Today our Head Designer Kelly Harper shares with us her inspiration for the new collection that will be launched at the Harrogate show on 11th-13th September. Each season our team of designers choose a theme and their influences for the new collection. They put together inspirational mood boards to give an overview of the theme, which you can see below.
The inspiration for this season’s collection is the Victorian era and its influence on design today. Many contemporary designers are looking to this period of history for inspiration from its fashions, literature and the art and architectural shapes that identify this influential period. Inspiring design elements, illustrated in the fashions of the Victorian period, are creeping into bridal design. Designers such as Alexander McQueen, Vera Wang, Jesus Peiro and Cymbeline are all taking key elements and putting their trademark twist on a classic design feature. The re-interpreted bustle that featured on Catherine Middleton’s dress is a detail which many key designers are incorporating into their 2012 collections. The gathering or layering of pleats of fabric at the back emphasises the waist and pulls in at the hips, to create an elegant silhouette. High collars and illusion necklines are another key trend for next season and with the inclusion or such a neckline on the aforementioned Catherine dress, it will be no surprise that designers will be conceptualising their interpretations as we speak!
‘Victorian Sonnets and Floral Bonnets’ is the title of our new collection and mood board. It depicts the key trend details of the era, from fashion through the classes, to the art movements and literary masterpieces that define this period. Socially and economically the extended period through which Victoria reigned is influential and extensively researched for its wealth of information. We see monarchy that dress in their finery, with ostentatious full skirts and corseted waists, and detailing which includes a mix of textures including ruffle, lace and pleating all on one area. Such attention to detail in the accessories that they wore, from the fine lacy gloves, to the cameo bustle brooch and pearl collar details, they really inspire the new collection!
The wealth that the upper classes enjoyed during this era is in complete contrast to the poverty that the working class endured. Yet at this time Victoria was one of the most loved monarchs of all time. Her love for her husband Albert and the tender age at which she became monarch, gained her respect and adoration. Her wedding was to establish White as the symbol of Morality and Purity for brides from this era onwards. The veils of the Victorian period were lacy and often quite heavy in appearance, with varieties of lace such as Tambour, Needlepoint and Valenciennes embellishing centre-back and edges. Almost all examples were floor length and two tiers. Many had gathered volume detail at the comb and Victoria’s example incorporated a floral, circlet headdress of Orange blossoms. Modesty was key to the Victorian look, and with the trend for lace sleeves and illusion necklines emerging within bridal wear, I can see elements of this ‘strapless with coverage’ trend, have been taken directly from styles of the Victorian era. It was a time when the young lady was a virtuous bride, always turned out in her finest for all occasions, not least her wedding day, when lace, pearls, brooches and ruffles were a requirement and indulgence was the dress code!
The Sunday best that even the working class would wear illustrates a well-considered ensemble, with every effort made to turn out in the best that they could afford! Ladies would re-use old materials for hand crafted skirts and boned bodices, with lace bib details and ruffled sleeves, and even customized their bonnets and brimmed hats with floral and lace details that they found to match. Accessorizing was not exclusive to the rich, people trimmed modest millinery with dainty ribbons and flowers, it seems that customisation is an age-old art!
Literary greats from this period such as Jane Eyre and Great Expectations are examples of period novels that hold firm favour with filmmakers and fashion students alike, for their classic romantic storylines and impressive costume inspiration. We can reference class divides from the art and literature of the era, with examples illustrating upper class women, turned out in their finery for afternoon picnics and evening soirees, and the working class from classics like Oliver twist who wear far more practical and modest clothing!
The popularity of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, a group of like-minded realist artists, is illustrative of the Victorian passion for romantic stories. They loved nothing more than to listen to recitals of love Sonnets, and Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti was considered the chief poet. Their artwork primarily depicts stories of young beauties, which are battling with morality and love! Many of the young women in these artworks wear Victorian dress and yet there are examples of European influences from the Grecian dresses depicted in some William Waterhouse paintings.
The cultural events, artistic movements, and social fashions of the Victorian era influenced more areas of our lives than many of us are even aware of, and for this collection we immerse ourselves into a historical ocean of inspiration. Looking at the modest, moral and majestic, and taking inspiration from today’s designer interpretations of the iconic fashions of this influential era!
The second of our mood boards demonstrates how details from the Victorian period can be translated into contemporary designs and used to create future heirloom pieces to be passed down generations. Titled, ‘Heirloom Treasures and Lacy Pleasures’, this concept takes antique jewellery and costume details and modifies them into a fashionable product for the contemporary market. It demonstrates the practise of breaking down the elements of historic costume, and turning them in to a modern interpretation of Victorian fashion.
We see examples in high-end bridal fashion of lace trimmings and appliqués used with ruffles, pleating and gathering to emphasise sleeves and skirt tiers, while maintaining a modern silhouette, constructed from contemporary fabrics. Illusion necklines and sleeves constructed from sheer lace fabrics suggest bare skin, with subtlety and in a more contemporary manner. Overtly high collars and ruffle and lace cuffs accentuate the mood of the collections, while more flattering waistlines and slender tulip skirts modernise the look.
Cinched in waistlines are key for next summer with emphasis on belt details to create a broken up silhouette. Many are incorporating antique flower, lace and stone detail with various widths for different skirt shapes. Catherine Middleton set a fine example with her belted evening gown, but it was Chelsea Clinton’s wispy Vera Wang wedding dress with belted waist that really started the trend. For a full-skirted gown and to create that cinched-in waistline without a breath-restricting corset, the use of a highly embellished belt can create that breathtaking silhouette so sought after by the Victorian and modern bride alike!
Elements of nature that were so popular within Victorian design are captured in jewellery details and headwear, with birds, insects, snakes, bows, leaves and flowers appearing in dress details and accessory designs. Ornate ‘jewellery bibs’ are encrusted with diamante and stone-set details, with cameo forms echoing designs of the past. Fancy cuffs are replacing dainty bracelets for the contemporary Victoriana look, with frothy gathered fabric and lace wrapping the wrist, and an antiqued brooch to finish.
Combing traditionally inharmonious fabrics creates a modernised look; examples include the use of antique lace inserts in cream leather, vintage style boots. In a similar way, dress designer Vera Wang has innovatively created visible tiers within her skirts using a traditional material such as ‘Horsehair’, otherwise known as ‘Crin’. When combined with softer silks and chiffon for a ‘swoosh’ affect, it can appear to give the skirt a soft, sculpted structure that remains sheer and light.
Jewellery designers look to the past for inspiration in many instances. For a conceptual piece that is innovative, yet practical, they translate Victorian fabrics into unusual materials. Silver is worked to interpret the form of lace and lace is crafted to imitate metal filigrees in jewellery designs. Ribbon ties replace clasps and laser cut silks represent crotchet work. Fresh flowers and fauna are interpreted in many forms from organza, lace and silk, traditionally, yet new textile innovations allow for flowers that look and feel realistic, yet remain contemporary.
The colour palette for bridal next year focuses on dusty, aged, tonal colours predominantly, and takes inspiration from the Victorian era, (with their limited availability of vibrant dyes). Blush Pink, (influenced by Monique L’huiller for Reese Witherspoon), Dusty Pear, (Vera Wang), Light Aqua, Champagne, Gold and Light Tangerine are featuring in 2012 bridal dress collections. Paired with accents of Grey, Chestnut, Beige and of course Ivory they have an antique feel, although sophisticated when used singularly and subtly for a modern bride.
With such a wealth of inspiration to work from, our Design team are busy developing some truly innovative pieces, which take inspiration from the Victorian period and reinvent it as an heirloom treasure of the future!
The new Victorian inspired collection will be launched at the BBEH September 11-13th. This is a show for trade buyers only. If you are a bride and would like to see next season’s collection, please contact us for your local stockist.
If you are a bridal wear retailer, you are welcome to visit us on Stand M33 at the British Bridal Exhibition. See www.bbeh.co.uk for more information and to register for tickets.