We met with Creative Director Sarah Barrett to learn more about her renowned English bridal couture house...
What made you want to be a dress designer?
From a very young age, I have been surrounded by creative influences. I would sit and watch my mother design and sew on her singer sewing machine, which I still have to this day and on occasion I use. I have the most amazingly creative brother, and I have felt very blessed that we have grown up together over the years sharing similar interests and carrier paths. He is always my go-to for inspiration and guidance when I need it. I was fortunate to have experienced and been part of an artistic team of costumiers when I first started my carrier at the age of 16. The work ethic, skills and attention to detail I learnt from these early years I still carry with me to this day. Moving from theatre costume design to wedding dresses became a natural progression for me, and in some ways, you could say they are very similar! As the show must always go on! A brides wedding day is the performance of her life so to speak. This is her stage, she is showcasing to her loved ones and friends, the woman she has become and the future dreams she aspires too. It is, therefore, my job as a designer to make her dreams come true and every detail to be accounted for.
I love what I do! Taking that extraordinary journey with each bride in finding and creating them their dream wedding dress is always so special to me. That feeling of creativity and excitement I get to share with a bride when every detail comes together perfectly and ‘The Dress’ becomes a reality and not just a dream.
Tell us about your link with Lyn Ashworth
Lyn Ashworth was the founder of the Lyn Ashworth brand, which she started over 30 years ago. Having spent many years working alongside Lyn within the company, I had the pleasure of taking over the reins from her in 2010 when she made the decision to retire back to her New Zealand homeland. Lyn built her business with a passion for design and was renowned for her attention to detail and signature corsetry. I aim to continue to uphold the couture quality that has been established by Lyn and move the business and designs forward for today’s brides. Lyn’s flare and strong business woman approach over the years enabled her to build a company which has stood the test of time, and I am incredibly honoured to be part of it.
What made you relocate the company from London to the Midlands?
This is my home, and I grew up surrounded by the beautiful Staffordshire countryside. My very first fashion coarse was at Leek College of Further Education & School of Art, in the heart of the artisan town of Leek in Staffordshire, which was renowned for its clothing manufacturing. To open my flagship boutique and manufacturing studio back where it all began here in Staffordshire means a great deal to me. It not only enables my brand to be accessible to all brides throughout the UK it also gives me the ability to connect with the up and coming generations of creatives here in the Midlands, who wish to develop their skill set within this industry.
Do you make all the dresses here in your studio?
Yes, all my dresses are designed and made in-house from start to finish here in the new design studio, which is situated next door to the beautiful new flagship bridal boutique. Every Lyn Ashworth bride is extremely important to me, and therefore every detail is accommodated for. Myself and my amazingly talented team of pattern cutters, seamstresses and production team handcraft every design on sight here.
Over the years I have worked closely with brides of all different body shapes, upholding the ethos that the foundation of a quality garment is based on the critical elements of fit and proportion, not size. Therefore I try to educate brides that no matter what size or body shape you are, your wedding gown should be made and fitted to perfection, and I work closely with my brides to design and create a wedding dress that reflects their personality perfectly. Whether that journey is direct with me at the New Lyn Ashworth Flagship or through one of my fabulous stockist, brides can alter a gown with ease and confidence. Made to measure services are also available to all my brides to ensure their dress fits too perfection at all times. Here at Lyn Ashworth, we are renowned for our signature corsetry. Built and designed to enhance the bride’s body shape; the internal corset gives foundation and support, an essential feature for many of my designs. For those brides searching for a more relaxed look, softer silhouettes can also be found within the varied collections housed in the boutique. For brides looking for a more Bespoke Design Service, this is also possible direct from the studio. The bride and I would work together to co-create a personal vision. Brides can personalise every element of their gown, and once the design is chosen, then the couture dressmaking service begins. From the first consultation, the bride will see her beautiful dress develop through to the final stages of collection. Once the design has been finalised, one to one fittings will take place in the boutique either with myself or one of my in-house atelier team.
Where do you find the inspiration for new designs?
My inspirations come from all forms but fundamentally the beautiful countryside which surrounds the studio. I am incredibly fortunate to have such breathtaking scenery on my doorstep, and it enables me to design and create organically. Each design is different as one can start with a sketch or by draping on the form, while the next is inspired by the most exquisite piece of fabric. That’s what’s so exciting you’re not quite sure how things will develop. Sometimes the inspiration also comes directly from my brides. For example, I had a bride who asked me to create a dress for her, and the motivation was her ‘Dior’ wedding shoes, which she had already purchased.
Made from the softest blush pink suede and gold metallic leather these where the prettiest and most romantic shoes I think I’ve ever seen.
No pressure! Time to get creating a wedding dress that would sit alongside the iconic ‘Dior’. Using soft gold metallic French Chantilly lace and silk blush tulle we created the perfect bespoke gown for the perfect bride. All accessorised with a full-length matching veil and not to forget those perfect ‘Dior’ shoes.
Anything is possible for my brides, as every gown is created in-house. Which allows for control and flexibility for the bride and us.
Which is your favourite dress currently in your studio?
Ooh, now that is a difficult one!
I do have a little soft spot for ‘Champagne Blush’ this dress most definitely brings out my alter ego theatrical side! I just love this showstopper dress.
I designed and created this dress for a photo shoot, which Brides magazine was producing at the time in Switzerland. A style brief was emailed to me from there fashion editor for ‘twinkle, tulle, tiers and pastel shades and would need ASAP as the shoot was taking place within weeks.
So we quickly got sketching and creating! I love to work under pressure as it allows designs to develop organically. It became quite a theatrical dress, and our brides adored it so much we included it within the collection.
On balance ‘Ashby’ is another of my favourites and is the total opposite style. This dress is simple, graceful and go-to accessories dress for today’s brides.
At what point in the planning process would you advise brides to start looking for their dress?
Every bride is completely unique when it comes to choosing her wedding dress. Here at Lyn Ashworth, we understand how exciting and yet how daunting it can be when it comes to finalising your wedding gown. Photographs and websites can only provide so much information, I believe the process of selecting your perfect dress is a sensory experience, as much as an emotional judgment.
Choosing your wedding gown is one of the most important parts, if not the most important of the wedding planning process. Usually selecting the venue and wedding dress go hand in hand and are the first stages in the planning process. It is never too early when it comes to finding your perfect dress as your chose of the gown can reflect on many other decisions you will make for your day. We cater for brides who plan years ahead of their wedding date and also for those brides who only have months to make these crucial decisions. As all the manufacturing takes place within the studio here in Staffordshire if we do have a bride who only has weeks to arrange everything we will always do our best to accommodate her, this also applies to my stockists. This is the beauty of British manufacturing; we have control of the whole production process!
If one of our brides came to you for a fitting, what would the experience be like?
You should never feel hurried at your bridal appointment; each bridal appointment starts in the showroom boutique adjacent to the studio; with a one to one either myself or one of the Lyn Ashworth team. Over a cup of tea, a glass of bubbles or even a sneaky gin cocktail, we’ll take the time to get to know you. No pressure and no hard sell! It is essential for us to get to know your personality, the theme for your wedding, the venue and location. All this information enables us to gain an insight of what you aspire to achieve for your day.
Time is taken to talk you through all our different style options, fabrics, colours and trimmings. Exploring the possibilities of changing or mixing styles to reflect your personality and body shape. The joy of this process is that no bride is the same, allowing for new and exciting ideas to develop as we explore the many options with you. Then the fun begins!
At the boutique, brides will find a treasure trove of breath-taking bridal gowns; each and every Lyn Ashworth dress is the epitome of timeless elegance and romance made with the modern woman in mind.
When working with the in-house creative team, brides are able to personalise their dream dress taking inspiration from current and past collections with custom-made commissions available upon request.
We give a one-to-one service from the moment you walk into the boutique through to the collection of your dress, my team and I will be with you every step of the way and at hand with any last minute requirements.
What are your top tips for picking the perfect wedding dress?
1. You may already have a defined idea of your dream wedding dress, or you may be daunted by the thought of the whole process, even slightly overwhelmed. A mixture of anticipation and excitement is to be expected but don’t forget this is such an exciting time in your life, choosing your dress should be a memorable experience full of laughter and happy memories.
2. Do your research. Word of mouth and recommendations is always a great place to start. Always look for recommendations, ratings and comment where possible.
3. Take your time. You should never feel rushed. If a bride is feeling pressured to buy, then that should ring alarm bells. Of course, we have cut off points when it comes to ordering regarding the manufacturing and production process however if needed we can turn dresses around quite quickly if required.
4. Stay true to what reflects your personality. Don’t get drawn or talked into to choosing something that is just not you.
5. Touch and feel the fabrics. Knowing and understanding how the materials move and feel is important when deciding upon your wedding dress. They can also make a difference in the price of your dress.
6. Be upfront with the designer or sales team at the start of your appointment regarding budget is extremely important. Without this knowledge, they cannot guide you correctly. Here at Lyn Ashworth once you have given us this information, we can then help to inform and guide you in the best way possible regarding fabric, shape and design options available to you.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The only silly question is the one that is not asked!
8. Always ask if the boutique has an in-house seamstress, this is so important. If not why not?
Here at Lyn Ashworth, we are with you every step of the way. The fit of your wedding gown is crucial to how you will feel and how you will move on your wedding day. Don’t forget you are looking to buy what is probably the most expensive and important dress of your life. Therefore the person you are trusting to fulfil this dream for you should have full knowledge and the ability to achieve this for you. I know every inch and detail of my gowns. From the first sketch to the batch dye of fabric, every line of the pattern to the final stitch of the dress. The fitting stage is no less important as a poorly fitted and altered dress can be a disaster! Alterations should always be done in-house by a couture seamstress, where control of every detail is overseen, and every bride can have access to this if she so wishes.
9. Cheaper is not always the best option!
Where can brides purchase your dresses?
Firstly from my beautiful new Flagship bridal showroom boutique.
The flagship bridal boutique is situated in the heart of the Staffordshire countryside on the Duchy of Lancaster Estate. Surrounded by open fields and clusters of woodland, the boutique offers a calm and inspiring place for brides to begin their journey with us.
The new boutique is adorned with elegant furniture and fresh seasonal flowers, and it’s easy to lose yourself in the relaxed, open plan showroom. It’s the perfect space to showcase the label and reflect everything about the brand’s aesthetic; quintessential elegance, timeless design and romance.
Here you will find all the Lyn Ashworth collections under one roof. This gives brides the ability to try on all the shapes, silhouettes and fabrics with the ability to change and mix styles with ease and confidence.
We have the pleasure of welcoming many brides from all over the UK and overseas. With this in mind, many of our brides choose to stay at our local hotel and health spa, extending their experience with us with a little extra pampering. Making us a real destination bridal boutique and studio.
Exclusive rates are avaible for all our brides.
Alternatively, you will find the collections located in one of the fabulous Lyn Ashworth stockists throughout the UK.
On our website www.lynashworth.co.uk you will find all the information you need for inspiration, including beautiful images and videography of each individual gown. Giving brides a full 360 of the dresses and the ability to see how they move.
What do you like most about The Kedleston?
The Kedleston is such a lovely wedding location for brides-to-be. It has been furnished to an extremely high standard with the focus on attention to detail. You offer the flexibility to adapt to an individual bride needs for her wedding day, with an exceptional chose of menus.
This hidden gem in Derbyshire most certainly offers luxury for today’s brides. Therefore you could say that Lyn Ashworth and The Kedleston is the perfect marriage!
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