Suzanne Neville is a world-renowned bridal wear designer that continues to be at the forefront of British design. A leading figure when it comes to creating showstoppers for the red carpet, jaw-dropping bridal gowns and glamorous eveningwear dresses, Suzanne has been honing her craft for over 25 years and has distinguished stars from stage and screen including prominent A-listers knocking at her door. In an exclusive interview, Samantha from OX Weddings catches up with Suzanne to find out what we can expect to see from her this year and how it all began.
You know some designers have that diva-esque persona about them? Well, I had forgotten just how likeable and down to earth Suzanne Neville is. With a packed work schedule, including the gruelling travelling she insists on in order to be there in person at her designer days, her week had already seen photo shoots, appointments and time spent on production. As I am enjoying chatting to one of her stockists (Beaconsfield-based Ellie Sanderson), I can’t help but notice Suzanne discussing wedding dresses to a bride and her mother – she is avidly sketching them a gown right before their eyes. Knowing I will soon be catching up with this energetic and passionate designer, I am hit by a wave of excitement. I can’t wait to hear all about her latest dresses and what she has been up to, but most importantly, I am dying to know how it all began.
“2017 is going to be my twenty-sixth year in the bridal industry, I can’t believe it! Where has the time gone?”, Suzanne jokes. I suggest that perhaps time is flying because she has been rushed off her feet designing dresses for the likes of Tess Daley, Holly Willoughby, Amanda Holden, Katherine Jenkins, Victoria Pendleton and Christine Bleakley – to name but a few. “From the age of 10 I used to sketch dresses and I just had such a passion for dress designing. When I went to fashion college, I was asked to design a wedding collection as part of my fashion course; from then on I really fell into bridal wear. I started out using my parents’ house in Harrow-on-the-hill, and soon after, it took off – with Harrods being one of my very first accounts where I was given a studio. The company is still based in Harrow and I have a team of thirty working for me in the atelier. Everything is made there and I oversee absolutely everything”, she says. “I regularly visit my stockists in Ireland, Scotland and throughout America because it’s really important to remain in touch with brides. You learn what brides want, what they like and what they don’t.
“When designing my dresses, I always start with that all important sketch that transforms into a paper pattern and then we make a toile – a mock dress. We then cut the fabric, make the dress and then it’s ready for the bride to come to the boutique for her fittings. No bride likes a rushed dress: we like to work on a minimum of six months from the day you order it to the day it is dispatched from us. People often ask me how many dresses I’ve made over the years, and I can’t put a number on it. Saying that, we are certainly not a factory and we never will be – we are old school couture, we still use paper patterns and our fabric comes in on rolls which we cut and stitch by hand. Everything we do is individual and made here in England. The wedding dresses that we sell here in the UK do differ a little from those sold in other countries: in LA, for example, the girls tend to want slightly more revealing dresses. That is why it is so important for me to meet with brides I work for, so I can instantly find out what they want”.
Suzanne shows me some photos that she took behind the scenes of her latest shoot, from crepe dresses through to classic ball gowns, all of which are incredible.
“As you can see the collection is very diverse – there are lots of different styles. There are forty dresses in the collection, all unique and can be made to fit any shape or size. If I design a dress, I want it to flatter anyone; I want to embrace their curves”.
“Bridal wear has really evolved over the years and colour is starting to come through. Ivory still wins hands down but we are using more coloured fabrics in our dresses. I still seem to hang on to the nickname ‘The Corset Queen’, but actually half of my collection doesn’t feature corsets. A dress is about the cut – corsets can make a wonderful shape – but if the cut is right and shaped properly, it will still give you a perfect silhouette. I am noticing girls wanting a softer look nowadays. The designer days that stockists host in their boutiques are truly a great way to have a bespoke dress made. With any of our dresses, there are things that we can add or take away. Our dresses start from £2,500 upwards – the sky is the limit.”
Suzanne’s driver is patiently waiting to take her home after another busy day and I sense my time with her is coming to aclose. However, I am keen to ask before she goes – why is it that she hasn’t branched out even more and launched collections, for example at London Fashion week?
“I am really happy in the world of couture – if I got any bigger, I wouldn’t be able to oversee it and the brand would be watered down. It would also take me away from bridal which is my absolute pride and joy”. I thank Suzanne for her time and off she goes to catch up with her two children and husband. If ever there was an icon in the world of weddings, Suzanne is one of them. After seeing Suzanne confidently sketch a dress from start to finish, calmly talking me through her process, I am in awe of her flowing talent and of how she creates glamour and style in the world of bridal.