Shopping local one of your new year’s resolutions? We meet some of Scotland’s brightest bridal talents, from wedding dress designers to marvellous milliners
Polly Reid, faux fur wedding accessory designer and maker
How did you become a designer? After graduating with a degree in chemistry, I worked in that field for a number of years as a research scientist. Nevertheless, I’ve always had an interest in fashion and I created my first dress for my own wedding, from sketch to final gown. It was during that time I realised I wanted to study womenswear, and enrolled at the London College of Fashion. I then began making bridalwear but was conscious of the amount of expensive fabric going to waste. After researching the use of mohair, I decided to channel my passion for my animals (I keep mohair goats and, more recently, Ouessant sheep) and the environment into producing a 100% natural-fibre, faux-fur fabric for a range of jackets and wraps. My eponymous brand Polly Reid was launched.
What does an average day look like? I normally begin at 5am, feeding and letting out our goats, sheep, donkeys, pigs and poultry on our smallholding. My studio is just a short walk from the farmhouse, and I’m there at 7am, checking emails and following up with clients. The majority of the day is taken up with making toiles, pattern cutting and completing orders.
Joyce Young OBE, wedding dress and occasionwear designer
Why did you start your business? I like to be my own boss and make the decisions.
What’s your inspiration? Fabrics, texture, colours and, of course, lovely people.
Do you have a signature style? Yes: I’d say it’s polished and classic, with a quirky twist.
What’s the most challenging aspect of designing? Getting an idea across to someone who has difficulty visualising. Some people have a fantastic ability to imagine and others have to see the fit and look of a dress exactly as it will be. Bespoke isn’t for everyone.
What does the average day look like for you? For a few months now, I’ve kicked off each day with a 20-30 minute yoga session before getting ready for work. But otherwise every day is different. Since we came back from lockdown in July, I have been seeing all our Glasgow clients (I haven’t been able to travel to our London shop since February). Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are the days we take appointments for new clients and Thursday and Friday are our fitting days.
Proudest achievement? Receiving my OBE from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.
Catriona Porter, headpiece and veil designer and maker
How did your company come about? Whilst working as an alterations manager in a bridal store, I became frustrated with the fact that we spent months getting the gowns finished to perfection, yet the choice for headpieces and veils was very limited.
I began making headpieces and made-to-measure veils (in the right shades) for each client and the service took off from there. Demand increased as I offered something that was more than a purchase – it was an experience and a personal service in every way. Weddings are an iconic day in a woman’s life, one which we are privileged to play a part in.
What inspires you? The gowns: the veils are cut, shaped and finished to reflect the style of the dress. We are especially fastidious in getting the shade correct (there are some fabulous hues being used in today’s bridal collections) and our veils are all carefully hand cut to the exact length. Taking into account the bride’s hairstyle, face shape and overall look ensures the perfect complementary accessory, every time. I also adore watching old movies that capture the glamour of bygone eras. Nature is an invaluable source too. It’s always changing.
Pamela Murdie, wedding dress designer and maker
Tell us about your company After being made redundant from a job designing children’s clothes for high-street stores, I took the opportunity and used the payout to start my own bridal business. It’s what I had wanted to do straight after graduating from the Scottish College of Textiles (now Heriot Watt University Galashiels), but everyone advised me to work in the industry first to gain experience. I love what I do – after finishing one dress, I can’t wait to begin making another!
Why should brides go bespoke? It’s so much more environmentally friendly. The fact that you can have a dress designed and made in Scotland, with no long waits for shipping from abroad really reduces your carbon footprint.
Describe your approach My signature style is sophisticated and timeless. I use good-quality silks and man-made fibres, and pay very close attention to the fit and details. When I receive new fabric samples from suppliers, I immediately start envisioning the types of gowns I could make with them. My ideas also come from what I see around me, often from unexpected places.
Stephanie Gallen, special occasion and bridal milliner
What’s your company history? I never intended to have my own business. I had taken a millinery evening class when I couldn’t get a place on a furniture restoration course, and enjoyed it so much that I opted to do further training. Soon my house was filling up with all of the pieces I was making and my husband, not so subtly, asked what I was going to do with them all! I decided to take a regular stall at a craft market and, after a couple of years, I started to believe there was potential to make a living from it. Eight years on from my first market, I now offer bridal millinery and hat hire, in addition to my original bespoke headwear offering.
What’s your signature style? I usually design simple pieces that are not overly fussy: I try to keep things clean with a graceful silhouette. These can be built up as much as a customer wants depending on how ‘less is more’ or ‘more is more’ they are.
Jaspal Landa, bridal couturier
What’s your company’s story? At first, it was all run from my living room. I had four kids at the time when I started making and designing wedding dresses, so it wasn’t easy! Over the years, I was getting busier and couldn’t fit in any more orders. At that point, I decided I needed a shop where I could have all my work and host my customers in a professional environment.
What’s your inspiration? I love to travel the world: I feel my best when I visit different places and find out about other cultures and religions. I have a lot of aims in life and continue to push on and work hard to reach all my goals.
Most memorable wedding? One that stands out was a gorgeous, pure white bespoke gown for a bride from Ghana who wanted her dress made in the UK. After doing her research, she got in touch with a few stores in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh and decided to come to us. She had limited time and was planning on coming here just twice before her wedding. We made her dress from scratch and it was beautiful.
What are you looking forward to in 2021/22? We can’t wait to finish all our postponed customers’ gowns. It’s been a very difficult time for everyone and we’re just holding out for when our brides can finally walk down the aisle.
Kate Dillion, bridal hair accessory designer and maker
How did you get into designing? It was a complete surprise! I made a headpiece for myself, then another for a friend and it snowballed from there. Initially, it was all about hats and fascinators, but then I identified a gap in the market for customised and bespoke wedding headpieces. Those are now my forte.
What’s your driving force? My mum. She is my biggest fan and number-one supporter. She always believed that my business would take off and she gave me the confidence to succeed. The company wouldn’t be where it is now without her.
What are you known for? Hairbands. I have around 40 one-of-a-kind bands stocked at Amy King Bridal and Beauty in Kirkcaldy at the moment. I use a range of materials, from feathers to flowers, lace and pearls. My work clearly differs from the traditional, diamanté tiaras that are so often found in bridal stores.
What’s made you proud? The first time I saw my advert in Tie the Knot Scotland magazine was a real ‘pinch me’ highlight. As soon as it came out, I ran to Tesco to buy a copy for my mum. Her and my dad were bursting with pride! I’m also overwhelmed by the encouraging comments and reviews that previous clients have left. Each one means so much to me.
Kat Gac, wedding dress designer and maker
Tell us about yourself I was born and educated in Poland, where tailoring was a family business. From an early age, I watched my mother work and it was thanks to her that I learned my profession. I began designing and sewing my own clothes, finished my business studies and opened up my own tailoring atelier. 15 years ago, I came to Scotland with my family and, without knowing the language, found a job with a dressmaking shop in Edinburgh, before setting up my company and implementing my own ideas.
What makes your style distinctive? My focus is romance, with plenty of lace, soft tulle, light georgette and silk. Every bride is an inspiration to me. Talking to each client, gauging their personal style and simply listening to them allows each project to slowly take shape on its own. I try not to stick to the rules.
What are you most proud of? My last collection, MOUSA. It’s delicate, feminine, modern and confident. There’s a quiet power to it. I’m so pleased with how well it’s been received by brides.
Hazel Kennedy, special occasion milliner
Where did it all begin? I couldn’t find myself a fascinator to match my dress for the races, so I decided to whip up my own design. Before I knew it, I was making pieces for my sister and friends.
What inspires you? My customers. Even if clients only come to me with a vague idea, it allows me to tap into my creativity and produce something special for them. Ultimately, I want the wearers of my headpieces to feel elegant. Having said that, I always make sure I keep on top of trends. I love nothing more than sitting with some material, my model head (named Betty) and playing with the fabric to see what takes shape.
Signature style? I produce all manner of fascinators, but I would say big, bold designs are my speciality. They really have the wow factor.
Most memorable wedding? Last year, I made a large piece for a mum. Two weeks before the wedding, she decided to change her whole outfit – the lot! – which meant a new fascinator. In the end, she opted for the same style, just in a different colour. Thank goodness I work well under pressure!