“Modern brides are becoming more discerning in their choices (music to my ears) and want more options than what was traditionally on offer.”
Ever since I caught sight of Philippa Long’s intriguing use of materials and alternative approach to bridal, she’s been on my to-watch list. Brimming with a cool elegance that I haven’t seen in a while, this bridal designer knows exactly the type of bridal brand she wants to build. Most importantly, this is a designer flying the flag for bridal sustainability – which I love – because who said that your wedding dress needs to be a single use garment? It can be worn again and again in my book (especially when it’s a Philippa Long piece).
I managed to grab 10 minutes with the designer herself to chat everything from her dreams for the future of Philippa Long Bridal the brand, to her obsession with Solange Knowles’ achingly effortless style, right down to her pet hates and business advice…
Read the interview below.
#1 Who is Philippa Long? Tell us a little bit about your design background and experience? I’ve read that you’ve worked for some incredible brands in the past including Temperley London and Mother of Pearl…
“I studied fashion womenswear at Brighton and graduated in 2009. As part of my course I had to do a year industry and I completed my year at Temperly London. I would say that the time I spent there is where I really cut my teeth in terms of technical knowledge and skill, and I developed a sensitivity for the classic, femininity typical of the brand which would come to be instrumental when starting my bridal line. My strengths and experience lie in the more technical, practical side of design but I have also done product development, production, styling, costume, accessories and sourcing. I’ve always been freelance so my experience is really varied which Im hugely grateful for because I think its given me a more holistic perspective on the industry.”
#2 What inspired the launch of Philippa Long? When and how did the brand begin and launch?
“Honestly, the reason I started my own line was because at the time I was interning and like most internships in London at the time, I wasn’t being paid. I didn’t really feel like I was learning anything new and was quite frustrated in my role. I was always thinking about what I would do if I could do my own thing creatively, and I’d go home and stay up till 2am in the morning sketching and dreaming up ideas. I just had a moment one day at the internship where I thought to myself, if I’m working for this company for free, I may as well work for myself for free! So not long after that, I left and started a small RTW collection out of my bedroom in Hackney.
The Bridal commissions and subsequent line took much longer to launch. For starters I didn’t want to do bridal because I felt like it was too limiting creatively. Eventually, I was persuaded to design a dress for a close family friend, she is a really, sporty tom boy and had struggled to find a dress she felt herself in. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the process of drawing out her personality in the design of her dress. I realised that if I did venture into bridal design I didn’t have to stay within the traditional parameters and that really excited me. It began with commissions here and there but, as demand grew, I decided to launch a made-to-order line that could truly represent my interpretation of modern, fashion focused bridal wear.”
#3 Tell us about your 2017 bridal collection, was this your first bridal collection? Did it inspire your next collection, the current 2019 line?
“The 2017 collection was indeed my first bridal collection. It was initially inspired by a commission/collaboration I had done with a friend of mine who is a woven textile designer. I had visited the mill she works in and she showed me around the archives. It was like a treasure trove of possibility for a designer. I asked her if she would be interested in working with me to develop some cloth that could be used in my bridal line and she said yes! As I was slowly considering doing a bridal line, I really wanted to focus on how I could design bridal dresses/outfits that would last beyond that one occasion and push the boundaries of what so much main stream bridal wear was offering.
The first collection had a really big influence on the 2019 collection. The use of colour and fabrics were so popular with the 2017 collection that I wanted to draw from and add on to what I had already begun.”
#4 Talk us through the inspiration behind the 2019 collection. What type of bride will be enticed by the fashion-forward lines and inspiring textures of the new line?
“The inspiration behind the 2019 line mainly came from conversations I had with brides between 2017-2019. Modern brides are becoming more discerning in their choices and want more options than what’s traditionally available. They want more diverse options and I wanted to offer that as best I could with the new collection. The Pheobe jumpsuit and the Serenus shirt dress were designed with civil ceremonies in mind, an occasion where brides want to look special but not necessarily in a full bridal gown. The shirt dress is actually a play on wearing a dress shirt back to front which I love because it has an air of spontaneity and romance about it. I wanted to also include more gowns in this collection as the 2017 collection was quite separates heavy. Both the Hera and Lior styles are variations of styles I have previously designed. The bomber jacket was also a style from a collection I designed back in 2014, and I really wanted to see how it would look in the silk cut-float but the embroidery was a new avenue for me but, so far it has been the most successful piece from the collection.”
#5 I love the twist of personalisation you’ve brought to the new line with the cool embroidered bomber jacket (in collaboration with the embroidery artist, Chlose Amy Avery) and the fact that brides can have any word or words embroidered on the back. What inspired this partnership?
“Chloe and I have been friends for years and would often meet up to talk about our work. I love Chloe’s work, its like she is painting with the embroidery threads, beads and sequins. I reached out to her to see if she might be interested in collaboration, and she so happened to be looking for a new challenge/project so it was a good time for both of us to put our heads together. I knew I wanted a word that felt like it had lasting impact and again something a bride could wear again. We played around with different words, phrases and even some traditional marriage vows but, FOREVER was the word that stuck. I didn’t want to limit it by just offering the one word and it adds a nice personal touch if you do choose something that is significant for you.”
#6 Another favourite piece of mine is the nude tulle Mantilla veil. What was the inspiration behind this piece. Which pieces does the veil work best with and why?
“So much of the 2019 collection was influenced by brides I had worked with between 2017-2019 and this particular piece was inspired by a bespoke veil I made for a friend who wanted something almost quite costume-like for her wedding dress. We had a lot of fun with it. The Godfather was a strong reference for us! Her particular piece was embellished with real gold leaf and included hand made silk organza flowers on the train also. The nude veil in the 2019 collection only has the mantilla flowers as I felt it would be too much with the colour. We styled it with the Serenus shirt dress in the campaign but, I think it would also look great with the Pheobe jumpsuit and the Hera dress. I would advise brides looking into having a statement veil to pair it with a more refined and simple silhouette.”
#7 You’ve caused quite the stir with the material palette you use within the line, especially the Lior gown and its silver silk crepe and black gross grain embellishment. How did you discover this material and where is it sourced from?
“I discovered the cloth for this dress through a close friend of mine who is also a designer based in London. It’s a delicious heavy silk crepe with a particularly soft and velvety handle. It is actually originally sourced from Soho in London.”
#8 What can brides-to-be always rely on Philippa Long for?
“FUN, PERSONAL, CRAFT AND QUALITY.”
#9 If Philippa Long could have a particular celebrity or person to be the face of the brand, who would it be and why? Who embodies the label in their style and personality?
“I love Solange (and I always tell my friends that I loved her before ‘A Seat at the Table’!). She has a really strong sense of style which is cool and minimal and soulful. She doesn’t shy away from drama in her style and I love that about her because she does things her own way. I always want to encourage my brides to do things their own way with their wedding garms 😉 Be your own bride.”
#10 Tell us about the design process for a new piece or collection. Where does it begin? Where does the inspiration for a new style or line often emerge from?
“As I have already mentioned, I am very three dimensional in my design process with a strong focus of fabric and texture. I usually will have an idea of a style and silhouette in my head already but, I like to start on the stand and let the behaviour of the fabric direct how a design will evolve. Having said that, because some of the cloths I have in my current line, I don’t like to over design a style, so I’ve stuck to quite simple styles and shapes in a bid to let the fabric speak for itself.”
#11 Do the trends influence your work?
“The trends do definitely influence my work, I am always looking at the runway reviews for inspiration but, its always a starting point only. Im very three dimensional in my creative process. I was however taken with the current feather trend from the AW19 catwalks and this influenced the styling of the 2019 Bridal collection.”
#12 From your experience, when it comes to brides searching for their wedding dress, where should they start? What should they be thinking about?
“I personally think brides should start with who they are and what they like/feel comfortable in. I see so many women looking like ‘brides’ and not themselves on their wedding day. I also encourage a more sustainable approach when thinking about your wedding dress/outfit. Is white/ivory a practical colour? Can I wear this again? This is a real passion of mine and something modern brides and bridal designers should really consider, traditionally wedding gowns are a very expensive, signal use garment.”
#13 Where would you like to see the Philippa Long label in 10 years time?
“My dream is to have a really special showroom/workroom ideally in Clerkenwell. Currently, I work from my studio in Dalston and my brides come there for fittings. It’s important to me that my brides connect with the creative process and really feel a part of it. I really want to be a leader in terms of pushing a more sustainable and alternative approach to bridal design and hope that I can create creative employment opportunities for people in the process. I also hope that the Philippa Long label will gain global recognition for how I/we are implementing sustainability and that the line will be stocked all over the world.”
#14 Talk us through a regular work day, what do you get up to?
“I try to be quite disciplined with my working day. I try to start work at my desk in my studio in Dalston 9am or sometimes earlier. I’m an early bird and enjoy starting my day by myself in the studio. I start by catching up with admin (like most people I find admin really boring but, its important so I do it first to get it out the way) and try to keep it to the first hour of the day. The rest of the day (roughly 10-6pm) is spent designing/making and fitting. If I don’t have lots of orders at one time then I try as much as I can to get out to exhibitions and catch up with other creative friends at their studios. I think its important to be constantly inspired by the the world around you and to bounce off others. I’ll try and wrap up the day at 6pm, unless I have fittings that need to work around my brides’ working schedules, in which case my day may not end until 9pm or so. Once I’m out of the studio, I try to leave work at work.”
#15 Name a celebrity wedding you loved…
#16 If you could create a bespoke gown for any celebrity (dead or alive) who would it be?
“Solange. Sorry to be a broken record!”
THE QUICK FIRE ROUND:
#1 Summer or Winter? “Summer.”
#2 Heels or flats? “Flats.”
#3 Pet hate? “People speaking loudly on the phone on public transport.”
#4 Favourite wine? “It changes, right now a delicious Argentinian Malbec from Mendoza.”
#5 Pearls or diamonds? “Diamonds.”
#6 Coffee or tea? “Tea.”
#7 Favourite destination? “South of France.”
#8 Early rise or lie in? “Early bird.”
#9 Dressed up or dressed down in denim? “Dressed down, its all about comfort.”
#10 Favourite book? “This one changes too but, probably The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzack.”
#11 Favourite way to relax? “Reading a good book with a glass of delicious wine.”
#12 One piece of business advice on running and creating a brand: “Surround yourself with people you admire and respect and always be open to collaboration, you never know where it will lead…”
#13 Social media hate? “Its always on.”
#14 Social media love: “Connecting with people all over the world!”
Discover more about Philippa Long here.
Learn more about Philippa Long Bridal on Bridal Editor here.