The imagination and finesse of wedding vendors never ceases to amaze me, and the gowns from Suzanne Harward are a case in point. ‘Simple but beautiful’ is Suzanne’s philosophy behind her gown designs, and that is further enhanced by beautiful fabrics, intricate hand beading, and shapes to enhance each bride’s individual body shape. To ‘let the fabric speak’ are the words of a true artisan, and we are so lucky to have this Australian designer join us today.
How long has your wedding gown design business been in existence?
Suzanne Harward has been in business since 1975 and will celebrate 40 years in the Australian Fashion Industry in 2015.
What prompted you to start designing wedding gowns?
I was making evening dresses in the 70’s and people started asking for them in white and so the bridal collections began!
You design haute couture and couture. Would you explain the difference between the two?
Couture is made to measure and or customised gowns.
Haute couture is high-end fashion that requires more skilful techniques like draping stand work. Haute couture garments are made from exclusive fabrics and have more detailed intricate handwork, embellishments etc. I create my gowns on the form (no patterns) and this requires a refined eye for detail and unique artistic skills especially when creating new unique muted colours. Haute couture gowns are usually one off’s or limited edition gowns.
You hold Trunk Shows. Please explain what these are, and the advantages to brides?
Our Trunk Shows are an exclusive luxury shopping experience for ladies who are searching for the gown of their dreams. We decided to close our stores in 2013 and offer our Trunk Shows from beautiful Penthouse suites, as we believe that purchasing a couture gown deserves more than a retail experience. Trunk Shows are where you come to view the entire range and try on gowns in a private one on one styling consultation where the complete focus is on the client.
How do brides attend one of your Trunk Shows?
Brides can make an appointment to attend a Trunk Show by calling 03 8415 0688.
How would you describe your style?
Refined, Sculptural, Elegant, Feminine, Timeless.
What is your design philosophy?
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. I like to keep everything simple but beautiful. To be in the moment designing with passion and a heart felt feeling. I know what looks and feels right when I’m in that moment.
What is the role of the Design Stylist?
The role of the Design Stylist is to guide the client through the selection process of customising her bespoke gown. During your personal consultation the Design Stylist will gather information to determine a client’s personal style and personality. Various factors such as wedding location and styling play a part in bringing the whole wedding vision together. Their goal is to find the perfect gown to make the bride feel like the most beautiful version of her self. They can also offer styling advice on hair and make up, veils, headpieces, jewellery, bridesmaid and flowers.
Briefly, what is involved in the process of designing a bespoke gown?
1) Selection of gown design, colour, fabrication.
2) Fitting schedule (customized to client’s needs)
3) Final collection includes a tutorial on getting dressed, buttoning the gown, bustling the train, how to dance, sit and general managing advice.
Clients can choose to collect their gown the week before or the week of their wedding in order to optimise the fit of the gown closest to the wedding day. This is why we encourage early bookings, so the client’s fittings can be scheduled as close as possible to the wedding date.
How long is the process from beginning to end to deliver a couture gown to the bride?
Typically 9 – 12 months however this depends on many factors such as choice of fabric. We use a lot of European fabrics many of them are exclusive to us and have to be produced specifically for the client. This process alone can take 12 weeks.
Are you able to guide brides to choose a gown design most suited to their body shape (even if they have their heart set on something that won’t suit them?)
Absolutely, this is the role of the Design Stylist and this is why we allow 90 minutes for design consultations. It’s best to keep an open mind, that’s often when the magic happens.
What influences you during the design process?
I’m strongly influenced by the fabrics and am very inspired by textures and colours. I also draw inspiration from nature and the female form. I design intuitively on the body form and let the fabric speak to me, sometimes they tell me what they will and will not do.
After your extensive time in the wedding business, are there some words of wisdom you could give to brides when shopping for/having the gown designed/choosing their wedding gown?
Trust that little voice inside, finding your wedding gown is a feeling and you will know when you have – much like finding your fiancé!
What importance do you place on gowns being designed and made locally?
This means everything to us. Handmade couture should be produced under the same roof that it is designed, that is what couture is to me. We believe in honouring the tradition of couture and in producing our garments ethically and sustainably. The only way we can assure this happens is to make them in-house. We are very proud of this and our clients appreciate the quality and reliability of having their gowns created locally. Our clients are very aware of their buying habits and it’s important to them to support local designers and Australian made.
Are your gowns available in stockists all over Australia?
We hold regular Trunk Shows in Melbourne and Sydney plus our gowns are available globally through our online e-boutique at www.suzanneharward.com
Thank you Suzanne for sharing your story. If you would like to find out more about Suzanne Harward visit the website.
Team shot courtesy of Suzanne Harward.