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Weddings, Style

Designer in the Spotlight: Marguerite Hannah

miamia dress

It’s not easy for a designer to stay cutting edge for 25 years, but Marguerite Hannah is one of a kind. As the designer behind both the Alan Hannah label and sister brand MiaMia, her expert pattern skills and exquisite eye for detail have remained consistent and modern, and she is revered in the industry for creating the kinds of dresses any bride would want to wear.

Each new collection features an abundance of choice, ranging from deceptively simple sheaths to extravagant fairytale frocks. She has been awarded Designer of the Year seven times, and in 2008 received the Royal stamp of approval when the company’s headquarters were opened by HRH Princess Anne. A long-time admirer of her work, I was thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed for OX Weddings. 

Where did you train, and how did you come to the industry? 

I trained in Italian pattern cutting and as designer in Cyprus, but I would say that much of my bridal design and cutting has been largely self-taught through my experience over the last 25 years of working with brides and stockists. My training was certainly a foundation, but I have evolved and developed new methods and techniques through designing and making my collections. I was really drawn to bridal by the beautiful high-end fabrics which were available, and which were perfect for my preferred method of draping fabrics on the living form to create my silhouettes. 


Tell us about Princess Anne opening your HQ. 

In 2008 we purchased a new building which was a shell. This enabled us to create a state-of-the-art studio which enabled us to work efficiently and also had the space to create a wonderful showroom which is available for all our stockists to visit and see our collections in their best light. Mr Joe Sweeney who was the president of the BBA at the time was impressed and spoke to some influential people who were in the UK Fashion and Textile Association, of which HRH was the President. They said that the Princess loved to visit fashion businesses who were showing innovation and commitment and subsequently organised a royal visit to officially open our new facility. It was an unforgettable day and lots of our stockists as well as our staff were invited and got to meet the Princess, who was an amazingly well informed and interested guest who asked lots of questions about our business.  

Alan Hannah

Alan Hannah designs are always so consistently fresh. Where does your inspiration come from? 

My eyes are always feasting on the evolving fashion of today and yesterday. I have a library of art and fashion books. Also, living in London we are blessed with amazing galleries. These are my go-to places to both escape and be inspired by art and artefacts. The whole city inspires me, and I never get tired of the amazing creative atmosphere which surrounds me in my favourite city. I think ones’ mind is subliminally infused by all those influences and when the creative process starts they all act on me subconsciously.  


What is the starting point of a great design? 

As I mentioned before, fabric is a great starting point to create e sculptural shape and I always try to work with the fabric and let it suggest how its wants to work on a design. The start of a good design is touch. The idea is never fully formed until I have finished the physical garment, the design can evolve and change as I work with the fabric. Even when I am making the pattern, I envisage the 3D form and manipulate it until I get the result that I want. Its like watching waves going back and forth on the shore. You must allow the creativity to take you where it goes.  


Tell us about MiaMia, what prompted you to establish a second label? 

To be honest I think I am quite an eclectic designer. I don’t like to be tied too much to one signature but obviously a collection has to have a coherence and a discipline of styling. MiaMia was a way of designing dresses which were quite different to Alan Hannah, in that there is more embellishment and emphasis on extravagant fabrics and styling. It almost enables me to use two different sides of my personality. For this reason its important to understand MiaMia not as a diffusion label but as something with its own essence. It has given me a way to stretch myself as a designer and not become comfortable with one particular look. 


Do you have a typical bride for each?  

I don’t think so. Each bride is very much an individual and often brides end up wearing something totally different from what they imagined they would wear. Sometimes I see brides who dreamed of a very full princess dress in lace and in the end chose one of our very minimal Alan Hannah column dresses because they fall in love with the fit and the sophistication of the cut.  

Alan Hannah

Is there a particular silhouette which you are most drawn to? 

I love full skirted A-line dresses because they complement any shape if well cut. This style is appropriate for any kind of wedding from a grand church affair to a much more relaxed venue. I also design styles which are flexible in that they can give two looks for different parts of the day. A slim fitted dress with a detachable train can be worn in the daytime and then by removing the train for the evening you can have an evening look which is perfect for dancing the night away.  

Alan Hannah

We always love your relaxed approach to photography. How do you go about creating your shoots? And also, we’d love to know how you go about choosing the name for each gown… 

We love to work with other creative people with whom we share a vision. We have worked with the same stylist and photographer for a few years now. We all have a meeting and discuss our ideas and what kind of set would work well. We all have a ‘spirited’ exchange and gradually we decide the broad parameters and start to organise it.  

One thing that we always try to do is to keep the shoot fun and not too formal. I think that allowing the model to shine, and show her personality, the shoot makes its own little story and by not keeping too tight a rein on everything we manage to get a sense of spontaneity and flow. We all get drawn to quirky venues rather than more classical settings, even the more formal spaces that we have used like the Dorset Hotel have unusual and modernist elements which we love. 

We used to try to choose the names by theme, but we have probably exhausted that over the years so now we just sit and blurt out names to each other and note them down and make a shortlist. Its funny because sometimes a name will remind you of someone you have known and that can immediately rule it in … or out! 


What’s your personal style like? 

I like to wear very simple shapes, but I love to create my personal style with lots of accessories: Jewellery, shoes, bags. I used to make jewellery and I am obsessed. My Greek heritage seems to draw me towards complex, colourful, and geometric jewellery which makes a statement and works well with my style and colouring.  


Finally, if you could design for anyone, alive or dead, real or fictional, who would that be and why?  

Maybe some of your readers will have to google this one. I would have loved to design for Sophia Loren. As a young woman she was very beautiful with a very curvaceous figure. She would defy conventional pattern cutting and I would have jumped at the challenge to use all my pattern cutting skills to create dresses for this amazing and gorgeous woman. 


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14 October 2023, St Leonard's Church, Wallingford and afterwards at Fison Barn, Earth Trust, Little Wittenham.

miamia dress
Mon 13 May 2024

It’s not easy for a designer to stay cutting edge for 25 years, but Marguerite Hannah is one of a kind. As the designer behind both the Alan Hannah label and sister brand MiaMia, her expert pattern skills and exquisite eye for detail have remained consistent and modern, and she is revered in the industry for creating the kinds of dresses any bride would want to wear.

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