One of the very first questions I want to ask Abby is “has she ever had a chai tea latte?”Now, even I know this is an odd opening line; but It’s a very cold wintery Monday morning and “us” good girls need a little bit of winter spice in our lives to get us started. We have both been trying to meet up for ages and “at last” the stars aligned above us and now here we are like two old friends clutching large steaming mugs of hot chai and talking all things accessories.
From the moment I met Abby; you can see she loves keeping it simple. She adores lemon drizzle cake and partakes in the odd cheeky mojito when her schedule permits, but underneath this cool, calm exterior you get a real sense of a design explosion going on.
So how did it all begin I ask? “I have always been a lover of design and aesthetics, it feels instinctive to me to be an appreciator,” she says slowly stirring her latte.
It’s a powerful line…
Abby has had such an interesting “life journey” before becoming a designer; she participated in various artistic ventures and studies, that has led her up to this point and you can see the sweet pleasure that comes from her creating.
“I got married 2005 and have the most exquisite Jenny Packham gown that had tiny vintage mother of pearl buttons all over the bodice. I remember looking for accessories for an age and I just couldn’t find anything that complimented my dress, so I didn’t wear anything.”
“And that memory sat in the back of my mind, I then came to a point in my life where I wanted to have a family, so I had to give up my academic work.” Abby was a historian working in modern British history.
“I was trying to find something to fill a niche, something creative and my cousin had begun to develop her cake business, Fancy Nancy, she was really successful very quickly and she opened up the potential within the wedding industry to me. “ Then things just began to fall in to place.
“I remember going into my attic and gathering little bits of vintage jewellery, faded textiles and the softest millinery flowers and started creating my first accessories from here.”
“I then began training with a successful accessories designer and in 2012 Cherished Bridal was launched and I haven’t looked back since.”
I then ask the killer question, “what’s your favourite piece from your new collection?”
A long silence falls upon us.
Ahh, the Natures Diadem Sissinghurst Rose comb; it is what a cherished piece is all about flowing naturalist, lots of texture and colours that gives the piece depth.
“So what are we going to see next from Cherished Bride?”
“A follow up collection to Natures Diadem with a colour palette of rose gold, opals, blush and mixed metallics the rest is a secret.”
And with that, up she gets with a beautiful worn brown tote in hand and a whiff of Coco Chanel and she is gone; I sit quietly finishing my latte with a head full of amazing memories and a wistful smile on my face, this is going to be a fab feature.
We are lusting over so many of your exquisite pieces from your “Nature’s Diadem” collection, where did you get your inspiration from?
I absorb a great deal of my inspiration intuitively, I think – and I can’t always recapture the processes that shape my ideas and designs. The interplay of colours and textures against each other in fashion, in art and in nature- inspire me.
More specifically though the Nature’s Diadem has two principal sources of inspiration; nature – floral and leafy forms; and the Art Nouveau movement in art and design of the early twentieth century. I love the organic, free-flowing forms of the Art Nouveau movement and have spent quite a lot of time researching this over the years. I love the wild yet stylised aesthetic. This led me to looking into hair adornments that were popular in northern Europe at the start of the 20th century.
In particular, the incredibly beautiful hair ornaments made by Rene Lalique, and the beautiful gold and silver metal ‘myrtle’ branch headpieces that were popular in Germany, France and Scandinavia. So this, combined with looking around my own garden and the fields surrounding us here in Sussex, led to a very ‘nature-influenced’ collection.
Textured gold, too, is a major theme of the collection. Once again, the art nouveau influence is felt. The art of Alphonse Mucha, and of Gustav Klimt, spring to mind as inspiration.
What characterises your designs?
Cherished designs are free-flowing and organic and have a sense of spontaneity, even playfulness, about them. The forms and shapes I use are often asymmetrical. Colours and textures too are graduated and layered, this is very important. I want my designs to be beautiful to look at, to draw you in, and for you to want to touch them. In essence, I guess, they have depth and exquisite detail.
What is the process when you design a bespoke piece for a bride for her wedding?
Well, ideally we will meet face to face; be it at a wedding fair or accessories event or even better, at my home studio. At my home consultations, I surround myself with a selection of accessory designs – headpieces of different sizes and types. We will have lots of beautiful vintage jewellery, pieces of antique lace, lovely old pieces of millinery trim, and heaps of gorgeous crystals and pearls in a wonderful palette of bridal, and not so bridal, tones.
And then we play! I get her to pick up and try on the pieces that attract her, we then begin to talk about shapes, scale and the other elements of her wedding attire and décor. That way I can get a real sense of what she likes; the shapes, the colours, the textures that she is instinctively drawn towards. However, I must say that a great number of my clients never meet me face to face. But I spend a great deal of time getting to know their design preferences through email or telephone conversations, or via skype. Images fly back and forth via dropbox and Pinterest until we can underpin their design.
Once a bride decides on a cherished piece for her wedding; we take a deposit and the client’s slot in my production schedule is secured. I will then begin to source any extra materials specifically requested or required; which means an enjoyable few days of sourcing at antique fairs and markets. I will then update my client, usually with images of my antique market selection arranged to give her a sense of the shape and size of the design. We talk about shapes and scale and textures, often using my big archive of past designs as inspiration and reference points. It is a very exciting and enjoyable process.
Once we have agreed on the main elements of the design; I’ll create the piece updating the client with photographs along the way so they can see their creation developing. The completed design is then photographed and we then get to the exciting part where the bride gets to finally try the piece.
It is a very organic and enjoyable process; it’s so exhilarating to create the perfect piece for a Cherished Bride.
I’ve been so lucky to attract clients from the US, Europe and from the farthest-flung corners of the UK. I’m always very struck by the sense of trust they place in my designs and creative abilities; It’s a very affirming process.
Who and what inspires you/ makes an impression on you?
Phew! Strivers’ and achievers from all walks of life make an impression on me. I love reading about people who have a passion and make a commitment to achieve their dreams. But also family members and friends who move and grow and adapt to what life throws at them with such grace. With regard to my creativity, I am inspired by so many things. Fashion, music, art and architecture. Not always the high end, couture side of things however, sometimes simple design like a cottage garden.
What keeps you passionate?
My family; most particularly, my three daughters. They are all at different stages of their childhood; the eldest is 14, the middle one, nearly 10 and my youngest is 5. They all have very different personalities, and I learn lots from them daily. They teach me the beauty of seeking out new things; they teach me the value of dogged determination and they remind me to keep questioning. I am passionate about them each finding their way through the world and I can’t wait to watch them grow into adults and live their own beautiful lives.
What advice would you give to brides wanting to choose the perfect accessories for their big day?
Be brave! And by that, I mean be really brave enough to be you. Express yourself, open your mind and experiment with accessories during the planning process so your creativity flows. Take your inspiration from art, from fashion and remember don’t be hemmed in by the usual offerings. Seek and you will find. Play about with scale and designs and embrace colour. Vary your look for different stages of your wedding. One of my current clients is wearing a fresh flower crown for her wedding ceremony and then changing into a jewelled flower crown for her evening reception. I love that idea!
Once you have gathered all your wonderful ideas and thoughts; try different pieces on to see what different shapes suit you. It is not always possible to try headpieces or accessories with your wedding dress. But if you are visiting a wedding fair with the express intention of finding your wedding day accessories here are a few tips for you:
- Try to think about the tone of the dress (pale ivory, warm cream, blush etc.) and the shape of the neckline and wear something that is as close to the shape / design or colour as you can manage from your wardrobe
- Also obtain a fabric swatch from your boutique and remember don’t worry too much about an exact match between your dress and your headpiece or accessories. Accessories are there to complement your gown, and overall look.
Who would be your dream bride to design for and what would the design be?
Well, it’s so difficult to settle on a dream bride; when there are so many fabulous women that I’d love to work with. But I’m going to choose Florence Welch. Who could resist dressing those incredible red tresses! She has such an amazing sense of style and a real affinity for vintage. I’d like to design a colourful piece, using vintage jewels in shades of emerald green, purples and blues. I think Florence could carry off a large statement design with such panache.
I really think something with either a pre-Raphaelite feel; or maybe a design with strong 1940s references, would look utterly wow on her.
The soundtrack; tell us five of your favourite tracks that you like to listen to when you’re working
Well, my home is very noisy, with three exuberant girls always on the go, so some days I work in silence, with just my gorgeous black Labrador puppy for company – she’s a very good listener! But other days I crave a little soundtrack to my working day, especially when I am at my workbench creating. My music tastes are very eclectic, I enjoy listening to songs dating from the 1960s to current releases. A favourite current band is Vampire Weekend. I was massively hooked from the very first hearing of their Contra album and equally have been playing their latest album to death. For an upbeat tune, I love their rather manic ‘Finger Bank’.
Other current favourites are The 1979 – I love so much of their debut album which makes me think back to my late teens and early twenties. It’s really difficult to single out a favourite, but if pushed it would be ‘She Way Out’.
I love the laid back cool and harmonising of Haim; and the track Adore Forever, the fact that they are three sisters (I can’t see my daughters working together on a creative project though, which makes me smile).
Oh, but then there’s the older stuff I love – Bryan Ferry, Bob Dylan (If not for you was my husband and I’s first dance song), Van Morrison, Talking Heads, Paul Weller, Primal Scream, White Stripes… No, Penelope, don’t make me choose!
Tell us a secret!
Hmm…I don’t go much in for intrigue; I’m a fairly open natured person. Also Penelope, I shared a little secret with you earlier about my new collection, so this will have to suffice for now!
One of our lucky readers has the chance to win this lovely gold Laurel Leaf hair vine by Cherished Bride.A beautiful mix of natural inspiration and luxurious materials features textural goldplate leaves wired together with clusters sparkling golden-hued Swarovski crystals and lustrous cream pearls. This is a flexible hair vine which can be positioned wherever required in the hair – wear across the crown of the head, or across the back of the hairstyle. This headpiece comes with organza ribbons to tie around the head, or simply pin in place.
This Competiton has now ended and the lucky winner was notified.
Header photography by Gooch & Gawler
Other photography by Robert Lawler
Words by Penelope Cullen Tigerlily