Award-winning wedding dressmaker and bridal designer Rachel Lamb has created more than 1,000 exquisite gowns, since launching her bespoke business in 2000. She talks tulle, trends and inspiration
You began your career designing for several London fashion houses, but what made you want to become a wedding dress designer?
I always wanted to work for myself – and I have always enjoyed the entire process of design – from the initial sketches through design development, patterns and toiles (prototypes) to the end result. There are very few areas of fashion where you can engage with the entire process, and then I thought of weddings. So it wasn’t initially weddings per se that I gravitated towards, rather that it’s an area of clothing design where I can be involved in the whole process from start to finish and use every aspect of my training as well as work with the people who will be wearing the garment.
Which dress has taken the longest and why?
What springs to mind was actually quite a simple looking dress. I had a bride who picked a lace to use purely as motifs over the dress, placed exactly where she wanted them. This took a very long time because each motif had to be hand sewn onto the satin and there were about 100 of them.
What’s been your favourite commission and why?
I have several favourites so I can’t pick one! Generally it is working with a bride who is very enthusiastic about the design and the process and just goes for it. I guess there’s a certain confidence in this and it’s more about that than the actual garment, so it doesn’t mean the most flamboyant design.
And what’s been the most memorable?
Just over a year ago I designed a bridal outfit for a bride for her wedding in the Canadian snows. It was a rich red silk Duchesse Satin fishtail dress with a huge separate Duchesse Satin silk ballgown shaped overskirt to wear outside. So basically two outfits in one. The big skirt for the day, and the fishtail dress for the evening. The top of the fishtail dress formed the top of the outfit with the big skirt so it looked like one dress. She wore it with a fur stole, fur boots, gloves and hat.
Where do you find inspiration for your made-to-measure bridal gowns?
Everywhere! As it’s a small collection and I don’t have to conform to the wedding ‘industry’ it’s a balance between keeping things commercial and then completely moving away from that and creating the odd dress that is a bit more unusual and pleases my creative ideas at the time. I like interesting shapes and I enjoy pattern cutting so often I will make something with quite a bit of structure to it. I also love soft flowing fabrics so chiffons and tulle are lovely to work. I also listen a lot to what brides say to me about my designs when they visit.
If you had to design your own dream wedding dress, what would it look like?
Oh no, what a complex question... I got married 16 years ago and my dress was quite simple then. If I did it again I would wear something luxurious and richly colourful, probably separates, more than one colour and not at all traditionally bridal – maybe quite tailored? Or perhaps a bit quirky? I would use some crisp silks because they come in fabulous colours. But then I love soft, flowing fabrics too so I’d have to include them too. I’d wear my cowboy boots with it though I expect.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Getting to work with individual brides on their outfits and getting excited with them about it all, chatting and getting to know them – I miss them when the dress is finished. Being part of someone’s special day, getting feedback and seeing their photos afterwards!
Tell us what’s trendy for brides this season?
I would say the trendiest thing is to be yourself and go for what you enjoy and feel comfortable in –there’s a huge move in bridalwear towards a ‘no rules’ approach. But fashion-wise, separates are still very popular and you can mix and match them. Colourful bridalwear is also up there. Plus simple and easy to wear bridalwear is far more on trend than ever before, garments you can wear again or repurpose. However, huge skirts are also making a comeback.
Rachel Lamb Bridal Design, by appointment only, is at Sharmer, Headleys Lane, Witcham, Ely, CB6 2LH. Call 01353 778178 or visit rachellambdesign.co.uk