If you haven’t heard of British designer Suzanne Neville then you’d certainly know one of her gowns if you saw one. Adored by a crowd of celebrities from Kate Winslet to Katherine Jenkins, Suzanne’s dresses have an unrivalled impact on the red carpet, thanks to their instantly recognisable, seductive simplicity and impeccable structure. If you’ve ever drooled over Tess Daly’s slinky, curve-enhancing Strictly wardrobe, you might like to know that Suzanne is responsible for a sizeable portion of it. This same expertise can also be found in every stitch in the bridal line. Looking for sexy and sophisticated in equal measure? Suzanne’s your girl.
Clearly I’m a fan, so when I got wind that Glasgow stockist Eleganza Sposa would be welcoming the award-winning couturier to an exclusive, in-store breakfast, followed by a designer day in her honour, on her only visit north of the border this year, I was itching to RSVP.
The icy Saturday morning soon rolled around and I was making my way inside to meet the designer in person. Eleganza changes its décor often and, on this occasion, I was greeted with gilded and ivory paper blooms, which formed an archway and a densely-packed floral wall. Selfies with Suzanne ensued.
I got chatting to the two women heading up the event. “Suzanne is one of my favourite designers of all time,” boutique owner Dr Anna Cirignaco, who’s worked closely with Suzanne for 20 years, asserted during our conversation. “She is one of the best in the world, her gowns are classic, elegant and beautifully made. Their construction feels like a million dollars to wear. Suzanne is a very hands-on designer who takes pride in the fit of every dress and aims to create the most flattering shape for every individual bride.” High praise indeed.
“I always really enjoy coming up to Glasgow to meet all the Eleganza brides,” added Suzanne. “And the opportunity this time to meet past brides for breakfast is something special.”
As well as a signature Bellini on stand-by, developed especially for the event, the rails were filled with designs from Suzanne’s 2018 collection, Belle Epoque, which continues the designer’s commitment to British manufacturing. The room was buzzing with brides past and present (the former coming armed with a handful of photographs from their big days, wearing – what else? – Suzanne Neville) who, along with Anna, were more than happy to gush to me about their appreciation of her work and her latest range in particular.
“The 2018 line is incredibly diverse,” Anna explained to me. “Silhouettes vary from romantic styles to more slim-fitting cuts, always using the most luxurious and finest fabrics, silks, laces and hand embroideries.”
I clocked a few favourites straight away: Ralston was a strapless, trumpet-shaped gown that sharply updated the traditional sweetheart neckline with an angular ‘V’; Lalique had a smooth, flowing skirt with a delicately embroidered bodice and gently plunging neckline; and Constance was a column sheath that ever-so-effortlessly enveloped itself around the body.
While I was getting up close and personal with the dresses, Anna had a couple of picks of her own and took me aside to show me. The first was Nazarene, another strapless number with an edgy selling point – an all-over, rose gold floral print. It shimmered as Anna carefully caressed its featherlight organza skirt. Next along was Swanson, a cowl-necked gown crafted in an unusual rigged fabric called piquet that gave its clean lines extra dimension. “Turn it over,” instructed Anna and I gasped when I saw the courageous cut out back. It’s these surprises that keep Suzanne’s designs relevant and incessantly lusted after.
After a quick photograph with the leading lady in front of the floral wall, I made my exit, envious of the future brides left behind with Suzanne, playing dress up in her exquisite gowns and cooing over her live illustrations. They were in good hands.