Hailed ‘the corset queen’, Suzanne Neville is one of Europe’s leading designers of bridal and evening wear. All her beautifully constructed wedding gowns are British made, with designing and hand-made production being undertaken in London.
It’s her impeccable eye for shape and detail that has made the award-winning designer such a popular choice with brides seeking to make the most of their figures on the most special day of their lives.
Suzanne started her business in 1991 after studying at the prestigious London College of Fashion, gaining recognition after Harrods took on her entire first collection, a break canny Suzanne, aged just 20 achieved after persuading family and friends to call the Harrods bridal department posing as potential customers, asking if the store stocked a new designer called Suzanne Neville.
Now with stores in Knightsbridge, Cheshire and Guilford, and numerous stockists in the UK and worldwide, the brand continues to grow. Suzanne, who is a very hands-on designer who takes pride on the fit of every dress, and aims to create the most flattering shape for every individual bride, shares with us her tricks for achieving the perfect gown.
Can you tell us about how you started and how much your brand has grown and matured over the years?
This year marks our 25-year anniversary in the industry, and when I designed my very first collection I never imagined how big the brand was going to become, which I am very grateful for. Ever since I can remember I wanted to be a fashion designer. I was lucky enough to study at The London College of Fashion, and during my degree I specialised in bridal as I felt I could go a little further with the dress designs. Once I started designing wedding dresses, and met the brides themselves, there was no going back, it’s a great honour to create any wedding dress.
What do you enjoy most about being a designer?
I love seeing all of my Knightsbridge, London clients for their Toile appointments, and being so hands on in production as well as with my girls in Knightsbridge. There is no better feeling than making a bride feel the best she has ever felt.
How would you describe your signature style?
A strong focus on the silhouette and the fit of each dress. The cut and corsetry is everything when it comes to wedding dresses. It’s all about enhancing the figure to the upmost and this can really only be done with a really well cut dress. Corsetry is not essential but it can support the bust and define the waist, so for many figures it’s the most flattering option.
Is this personal approach with the fittings for your brides something that will remain paramount as you continue growing your brand?
Yes, I love meeting all my clients, it is a chance to really get a feel for what brides are loving. My girls ask me every year if I am sure I want to carry on seeing every bride, but I would never be able to give it up, I just love it.
What makes your collections unique?
Seeing every bride in my Knightsbridge Showroom allows me to keep up to date with what brides want and is the reason I love it. From talking to my clients, to seeing what the current trends are, allows me to design the collections I do.
How has your style evolved over the years?
When designing a new collection, I like to include a range of styles and trends as I like to design something for everyone. I watch trends and keep up to date with the ever-changing bridal fashions.
From talking to my clients, to seeing what the current trends are, allows me to design the collections I do.
What is it about corsetry which makes it work for women of all different shapes and sizes?
The beauty of a made to measure corset is that you can really accentuate a woman’s figure. No matter what shape the bride may be, a corset will make her feel the best she has ever felt.
To you, what makes the perfect dress?
To me there is nothing better than a perfectly fitted bodice. I have always loved corsetry as it enables me to really show off a woman’s figure. Seeing the joy on my brides faces when they are in their wedding dress is my highlight and the reason I love what I do.
How do you find the pressure of designing what is one of the most important dresses in your client’s life?
It is a real honour and I still have to pitch myself at times when I really think about the responsibility we have to design and create a brides dream dress. But I have the best team, from the girls in my showrooms, to my very talented seamstresses in production, together we do it and I feel very lucky to have them.
What have been your biggest achievements to date?
When I was nineteen and Harrods agreed to stock the wedding dresses from my very first collection, getting the keys to my first shop, selling my gowns for the first time in New York, dressing a Spice Girl for the Olympics and so many others! I have been very lucky. However, the main thing that makes me proud every day is the brides all over the world are wearing my designs for the happiest day of their lives.
Who is your dream person to dress?
I have always wanted to dress Adele, I would love to design her something amazing,
Designing a bridal dress has many constraints. What inspires you, and how do you keep creating new and exciting designs with such a tight remit?
I’m often inspired to create a dress by the fabric itself. There are certain fabrics I know so well they are like old friends! Crepe is one of my favourites, so you’ll always see crepe dresses in every collection. I do spend months designing exquisite embroidery and searching for the right lace from the best mills in the world. I source only the very best fabrics.
Do you have a favourite gown in your current collection, and why?
One of my favourites is called Belle, it started life as a dress for television personality Holly Willoughby for the National Television Awards. Holly made the bespoke dress famous by wearing it on ITV’s is Morning the day after the night before, having not been to bed! We were inundated with calls asking where the dress could be purchased, so I added it to the new collection and now over thirty of our stockists have ordered the style.
Now that you are stocking your gowns in Dubai, have you created exclusive pieces for the region, which are relevant for the clientele?
Yes we have, our wonderful stockists Bride2Be do have quite a few dresses from the current collection, together with some dresses designed specifically for the our Middle Eastern clients. They are some of my favourite, as they are colourful, exquisite, and very luxurious.
You spend a lot of time with brides, what do you feel is most important when organising the perfect big day?
To remember to enjoy the experience, it can become stressful for many brides, but try to enjoy every moment.
What made your own wedding special?
I had a winter wedding in December at Highclere Castle, which is otherwise known as Downton Abbey. It was a magical day, surrounded by close friends and family, and we even had snow. I did design my own wedding dress, and it was a little stressful as it was made in the days leading up to the wedding! I decided to combine three of my favourite designs of all time, creating a fishtail gown in silk dupion, with pleating and lace detail. I had another dress for the evening reception in silver. To this day I still wouldn’t change a single thing, it was perfect.
What is the biggest mistake a bride can make while planning her day?
To forget what you and your partner want. The day is to celebrate the love the two of you share, it should be all about you.
Can you share with us your top tip for brides-to-be?
Just be yourself but a bridal version. There is a lot of choice out there but make sure you are true to yourself. You must try on a couple of each style and shape, as you never know what they will truly look like until you have tried them on. We provide a Made to Measure Couture service, where you are able to adapt or create your own design to enable you to truly have the dress of your dreams.
By Eliza Scarborough