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.
One of the most memorable and touching moments of The Posh Frock Shop was when Army Captain Hannah saw herself in a wedding dress for the first time.
As a transgender woman, Hannah has been through a different journey from most brides-to-be and many viewers of the Channel 4 show were moved to tears by her honesty and optimism:
“I’m going to marry the man I love, looking like the woman I am. And I can’t wait,” she said on episode 4 of the show.
Hannah knew she wanted a figure-hugging dress and something to accentuate her waist. “I definitely didn’t want anything A line because my figure is straight up and down and I needed something to give me curves,” she explains.
‘Neptune’ from Ian’s ‘Runway Rebel’ bridal collection was the first dress Hannah tried on when she visited The Blewcoat just six weeks before her wedding to fiancé, Jake.
The classic, strapless gown made her look curvy, elegant and feminine which is exactly the look she wanted to achieve. Hannah was clearly overwhelmed when she first saw herself in the mirror and was surprised by how beautiful she felt in the dress.
“It was an emotional moment because there was a time in my life when I thought I could never be loved. Any woman can relate to the dream of finding love and having the fairytale wedding, transgender or not,” she says.
Although Ian encouraged her to try on some of his other designs by way of comparison, it was ‘Neptune’ that Hannah came back to because it felt right and gave her butterflies in her stomach. Ian encouraged her to go with that gut feeling.
“Hannah is beautiful and her story touched us in a way that is difficult to describe. I’m honoured that she chose one of my designs for her big day. I wish her and Jake all the luck in the world,” says Ian.
Hannah describes her experience at The Blewcoat as “amazing”, although admits to being nervous about entering such a stereotypically feminine space. She feels more comfortable buying clothes online.
Store manager Carrelyn was able to reassure Hannah that it is normal for women to feel that mix of nerves and excitement as they try on wedding dresses for the first time. For Hannah, the emotions were heightened and magnified given what she has been through to feel entirely comfortable with who she is:
“I have always been a woman, I just had to do something to align my body with that,” she says.
Lots of women have body hang ups and Hannah is no different; she was very open about what she describes as the ‘emotional baggage’ that comes with being transgender.
Reflecting on the dress fitting, Carrelyn says: “Hannah is a confident and articulate woman, yet she has this vulnerability. I felt a real warmth towards her and was privileged to share such a special moment with her.”
31 year-old Hannah was assigned as a male at birth and only transitioned five years ago. She became active within the LBGT community which is how she met Jake, who is also transgender.
As early as the first date, Hannah knew that she had found someone she had a future with. “He impressed me straightaway and is all the things you want in a partner,” she says. “I never thought love and marriage was on the cards for me. I had genuinely prepared myself for being alone.”
As Jake and Hannah are both high profile advocates for LBGT rights, the couple’s March wedding received a lot of press coverage. They opted for a small, intimate ceremony at Chelsea Town hall, followed by a reception at an Italian restaurant.
They now share married quarters at Sandhurst, where Hannah is based, with Jake living part of the week in London due to his work commitments. They look forward to their big next adventure which is to have a family.
Jake and Hannah’s wedding photography is by Paul Grace.
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,
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,
When I finally caved in to my social media queen Sian, after months of incessant ‘anyone who is anyone has a blog’ I agreed, on one condition; I could be myself, much to her horror. I can be quite unpredictable, especially if I were to take to the keyboard after a glass of wine. Although I am sure she won’t give me the passwords needed to actually post myself.
So there will be no sickly sweet stuff, I’m not pretending I sketch on the back of bus tickets (mostly because I don’t do public transport!) and look at flowers and vintage lace all day. It will be a mix of practical advice, inspiration, celebrating my brides and things about me! This was because if I actually read blogs, I would be nosy, and want to know about the life of that person, namely John Galliano… does he have a blog?
I also thought it would be a fun way of getting free stuff… (we all know how it works, endorsement for a honeymoon in Bali anyone!?)
So in this vein, I thought I’d give a mention to my favourite places to eat and drink in London, hoping they might read this and I will at least get 10% off my bill!
1. My work local, The Rosendale in West Dulwich, is dangerously close to our studio. ‘Shall we have a quick drink after work’? has many times turned into one to many. We have been thrown out, been banned, but nothing a sincere apology won’t fix. Tracy Barlow also drink’s there, as a Corrie fan, one did get a bit star struck.
2. Around The Blewcoat, my flagship store for those who don’t know, is 5* Hotel city, which means 5* bars and restaurants. My favourites for dinner are The Goring, the classic eggs drumbilko starter is world renowned and Quilon, the pan fried lobster is fab! For drinks, The Taj Courtyard is amazing, I feel like I am in a foreign country when I am there.
Ari Shapiro, China Forbes (from Pink Martini) and I at The Taj Courtyard
3. Italodeli in Vauxhall, it is the coolest neighbourhood deli, serving the best brunch in London. You would most likely catch me there at some point over the weekend!
4. Pizza Express, they do the best pizzas outside of Italy! And is it just me who has the same thing every time?
Let me know if you go and try any of them, and tell them Ian Stuart sent you, increase my chances of a freebie! Ha!
Lots of love,
Runway Rebel 2016 Fashion Show
Adversary to ‘plain and commercial’, Ian is as rebellious in his own nature as he is in his approach to designing bridal wear. He dares to break rules and take risks while keeping the traditional essential beauty of a wedding gown.
Runway Rebel pays homage to Ian’s intrinsic values of design, as well as the attitude of the daring modern bride who chooses to wear his creations.
The fashion show is a deep and personal reflection of Ian’s imagination. Every collection and every show tells an emotive story, which begins before Ian has even put his pencil to paper. Beginning with a concept that encompasses his feelings on life at that moment and his sources of inspiration, the designs grow from this inner world, and the show is passionately orchestrated to convey this to you.
Runway Rebel is an uplifting celebration, an ode to life and the freedom to be expressive, creative and rebellious in it. Sensuality, passion and joy is the overriding message of the Runway Rebel 2016 Fashion Show and Collection.
We want to know your story, how did you meet?
We first met when I was a senior in High School and he was in college and were friends for about 5 years. We reconnected when I moved to San Diego, he was living there already. We started dating and quickly knew we were meant to be!
How did he propose?
He proposed in the jewellery store. I’m pretty nosey so I think he knew that was the only way to surprise me. I had found a ring a while before that I loved but it had been discontinued. I had felt discouraged going to look at rings that day until he pulled me over to look at single glass display case filled with roses and one ring… the one I fell in love with! Then he got down on one knee and proposed! I was completely surprised. It was perfect!
How did you know that your Ian Stuart Dress was the right choice for your big day?
I randomly walked into Posh one day and saw it on a mannequin and had to try it on. I knew right away, it was meant to be my dress! I was probably at Posh for almost four hours standing in the dress!
Was there a theme/colour theme at your wedding?
We had an Alice in Wonderland theme for our wedding with very bold jewel tones.
Did you incorporate any specific traditions in your wedding, such as ‘something old, something new, borrowed and blue’?
The main tradition I incorporated was something old, For something old I had a brooch bouquet made of family heirloom pieces, it was really special! For something blue I wore blue shoes.
Do you have any advice to share with women who are about to embark on this incredible journey of planning their wedding and selecting their wedding dress?
Less is more! You don’t need to go to every boutique or try on every dress, when it’s the one you will know… You might try on one or ten! The same goes for all of the wedding planning, don’t put too much stress on yourself. It all comes together in the end!
Ian Stuart Bride: Amanda Oberhaus
Groom: Matthew Oberhaus
Bridal Gown: Flowerbomb, Revolution Rocks Collection
Boutique: Posh Bridal Couture Minneapolis
Wedding Date: 8/10/12
Location: San Diego, CA at The Ultimate Skybox