“Stay calm, stay focused and stay in touch, and be assured we will get to the end of this.” Russell Blackburn, of Blackburn Bridal Couture, on his advice for lockdown brides
I must have met Russell Blackburn a good few years ago now, I’d just started working at Wedding Magazine as the new Fashion Editor and was made aware of his wonderful bridal boutique by my Editor at the time, Claire Ridley. And, after that, it wasn’t too long until I’d booked my very own bridal appointment to discover his treasure box of bridal designers hanging from the elegant rails of Blackburn Bridal Couture. Living on the coast, I’d visited bridal stores closer to home, but travelled up especially for an appointment with Russell, because I knew he would create that dream appointment that I’d always wanted. And, between me and you, it was exactly that...
Growing up in South East London, Russell’s never-ending love for fashion was heavily inspired by 1940’s & 50’s movies, Hollywood starlets and the achingly glamorous aura they radiated. It was therefore no surprise when he became Fashion Director at the prestigious You & Your Wedding magazine for ten successful years before fulfilling his own lifelong dream of launching his own bridal business: Blackburn Bridal Couture. Enveloped in the beautiful heart of Blackheath and stocking the likes of Anna Campbell, Anna Kara, Rish and the glittering jewels and accessories of Australian designer, Amber Sceats – not to mention Blackburn Couture (Russell’s own label) and newly-unveiled Couture Cocktail line – this is a must-visit on any brides’ boutique list.
I caught up with Russell to discover everything from his lockdown advice for brides, to his new daily routine and which Netflix series have been keeping him entertained…
#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…
When it first started: “Concerned, apprehensive but hopeful!”
During 2nd lockdown: “Still feeling concerned but focused and optimistic.”
#2 What time do you get up? Does this change in lockdown? Will life be a little slower for you? Talk to us about your usual daily routine and how this changes in lockdown…
“My life seems to have become even busier during lockdown! I’ve always been a morning person and have continued to get up around 5.30/6am throughout lockdown. I like to exercise in the morning whilst I have the most energy and then I can focus on work for the rest of the day. I’ve set up a home office and work remotely to answer emails and enquiries from our brides and suppliers. I also like to squeeze in two dog walks during the day to blow the cobwebs away and think of new ideas. I’ve also been popping into the boutique to keep on top of deliveries and also filming content for our social media to keep our brides updated and inspired.”
#3 How does lockdown impact your business, and how can people (brides/the wedding industry) support you throughout?
“The biggest thing we noticed after we came out of the first lockdown was how focused brides were, they’d had all this time to research and think about their dresses that it made them extremely decisive when they were actually able to shop again! Lots of brides were ordering at their first appointment. As things have gone on I think brides have become more uncertain as to when normality will return for weddings, they are feeling more hesitant to commit whilst their dates are still so in the air. The biggest thing for us is for our brides to really keep us up-to-date with their plans and keep the lines of communication strong (keeping us posted when their dates get confirmed/changed and allowing plenty of time for fittings). I think 2021 is hopefully going to be a busy year and we want to be as prepared for that as possible.”
#4 Name three small businesses on Instagram you are supporting or would like to support more…
No.1 “@theoandgilbert_flowers are a local florist who have recently worked with us on our Christmas windows, they’ve always been so supportive of us and I think it’s important to support local businesses at this difficult time.”
No.2 “@1011Cht – we worked with Carlton House on our most recent photoshoot at the end of the summer. It’s such a difficult time for wedding venues in particular and they have really adapted their business to provide intimate wedding packages.”
No.3 “We also worked with @selinaphotoraphyinsta on two shoots this year. Selina is a very talented wedding and lifestyle photographer who is based locally in Chislehurst. The owner of the wedding venue my husband and I got married at recommended her, she’s a really lovely lady, very easy to work with and has great vision and versatility.”
#5 What is your favourite isolation snack?
“Anything with peanut butter in it, I love it! It’s a great energy booster too. I tend to skip lunch but have a good breakfast and dinner so it’s a good snack to keep me going.”
#6 What’s your most recommended quarantine pick-me-up when you’re feeling down during lockdown?
“Exercise, exercise and more exercise! It really is the best mood booster. If I start the day with a good workout I’m much more focused for the rest of the day.”
#7 What’s the item you could NEVER find in the supermarket (and consequently dreamt continuously about) during lockdown previously?
“Antibacterial wipes and sanitiser – bit of a lockdown cliché but as it was so difficult to find them anywhere I became obsessed with tracking some down!”
#8 What’s the strangest thing that’s happened during your lockdowns?
“Early on during the first lockdown my husband and I rescued a baby squirrel! Whilst on one of our daily walks he ran over, quite literally climbed onto my shoe and wouldn’t leave, he clearly needed us! We ended up being his new home for the next 2 months until we made the painstaking decision to re-home him with a squirrel rescue centre in Hertfordshire. He really was the best distraction during such an uncertain time and brought much joy to us both. We regularly keep in touch with the rescue centre where he is now and living as a family with a group of other rescue squirrels. This warms my heart knowing we did the right thing in finding him a home and a squirrel family.”
#9 Favourite app for keeping in touch digitally with friends and family?
“I mostly keep in contact with my friends and family on WhatsApp and Facebook.”
#10 Name your lockdown hate:
“I really miss getting dressed up for work in the boutique and the sense of purpose it gives me. I’ve realised that when I dress casually I don’t have the same level of focus.”
#11 Name your lockdown love:
“Getting to spend quality time with my husband Daniel.”
#12 The person(s) you will hug first when social distancing is no longer in place?
#13 An act of kindness towards you that you’ve really appreciated during lockdown?
“We sadly lost our beloved dog Daisy at the age of 16 during lockdown. We were touched by the support and messages of love from our friends and family during that time.”
#14 Talk to us about what’s new at your brand?
“I’m just about to launch a collection of dresses for micro/intimate weddings and last minute elopements. These pieces are less formal and at a lower price point (£800-£1500) and will be launching in December. We have also recently launched a collection of cocktail dresses which are geared towards hen nights, pre-dinner parties and evening events. I think 2021 weddings are bound to get bigger and better once people are finally allowed to celebrate together so the trend for two or more dresses is set to continue.
I also have plans in the pipeline for a capsule collection of modern dresses for the mother of the bride which will be available from February next year.”
#15 Name three things the lockdown has made you grateful for:
No.1 “My health.”
No.2 “My family and friends.”
No.3 “The realisation not to take anything for granted.”
#16 Which restaurant will you dine at first once restrictions are lifted again?
“We can’t wait to return to our local favourite, Giggling Squid in Chislehurst.”
#17 What series have you now completed on Netflix? Any recommendations?
“Oh gosh everything! What haven’t I finished! Recent favourites have been Emily in Paris (pure escapism at its best) and of course some fabulous fashion and The Undoing with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, its just one of those fabulous dramas that keeps you guessing right up to the end.”
#18 What book would be top of your quarantine book list?
“I actually have never read Marley & Me by John Grogan but adored the movie so recently took the time to read this. Its a lovely heart-warming book and definitely one for anyone who loves dogs, but make sure you have tissue’s on hand as it definitely pulls on the heart strings!!”
#19 For a little Instagram-escapism, what three accounts would you recommend?
“I love to look at travel and animal rescue accounts on Instagram for escapism…
#20 Name three things you bought online during lockdown last time and three things you’re thinking of buying this time around:
“Last time –
Stocked up on wine!
Lots of Squirrel paraphernalia.
Sportswear and trainers.
This time –
A new computer.
New winter clothes to wear to for work.
Lots of online Xmas shopping.”
#21 What’s your ‘lockdown’ outfit most days?
#22 What’s your advice to lockdown brides?
“Stay calm, stay focused and stay in touch, and be assured we will get to the end of this.”
#23 And, finally, your quarantine cocktail/tipple of choice?
“A lovely large glass of red wine.”
Head to the Blackburn Bridal Couture website for further information.
Head to the WFH Diary entries tab on Bridal Editor for more diary entries from your favourite bridal brands, designers and boutiques.