ALICE TEMPERLEY SHARES HER FASHION FAIRY TALE

“I believe fashion should be about escapism and the ability to dream, to be transported into another world,” reveals embroiderer of many a wedding fantasy, Alice Temperley in her new book English Myths & Legends. Grazia joins her on the journey…
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ALICE TEMPERLEY SHARES HER FASHION FAIRY TALE

Temperley London is steeped in a spirit of bohemia and a sense of adventure that lends itself perfectly to weaving the wedding dress of dreams. Yet it wasn’t until Alice herself got married in a ’20s-inspired, pearl-strewn vintage lace affair in 2002 – two years after the birth of her brand – that brides began to ask her to help sprinkle some of the same fairy dust over their big days, too.

“In bridal, you can use the most incredible techniques that you just wouldn't be able to achieve in ready-to-wear,” reveals Alice

“There’s a whole ritual to it,” Alice observes. And when it comes to her bespoke bridal offering, this could involve anything from having song lyrics stitched onto your dress – like one Temperley London bride who married a singer – to, in Alice’s supermodel friend Jacquetta Wheeler’s case, recreating a family heirloom calling upon 19th century artisanal techniques. Alice recalls, “We based the embroidery on a veil that had been in her family for hundreds of years but became too delicate to wear, and added words and names that were important to the couple. It was literally work that would have been done a few hundred years ago, and it took a really long time to make but it was absolutely beautiful.”

There's always a story within each dress – it could be poetry or little details that mean a lot to the bride

Luckily, you don’t have to be BFFs with Alice for your own bridal whims be brought to life before your very eyes. “All women have their dream situation of how their wedding should look or feel,” she acknowledges. “Everyone has a different take on it, whether it’s beachy or bohemian or whatever it happens to be.”

After familiarising herself with each bride’s vibe – determining where the wedding will take place, the silhouettes in which she feels most like herself – Alice’s skill lies in interpreting this dream and translating it in such a way that it creates what she calls “their fairy tale on their body.” She adds, “There’s always a story within the dress – it could be poetry or their favourite flowers or little details that will mean a lot to them.”

“Brides come to us for our romance and the essence of what we have to offer,” reveals Alice

Alice continues, “To achieve that within a bespoke dress is really special because not many people have the opportunity to create a piece they can treasure forever and hopefully wear again.” She observes, “The skill going into the embroidery is amazing. It’s almost like creating a piece of jewellery for the body. It’s a couture way of approaching it and we’re really making it an heirloom that can be handed down.”

Temperley brides dream big and belong in cinematic surroundings often journeying through deserts, roaming through forests, strolling through cornfields, or exploring rugged beaches. Among the most memorable scenes Alice has helped create is one where the bride who made her entrance through an olive grove in Greece, straddling a donkey, and another in a fire pit in Africa, flanked by a tribe of Maasai warriors.

Yet she’s keen to stress that hers is not purely a brand for blockbuster brides. “No, not at all,” she insists. “You’d come to Temperley London for that decadence and a romantic feel but it doesn’t need to be a massive showcase. We’re more subtle because I feel it’s important that the man is marrying the woman for the best of who she is – in the most romantic and love-filled way – rather than someone who is just trying to make too much of a massive statement.”

What began as a bespoke offering to friends has blossomed into big business, thanks to Alice’s understanding of the multifaceted nature of our desires and her recognition that there isn’t just one Temperley London bride. “We started off with one bridal line in 2006 and then quickly realised that we needed to have four different categories,” she explains, citing glamorous, bohemian, classic and statement style personalities. “It’s not all whimsical and pretty – that quaint English country garden,” Alice protests. “They’re ultra-soft and feminine but in quite a strong way. It’s not all soft and fluffy,” she declares. “It has more to it than that. Some of the embroideries are laced onto sheer tulle to look like armour, so the woman who wears it can feel much stronger.”

“Some of the embroidery can take up to a month to complete,” Alice admits of her bridal designs

In the 15 years since Alice became the first Temperley London bride, the landscape has changed inexorably, as have the needs of her customer. “What people perceived as bridal before definitely looks dated now. It’s more about functionality. People want to move around and don’t want to look like they’ve dressed like a crazy bride for the sake of it,” she asserts.

According to Alice, “Bridal separates are doing very well for us. Many people are opting for the big skirt and the embroidered top, which they can imagine wearing again. We’ve also done dresses that are shorter underneath with a longer skirt that you can take off.”

She points out, “That’s why designers are now doing bridal. Modern brides don’t want to look like someone else, they want to look like the best version of themselves.” The best version of themselves, that is, on a distant desert dune, with their Temperley London gown fluttering in the wind.

Temperley London is available at The Dubai Mall

Photos: Supplied