“People stripping the shelves at supermarkets – though limits were set – I realised quickly it was every man for himself, and I did say openly at the supermarket, I am glad I did not get on the Titanic with any of you.” Diane Lewis Couture on her lockdown hate
I first met the enchanting bridal powerhouse that is Diane Lewis at One Fine Day Bridal Market’s first London show during the capital’s bridal week in 2019. It was a hot, balmy day in March and upon meeting Diane, I sensed an instant affinity, not just for pink (because we’re both bonkers on the power shade) but for bridal, beautiful design and contemporary lines. She also made me laugh. A LOT. In fact, I had to change the pull quote for this feature multiple times because I couldn’t decide which one was funnier. As one of Australia’s most esteemed couture designers, Lewis launched her label back in 1990 and quickly became one of Oz’s most trusted and sought-after designers (you’ll spot her red carpet creations everywhere from The Oscars to The Logies (Australia’s Emmys)). I managed to catch up (digitally, of course) with Diane herself to get the low-down on her lockdown…
#1 Provide us with three words that sum-up how you were feeling about lockdown when it first started, and then three words about how you feel now:
Before: “Blindsided, confused and devastated.”
After: “Industrious, calm and renewed.”
#2 What time do you get up? Did this change in lockdown? Was life a little slower? Talk to us about your usual daily routine and how this was changed by lockdown…
“At first, I was in denial and tried to carry on in the usual schedule – up at 5.45am – but that was short-lived. Simply because I became quite exhausted. My isolation journey started the week before our Prime Minister closed our borders (I am based in Sydney, Australia). On the eve of flying out to London to show at One Fine Day Bridal Market, London, our event was postponed….(now cancelled).
There I was all dressed-up with nowhere to go. So, there was a lot of feeling sorry for myself and disappointment because I was not only going to miss the selling of our latest collection, but I have friends in the UK I was going to miss seeing, I had campaign shoots organised and a trip to Scotland post-show to visit my family castle…so, the first week for me was like looking into a chasm…with no bottom. Then I picked myself up off the ground and had to deal with my clients here (who were postponing weddings) and staff. I felt like I was free falling and having to support both clients and staff was so sad. It really snapped me out of feeling sorry for myself. I am very much solution-orientated, so creating solutions for clients (which we did) got me out of a self-focused headspace, I remember thinking I was a juggler in a very mad circus for a few weeks.”
#3 How did lockdown impact your business, and how can people (brides/the wedding industry) support you now?
“I have my own retail as well as an atelier, as we make all our gowns in Sydney, Australia, so we pretty much lost all our instant business in one split second. We had to go through a process with every order we had and discuss with each client, whether wedding gowns would be picked up, or delivered to respective suppliers or to be moved back. I also lost all my appointments in London and the realist in me knew that those discussions would have to be put on ice, for a more positive time, which we have started in the last 10 days moving forward.
I think the best way brides and the industry can help one another is through honest communication. I think brides need to have the confidence that we are going to make the gown shopping process fun and professional, despite the fact we are wearing PPE and masks and using bucket loads of hand sanitizer. I feel brides need to research more before they attend fittings, in regards to what stores best suit their budget and aesthetic. It’s a universal issue that we have to do less fittings to accommodate the cleaning process in line with what all our Governments are expecting.
I feel that if a bride is in gown shopping mode, she should consider we all need serious leads at the moment and if she’s browsing she could have a discussion via zoom prior to coming in-store, which is something I am offering to brides’ whose weddings are a long way off and that way we are establishing a rapport. If your wedding is a while off create a mood board and send it when you enquire about an appointment. I think it’s important brides also support local indie stores and help us keep our dream alive.
I think collectively as an industry we do need to support one another, and that can be in referring to business, and even considering a new label in a store. Things will pick up and I am a firm believer that this scenario will bring opportunity to those who make bold but smart business decisions.”
#4 Name three local businesses/small Instagram businesses you are supporting or would like to support more…
No.1 “@johnandluna – this clever girl makes stunning boho jewellery.”
No.2 “@laurenmizon – this girl is off the charts, I love her work and we will meet when I return to London.”
No.3 “@thegrounds – my local coffee shop.”
#5 What is/was your favourite isolation snack?
“Hmm, I started eating the Cherry Ripe I was bringing to London (so, I had at least 5 kgs) so I obviously needed to finish it (I use them to coerce stockists, so make an appointment in 2021…lol).”
#6 Before lockdown eased slightly, what was your most recommended quarantine pick-me-up when you were feeling down?
“I walked to clear my head, I did lots of Zooms to friends around the world and I actually cut my hair myself and took 15 cm off the length. Hair/fabric what’s the difference….I liked the outcome but wont be changing my career just yet!”
#7 What’s the item you could NEVER find in the supermarket (and consequently dreamt continuously about) during lockdown…
“OMG…I went crackers over obsessing over hand sanitizer and paper hand towels. We were really cleaned out in Australia very early on even before lockdown, so I was obsessed with finding it. I did buy one that when it dried it smelt lime Jack Daniels, which was humorous, I think people thought I had a hip flask on hand.”
#8 What’s the strangest thing that’s happened during your lockdown period…
“I became very clear about so many things in my life. I think the lack of white noise gave me clarity and insight into my business. I think getting off the treadmill of life gave me the answers – we are now instigating them – watch this space.”
#9 Favourite app for keeping in touch digitally with friends and family?
#10 Name your lockdown hate:
“People stripping the shelves at supermarkets – though limits were set – I realised quickly it was every man for himself, and I did say openly at the supermarket, I am glad I did not get on the Titanic with any of you.”
#11 Name your lockdown love:
“I loved standing in queues (and yes I love a chat) and talking to strangers, asking them how they were. There was a real listening and a better connection with people. I never felt rushed. I had weekends off.”
#12 The person(s) you will hug first when social distancing is no longer in place?
“My parents, my sister and my nieces – and my clients. In fact every person I see!!”
#13 An act of kindness towards you that you’ve really appreciated during lockdown?
“I had the make-up artist (who does my campaigns) make handmade cards and she posted one to me saying “being positive in a negative situation is not naive, it’s leadership“. I really cried when I read this, it resonated with me as I was one of the only designers here in Australia that pivoted my workroom to make PPE and masks. My conscience told me it was the right thing to do and I stand by that today. My cousin’s partner also knits stunning toys – she’s really an artist – and she knitted me a bear all dressed in medical scrubs saying I made this for someone who makes good in a shitty situation.”
#14 Talk to us about what’s new at your brand?
“WOW, where do I start? I have three labels now under the banner of DIANE LEWIS. Our signature label DIANE LEWIS, that emulates my couture finishes. This is targeted at the modern contemporary bride with classic styling, and our Renaissance Collection – which I renamed during Covid – is a rebirth of my signature handwriting: voluminous skirts, corset bodices, modern asymmetric necklines – all with a signature look that started back when we opened in 1990.
“Our second label, Matheson+ME is my much loved boho-fusion label (my alter ego) and made up of nougat colour palettes, crochet laces, diaphanous sleeves and this season we have introduced a range of separates that are uber cool and rewearable.
Last but not least my newest label, CEREMONY which we showed in NYC last year. It sits between the existing offering but has a luxury minimalist aesthetic. I really wanted to have a sustainable element to this line, so these gowns are made of organic silks and fabrics made of recycled fibres and silk filaments. It is just beautiful and in this range we also offer stunning veils and capelets, detachable wings – so I have been a busy girl.
During isolation I also started a passion project – Love Laugh & Light. I developed a washable personal face mask with a full face filter in it, which extends the life of the mask. I have also been creating scrubs for front line health workers. We have been donating masks back to the vulnerable and those who have compromised immune systems.”
#15 Name three things the lockdown has made you grateful for:
No.1 “Family and friends.”
No.2 “To focus on what really matters.”
No.3 “The opportunity to find my inner calm and a lot of clarity.”
#16 Which restaurant will you dine at first once restrictions are lifted?
“I want to go to the Balmoral Boat Shed. It’s on a pier in Sydney Harbour on Balmoral Beach, they make the best food. On a still day you can almost see New Zealand….(I’m joking).”
#17 What series have you now completed on Netflix? Any recommendations?
“I haven’t had time to do the Netflix thing.”
#18 What would be on your quarantine book list?
#19 For a little Instagram-escapism, what three accounts would you recommend?
“Definitely @nois7, Catherine Worsley Studio (we are about to collaborate together from finding her feed @northernbeacheslocal) as it reminds me I live in a great part of Australia as its a feed about my local area.”
#20 Name three things you bought online during lockdown.
“I am going to disappoint you but nothing…”
#21 What was your lockdown outfit most days?
“For the days I work in the workroom and I’m not seeing brides I normally wear cargos, a shirt and sneakers…so that was the standard…and a tiara..lol”
#22 And, finally, your quarantine cocktail/tipple of choice?
“Are you serious? A G&T of course!”
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