For over the last 30 years, Phillipa Lepley has built up a reputation as being one of the UK's best couturiers for brides looking for flawless style, romance and femininity.
The designer creates show-stopping wedding dresses with lasting beauty and relevance. Her infamous body defining corset is a must have, once tried, brides have been known to say ‘I must have my dress here'.
Just to give you an idea of Philippa's skill, in 2016 she created a full-skirted dress, covered with heavily embroidered French lace and set with 100,000 freshwater seed pearls, all sewn by hand. This exquisite dress took more than 300 hours to make; the bride attended a series of seven precision fittings and at each fitting, the bride would see her dress develop towards completion. Alternatively, brides can choose to buy from the collection at Philippa's London boutique, but more commonly they order a bespoke dress. Phillipa focuses on timeless dresses, believing that the design of a wedding dress need not be dictated by the current trends for it to perfectly stand the test of time. Instead, each creation is made to flatter the individual bride with just the right amount of cover, the right bespoke embroidery work and the most flattering lines creating a beautiful silhouette. Phillipa is also known for her figure-enhancing corsetry, which has been fine-tuned by her expert eyes to the millimetre over the years, resulting in incredibly defined body-sculpting.
How did you get into designing bridal dresses, when did you have your big break and how long have you been designing for?
"I launched my namesake bridal design business from a small atelier based in South Kensington in 1989. In 1990 I opened my first shop on the Fulham Road, where the brand established itself as one of the UK's leading bridal couture destinations. After experiencing an incredible increase in demand, I decided to relocate further up the Fulham Road to London's fashionable district of Chelsea. The move not only gave us a bigger boutique and space to work from, but we were able to introduce the brand to a more international audience with a window to the world."
Where do you get your inspiration from?
"I am fascinated by the female form, and I am inspired by the brides that I meet. I am also inspired by the beautiful fabrics I source and the incredible bespoke embroideries that we create. Hand embroidery is my biggest passion, and often makes me tingle. And more so than ever now, having moved to the countryside, I am constantly inspired by nature; flowers such as trailing sweet peas, ferns, grasses and lavender sprigs all feature in the current collection."
Can you talk us through your 2018 / 2019 collection?
"Within the new collection you will see splashes of subtle, muted colours, such as in dusky hand-embroidered flowers weaving through frocks and underlays of pink beneath 3D floral applique overlays. Special hand-embroidered pieces, mostly inspired by my love of the countryside, feature pretty petals, leaves and branches. For those inspired by the Duchess of Sussex we have some new clean shapes in silk crepe, silk zibeline and our favourite, heavy Italian duchess satin."
Do you have a favourite dress that stays in your collection or do you like to discontinue them and have totally new collections each season?
"Yes, there are several timeless looks that we keep permanently in the collection. They work so beautifully that it would be a shame to lose them. The 'Baby Olivia' has been in the collection for some time. It is classic and chic, and it is universally flattering. With a strapless base, it can be personalised in so many ways by adding bespoke button-back tops in either lace, embroidery or clean organza. Brides who choose the Baby Olivia may also opt for a bespoke cathedral-length veil, a coloured sash belt or a sparkly crystal and pearl embroidered belt for the evening."
Do you have a favourite fabric that you like to work with, or one that you strongly dislike?
How would you describe your signature style?
"Every single Phillipa Lepley dress is profoundly different, ultra-luxe and completely exquisite. The 'Phillipa Lepley difference' is in the detail - everything is calculated to the millimetre, and the results are unparalleled. Our famous corsets are life-changing and the silhouettes they create are so feminine. The dresses are all eye-catching but timeless and elegant."
What has been your most memorable and proudest moment so far?
"I have designed and made dresses for a number of extremely well-known, high profile brides, but no particular dress stands out above the rest. I feel overwhelmingly proud every time I receive a photo from a bride after their wedding day, and I adore showing them to the team. I am so very lucky to do what I love, and as I get older I enjoy it more and more."
New dresses appear in the collection on a weekly basis throughout the year. Sample sales take place twice a year and are by appointment only.