In celebration of 25 years of Lesley Cutler Bridal Wear this April, Lesley herself looks back on her illustrious career:
“Wow, 25 years, where has it gone! Back in 1994, I’m not sure that I would ever have thought that Lesley Cutler Bridal Wear would be where it is now. I am so incredibly proud of the journey that we’ve been on and that now, I’m in a position to look back over 25 years of making stunning dresses for women on the happiest day of their lives.
I didn’t want to let this milestone go without a bit of a pause for reflection and celebration. So join me as I reminisce over 25 years of a career that started with making garments for royalty…
Where it all began
In 1994 I took on a freelance contract with Elizabeth Emanuel (the British fashion designer who is best known for designing the wedding dress worn by Diana, Princess of Wales).
This was the best sort of ‘training ground’ as I was making elaborate dresses for the rich and famous. Often they were very theatrical pieces in a range of different looks and styles all based on historical costumes and complete with corsets, crinolines, bust pads and hundreds of metres of silk fabrics, laces and ribbons! They were sold from the Berkertex flagship store on Bond Street in Central London – I couldn’t be happier with learning in this environment from the very best.
Another thrilling designer I worked with early on in my career was Jenny Packham, making evening dresses in slinky silks and short knee-length dresses with fitted bra style bodices. The polar opposite to the work with Elizabeth Emanuel which added to my skill set and gave me the experience and confidence to create garments in my own name.
I branched out on my own…
The first Lesley Cutler wedding gown was a silk satin gold coloured dress with beautiful ivory and gold brocade panel at the centre front.The sleeves, in ivory chiffon were styled in a medieval inspired shape. While the skirt cascaded into a full train. It was an elaborate and dramatic gown. A real show-stopper ruching and pleating across the bust, waist and hips. It then cascaded down into a dramatic train. A classic and I was thrilled to put my name to this, my very first striking dress.
As my business grew, so did my family
My business started from an upstairs bedroom and as it grew, so did my family. In 1997 I had a studio built adjacent to our house with a separate entrance which was decorated and designed to replicate the excitement of visiting a wedding dress shop. This was (and still is!) a superb professional environment and gives me the opportunity to make garments for brides, bridesmaids, Mother of Brides and Grooms as well as second-time and older brides. I’m proud to say that my home studio is the longest-trading bridal wear shop in Milton Keynes – a huge achievement of mine.
By 2000 I had my first website published so that I could reach a much wider audience across the whole of the UK. It’s important to me that I keep up to date with how to reach modern brides and that they can find and engage with us with ease – that’s why now in 2019 you’ll find us on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest too. I love engaging with these new technologies and building relationships with brides-to-be online or through FaceTime before we even meet in real-life. Plus, Pinterest is such an incredible platform for brides to bring their wedding dress ideas to me – a technology that didn’t exist 25 years ago that is changing the way that I work with my customers.
My favourite dresses and memories from over the years
During my time in business I’ve learnt so much and I’ve had the pleasure of hand making hundreds of dresses. As a rough estimate to date we believe that there are over 1,000 garments with the Lesley Cutler label inside across the world. This makes me feel so proud.
I’ve got so many incredible memories from over the past 25 years, here are a few highlights:
In 1999 my garments were the finale display for a fashion show to raise money to build the new Milton Keynes Theatre and Gallery.
In 2000 I was filmed for a Channel 4 documentary and featured in a fly-on-the-wall film called ‘A Wedding In The Family’
The bride’s whole dress-making process was filmed from the initial consultation through to the wedding day. I even went to the wedding! The bride wore a sleeveless A-line silk ivory gown with sweetheart neckline. A very memorable moment!
It’s not just traditional wedding dresses I’ve made, far from it!
I’ve made unusual and quirky wedding dresses – one example was a gold skirt, an ivory embroidered bodice and a purple coat.
I’ve also worked with brides to create purple and red wedding dresses. Our mission is to make our brides’ dreams come true, whatever their wish.
For the wife of a member of the House of Lords I’ve made a High Sheriff suit from an exclusive English hand woven brocade silk.
I’ve had the pleasure of making another High Sheriff suit for the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire 2016.
What a privilege!
For this customer, I created an 18th century costume inspired by a painting by Gainsborough of Countess Howe as well as handmade a Mother of the Bride dress and coat.
One of the greatest changes over the last 25 years has been the move from silk fibres to the use of man made fibres in mass produced dresses.
I’m proud to continue making dresses from silk and my customers appreciate being able to select from the vast array of fabrics that I have available.
I’ve handmade a christening gown for the daughter of an Olympic rower.
I made a Mother of the Groom outfit for a customer attending a wedding at the prestigious Claridges.
I’ve personally given a speech at the Women’s Institute for 250 people all about my business and inspiring other females.
How you can get involved in celebrating with us!
Throughout our ‘birthday month’ of April we have a whole host of activities to celebrate and ways in which you can get involved in #25YearsOfCutlerBrides.
On 2nd April we’re collaborating with other local wedding suppliers to launch an incredible competition for brides-to-be to win exclusive prizes for their wedding day. If you’re a bride-to-be then follow us on Instagram @lesleycutlerbridalwear to find out how you can win some of our beautiful bridal accessories as well as unique, one-time only offers and prizes from other local wedding suppliers.
In celebration of #25YearsOfCutlerBrides we’ll also be sharing exclusive content from the past 25 years on our Instagram and Facebook channels every day for 25 days. Follow along and see some of the dresses we’ve made over the years and some of our favourite memories. If you’ve been a Lesley Cutler bride then we would love it, if you shared some photos of your dress with the hashtag #25YearsOfCutlerBrides too!
I’m so proud of my business that I’ve built from the ground-up and feel honoured to have worked with so many brides to create their dream dress for their special day. I wish to say a huge thank you to everyone I’ve ever worked with over the past 25 years – brides-to-be, mothers of the bride, mothers of the groom and wedding guests – it’s been a privilege. More than ever I’m excited about what the future of Lesley Cutler Bridal Wear will hold.”