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Flotation Point 12 janrbe
Style, Weddings

Designer Spotlight: Maud Schmitt

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MaudiKa Bridal has a growing fanbase of independent brides who can’t get enough of their beautiful, alternative vintage-inspired gowns. Now based in Banbury, the label is the work of best friends turned business partners, Maud and Katerina. They met whilst studying at Mod’Art International Fashion School in Paris – Maud’s place of birth – and established their business after Katerina returned to her native Bulgaria. Katerina is the main seamstress and has a sideline working at her sister’s bakery, creating awe-inspiring wedding cakes, and Oxfordshire-based Maud designs the dresses, often inspired by prized vintage fabric finds.

How did MaudiKa come into being?

Looking for jobs is tough if you’re not a fashion insider, so after graduating I established my own (mainstream) fashion label, Maud Schmitt, and was stocked in three shops in Paris and the southeast of France. One of the Paris stores suggested I try my hand at wedding dresses: the owner was already selling jewellery, fashion and some lifestyle bits and pieces but she wanted a bridal range for the store. I knew my friend Katerina’s skills would be better than mine for a project like this, so I went to Bulgaria to work with her there. We created a ten dress collection, five of which were sold in the shop. We discovered we loved working together and bridal suited our combined skillset. After that first collection we were bursting with ideas about how to develop it further and we still are – at some point, we’d like to bring out a bridesmaid range, evening wear, even prom dresses!

What brought you from Paris to Oxford?

I was stuck in Paris, living with my parents, and I couldn’t find work, love or happiness. I wanted to learn English and was a huge fan of A Discovery of Witches (a fantasy series set in the Bodleian) so I came to Oxford. I arrived with two suitcases and I didn’t know anyone but discovered a new life. I made friends and eventually met my husband-to-be.

In the early days of MaudiKa I was living in a house share and brides would come and try on dresses in our living room. Eventually, I got a loan and rented space on Cowley Road. It was very popular but eventually, the rising costs of rent and bills proved prohibitive so I had to close it down. Now we are thriving online, and I’m also taking part in wedding fairs which is where most people find me. I live in Banbury and have a studio at home so brides can come to me to for a really personal, one-on-one experience. MaudiKa brides tend to be looking for something different, something unique and handmade. They want exclusivity and love the extra bespoke details we offer, such as a handstitched embellished veil. I just want each one to have the dress of their dreams and a happy experience.

How easy is it to buy a wedding dress online?

We actually have a lot of brides who buy straight from our Etsy store. The MaudiKa style is light and flowing which helps. Katerina has a certain way of cutting on the bias which gives flow to the skirt, and this has become our house style or special trademark. We offer sample sizes, a made-to-measure range, and also a bespoke service. I suppose that because our styles aren’t all fitted, they are more straightforward to buy online and, of course, we have a great returns policy, just in case!

Are you influenced by trends?

I keep an eye on trends but we don’t follow them. That said, our Cosmic Love collection last year was celestially inspired and I’ve noticed a lot of these themes appearing in other collections this year – I guess we were ahead of the trend!

For our next collection, we’re planning more volume, different lace, petticoats, and puffy sleeves with lots of intricate details, all heavily inspired by 18th-century royalty. That vintage element is in all our designs. I’m really attracted to the styles of the past – particularly Edwardian or Victorian fashions. Katerina prefers more modern themes and she’ll tell me if something is too vintage. Together we make a great team: modern, wearable styles which reference the best of the past.

Bestselling style?

Our most popular design is the Lily dress which suits most body shapes, and we often end up adapting the shape to a bride’s personal requirements; one had the front lifted as she had really cute boots and she wanted them to be seen! We’ve also created versions with a longer train, or even one with bell sleeves.

Finally, who would you love to design for?

I think someone like my favourite actress, Grace Kelly. She epitomises timeless beauty and elegance. Everything she wore was beautifully tailored – Dior, Givenchy, Hermès. Her own – very traditional – wedding dress was designed by Helen Rose, the MGM designer. I like the idea of making a princess dress for an actress.

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