but can now FINALLY reveal what 2018 has in store (The Blewcoat store obviously!) for the world of Ian Stuart.
Channel 4 has commissioned a documentary series entitled ‘The Posh Frock Shop’ about my flagship London store, which just happens to be housed in an exquisite Grade One Listed, National Trust building dating back to the 18th Century.
If you have not yet had the chance to visit The Blewcoat, you’re in for a real treat. The show will access all areas, giving you what I hope will be an honest glimpse into my life, my business and the world of couture fashion.
Viewers will get to know the different characters that make up my trusted team and will be introduced to some of my favourite (and not so favourite) clients and their entourages.
I was so excited to be asked to do the show, but I have to tell you that the 16 weeks of filming was full on. The cameras were with us for up to six days a week so that’s a fair bit of pressure in an already busy life. A lot of fun at times, yet stressful too.
I have no say in how the show will be edited so there is obviously an element of nervousness about opening ourselves up, warts and all. I operate in a glamourous world of high fashion, but I’m hoping that the show will also highlight the amount of work and talent that goes into each collection, each and every dress.
The hardest part was trying to ensure minimum disruption at The Blewcoat – our priority, as always, is to provide a top notch, luxury shopping experience for women with fabulous taste.
We are small, tight-knit team at The Blewcoat and I’m proud of how we coped with filming on top of back-to-back appointments with clients all wanting the dress of their dreams.
The show will be aired from 11 June so look out for it on C4. I have put a lot of faith in the production company and I just hope the series is a fair representation of the Ian Stuart brand and of my loyal and dedicated team. I owe a huge thank you to all my wonderful, crazy clients who so generously agreed to be filmed at their fittings.
The Frock Shop show is my big news for this year, but alongside all that excitement I have been working away on my new collections. All will be revealed soon.
It was obvious from a young age that I would have a career in fashion. What I didn’t anticipate, is becoming so tuned in to the female psyche! It’s not just how a dress looks that I’m concerned with, but what it says about a woman and how it can make them feel.
I’ve been in the business for almost 20 years and my designs are sold in boutiques around the world. It’s only in the last few years, however – since the launch of my flagship store in London – that I’ve been able to interact on any meaningful level with the women I am designing for.
For this reason, I try and spend at least one or two days a week at The Blewcoat as it helps me better understand women’s body shapes and what they really want from my designs. It gives me that edge, ensuring that my collections are highly coveted and desirable, yet wearable.
The combination of Bridal, Special Occasion and Evening Wear collections means that my clients span a wide age demographic. It’s a thrill to be able to dress both the bride and her mother; each being at a different time in their life and wanting different things from my designs.
Personal shopping at The Blewcoat can feel a bit like being in therapy (though far more enjoyable obviously!) Clients feel so at ease that they really open up about their lives and how they feel about their bodies. It’s a privilege getting to know women from so many countries, cultures and walks of life – over the years I’ve heard SO many interesting stories about the women I dress.
Alongside the glowing brides-to-be and the ball-breaking diva types, there are just as many women feeling a bit down on themselves, perhaps because they no longer have the figure they once had, or because they’ve lost their way in terms of their personal style.
Our appointment service enables us to get to know the client and give them a different perspective on who they are and what works for them. Some can’t wait to try on my latest creations; others come with deeply ingrained ideas about what will or won’t suit them. They may need a bit of gentle persuasion to step out of their comfort zone and try something new.
It goes without saying that every bride wants to feel at her most beautiful on her wedding day. What is much less understood is the way the mother of the bride/groom feels about such a momentous family occasion.
Although mothers of the bride are usually happy and excited about the forthcoming nuptials, deep down they are often terrified about being “on show”. They feel under pressure to look fabulous without taking the limelight away from their daughter. They don’t want to get it wrong or feel like they have let their family down.
In the other camp, the mother of the groom can feel that she is somehow less important than the bride’s mother. It is all very British, not wanting to upstage anyone or draw attention to themselves. I find women can be anxious about committing a fashion faux pas such as colour clashing with the bride or bridesmaids, or wearing something too short/showy/shiny. It can all be a bit of minefield without help from the professionals.
My team at The Blewcoat have a wealth of experience and are highly skilled at finding what works for an individual (both visually and psychologically – it’s about looking AND feeling good). They are adept at making the whole shopping experience relaxing and fun. What’s not to enjoy about taking time out for yourself in such a beautiful, historic building?
We love having drop in visitors, but it’s much better to make an appointment to really get the most out of the experience. We need make sure the bubbles are on ice ready for you!
Although I joke about being a pseudo-therapist for clients, for now at least, I think I will stick to the designing.
My latest collections ‘Move Over Darling’ and ‘Le Jardin’ are available to buy in stores as of this month so I’m excited to see how they will be received.
Did I mention that ‘Move Over Darling’ won the award for Best Occasion Wear at this year’s Bridal Buyer Awards?! I’m best known for bridal wear so I was super happy to get this recognition for another string to my bow (although I did win Best Occasion Wear back in 2012 too).
People always want to know what inspires each collection and a lot of the time I can’t put my finger on it as I am always subliminally taking on new ideas. I get inspiration from everyday things like wallpaper, or a ceramic tile and of course, I’m always checking out what other people are wearing. It can be the tiniest little detail that gives me the gem of an idea.
Launching a new collection is a mammoth amount of work for my team although the actual designing stage only lasts a couple of weeks. Generally, I sketch out ideas at home so I can listen to different types of music and be surrounded by things that inspire me. I’ve got loads of books that I like to look through and I’m really into this idea that music can alter a person’s mood and influence the creative thinking process. With ‘Le Jardin’, I had been listening to lots of 1960s French music which is frivolous and fun as opposed to something with diva-style attitude!
I sketch anything up to 50 designs for each collection. These are all made up as samples and then we have what is known as a ‘line review’ to decide which ones should make the final cut – usually around 25 pieces.
Even after the line review process is complete, I’ll still be making adjustments to the patterns as I’m liable to change my mind once I actually see the design in the flesh on a real body. There is still time to make tweaks before the dresses hit the shops and I’m an absolute perfectionist as you can imagine.
For each collection, there is an industry launch before the focus turns to the photo shoot; the models and backdrops are all carefully chosen to emulate the overall vibe of the collection.
As the name suggests, ‘Le Jardin’ is very floral and whimsical (think butterflies and meadow flowers). Veils are very much a thing at the moment and they perfectly complement the dreamy, romantic dresses.
It’s not all sweetness and light though. Have you seen the black bridal gown from ‘Le Jardin’? It’s not one for your traditional bride, although it looks sensational on. I think the black is stunning and makes a real statement for a woman adventurous in her style. I’m known for experimenting with colour as I don’t think brides should be restricted to just white or ivory.
The reaction to ‘Move Over Darling’ has so far been great. It has a retro feel with lots of mid-length dresses, hence the Doris Day theme. Mothers of the Bride/Groom have traditionally worn a short jacket over a dress so I wanted to give them a bit more choice. For those who prefer to have their arms covered, this collection has lots of lace sleeved options and also some frock coats as an alternative to the conventional shorter jacket. There are sleeveless dresses too and some with a matching shawl which fits with the retro 60s look and is particularly flattering on the arms without being too covered up.
As you would expect from me, ‘Move Over Darling’ has a lot of colour – mainly pastel shades but also some metallic colours which can really lift the dress from every-day to special occasion wear. In contrast to the pastel tones, there are some bolder print fabrics, including an all over floral dress which is one of my favourites and a polka dot print which is fun and frivolous – perfect for a day at the races or to stand out from the crowd at a wedding.
Until next time,
Summer is officially over and it’s time to get those layers back on. I’m sure you’ve already put the sandals and sliders away and started wearing socks again!
I love the summer and miss it already. It went by in a flash this year after a busy few months at The Blewcoat. The season kicked off in early June with the industry launch of my 2018 Occasion Wear collection.
‘Move over Darling’ was revealed to fashion buyers in a series of catwalk shows at my flagship London store. This is the culmination of over a year’s worth of work, stretching back to when I first started sketching out design ideas. You won’t see it in the shops until October, so more about that next time.
People find it hard to believe that, even after all these years, I still get nervous about how a new collection will be received. I suppose it’s a good thing; if I were to get complacent it would mean I was playing it too safe. Sticking to a formula is not what excites me – I have to keep pushing those boundaries and trying new things.
Many of the buyers are like old friends as they’ve been supporting me for years and come to all the shows. One of them likes to remind me that she came to my first ever show and when we were introduced, I was shaking like a leaf!
Fashion buyers know the business inside out and are completely tuned in to current trends. Their innate understanding of what women are looking for means they can tell instantly if something will sell. Their reaction to a new collection is crucial. There seems less demand for jackets in the Occasion Wear market at the moment so it went down very well that ‘Move over Darling’ includes a lot of sleeved designs.
There were lots of frank conversations about how the dresses accentuate/cover/hold in/lift in all the right places. We all know that underwear is crucial to make or break a dress (thankfully, us men don’t have to worry about that) and my trademark is to have the bra built in to ensure a perfect fit with maximum support. A lot of work goes into the construction of the dresses. The exterior fabric needs to be fluid enough to move with the body, but the interior structure has to be more rigid to hold the curves and to create a beautiful profile. One buyer likened it to creating suits of armour that women feel invincible in!
These industry types are very straight talking and say exactly what they think which makes them great company. They come to London for my shows from all over the country. If there’s time I’ll take some of them to lunch or for a cheeky cocktail so we can catch up on all the industry gossip. One of them was telling me how she had dressed women for the Trump inauguration which was fascinating for me as I’ve been loving some of Melania’s outfits. I was also most interested to hear that a certain competitor has been slipping on quality control resulting in a lot of his designs getting returned as faulty. That would never happen on my watch – ha ha!
Bye for now,
Even at the couture end of fashion, we want value for money. Buying a designer dress is an investment and the natural desire to justify the expense has created a demand for multi-purpose pieces that can be worn more than once.
This is an added dimension to challenge my creativity as it requires me to think like a stylist, not just a couturier. Though I’m best known for creating killer outfits for that one-off occasion, I’m also constantly thinking about how my designs (or elements of them) can be jazzed up or toned down to suit a different occasion.
Clients love the idea of detachable elements – a jacket, belt or hat – that can completely transform a look and make a dress wearable in a different way. Women want the WOW factor for their big day, but when the dress is something they look and feel incredible in, it’s a crime not to wear it again.
One of my favourite pieces in ‘Le Jardin’, my latest bridal collection, has a traditional full skirt with a belt and box pleats. It is a classically romantic dress with delicate petals on – perfect for a formal wedding.
What you can’t tell by looking at this particular gown, is that the skirt comes off to reveal a sexy, fishtail evening dress. What better way for a bride to make an entrance at an evening reception? It’s a real showstopper; such a dramatic contrast and so unexpected. Two dresses in one is definitely what you call value for money!
My aim with each new collection is to cater for all different personalities and body shapes. ‘Le Jardin’ has something for everyone; full length and shorter style dresses, big dramatic numbers vs. plain and understated. The designs need to reflect my signature styling and at the same time offer something different, new and exciting. I try to keep pushing forward the boundaries without losing the sense of me and what I do best.
The need to be multi-functional extends to accessories and influences what we choose to stock at my flagship London store, The Blewcoat. The jewellery, shoes and bags by other designers are carefully selected to perfectly complement my dresses, but they also have to be beautiful in their own right to make them a good buy and likely to be worn again and again.
A boutique owner who sells my occasion wear told me recently that sometimes women question how they can possibly justify buying an Ian Stuart dress for themselves. Her standard response is: “Put it on and you will have the answer”.
I love that one of my dresses can boost a woman’s confidence to such an extent that they have to have it. It’s an investment that can’t be quantified in monetary terms but is worth every penny.
Enjoy feeling fabulous,
I feel inspired when I visit my flagship London store, The Blewcoat – mainly because of the women I meet there – but also because the exterior is a living work of art created by Danish florist, Jens Jakobsen.
Jens is a trailblazer in the field of floral construction and has worked on my catwalk shows and photo shoots for many years. I can come up with any theme and he instinctively understands the vision and builds on it to create a stunning backdrop to my gowns.
The Blewcoat is a beautiful National Trust building made all the more exquisite by Jens’ living and breathing, outside installations. The flowers constantly evolve with the seasons, reflecting my latest collections and events in the year, such as Valentines Day.
Jens describes it as creating a fairytale as the perfect overture for what is coming next as you enter the store. This all fits with my dream of an unforgettable shopping experience for visitors to The Blewcoat.
Since these incredible floral creations adorn my place of work, it won’t surprise you to hear that my latest bridal collection is called ‘Le Jardin’. The dresses are undeniably whimsical with lots of pretty meadow flowers and butterflies – very different to some of my edgier, sassy designs. The collection will be available in boutiques from October so more on that nearer the time.
Back to The Blewcoat and why it inspires me…..the store has been open for three years now but still feels new and exciting because it enables me to spend time with the women I am designing for. Interacting with them and hearing their stories helps me to understand what they want from my designs and has taught me a lot about body shapes and how they can change.
I love it that my clients are so open about what they like and dislike about themselves. They tell me what they want to cover up and what they want to show off. All my dresses are made to order which means they are customised to the individual. Clients get EXACTLY what they need to feel incredible in my designs (which of course, is why they keep coming back!)
I wasn’t able to engage with women so directly before we opened The Blewcoat and I think my designs have become more wearable as a result.
Shopping at The Blewcoat is by appointment in order to guarantee a truly personalised service, although drop in visitors are always very welcome too. Seeing it for yourself will help you understand why, three years on, I am still buzzing about The Blewcoat and the opportunities that have come with it.