The Wedding Guide talks to Caroline Parkes, who trained with the Queen’s dressmaker Hardy Amies and who designs exclusive collections for Mrs Jones Bridal Boutique, NewburyTell us about your earlier career. Was being a wedding dress designer your dream job as a child?
I started designing dresses for my dolls at about eight years old. I didn’t consider making fashion a career until I was about 20 and did a dressmaking course after art school.
What training/experience did you need?
I went as an apprentice to Hardy Amies in Saville Row (the Queen's dressmaker) and afterwards to Bruce Oldfield, as his assistant. After various other jobs, I made the decision to set up on own making couture clothes in London.
How tough was it to become an established name? Did you get a lucky break or was it all down to hard work and determination?
Quite soon after setting up, I designed a wedding dress for my sister-in-law, which was featured in Brides
magazine. My career as a bridal designer took off from there and I was soon selling in Harrods and various select bridal shops all over UK, and internationally.
What piece of advice were you given that has been invaluable?
The best bit of advice I was given was to give setting up a business a go, in spite of many fears.
Did you have any famous clients?
My work has included making gowns for TV shows, such as The Bill, Coronation Street and Holby City, when a designer gown was required in the story. Kate Moss once modelled one of my designs many years ago.
What happened that made you leave London?
After more than 20 years in the bridal business and the combination of ill health and the lease coming to an end on my premises, I made the decision to close the business and move to the Newbury area, where I have wanted to live for some time.
How did the association with Mrs Jones Bridal Boutique come about?
After taking some time out, a friend of mine told me about this fabulous new bridal shop in Newbury that I ought to go and see. Given that I hadn’t been inspired to pursue any other career, I thought it was worth a look.
Thus I met Laura Jones and was very impressed by her whole ethos towards her business. As she was looking for an alteration hand, I thought it might be an idea to help out for a bit and see how it went. Between us we realised that she would like me to design a collection for her and I have been thrilled to do it. It is great to be back in the business, but keeping it exclusive, personal and local – smiles all round.
What is the inspiration behind your designs?
The collection is inspired by the new softer look, heading away from strapless and hard lines, lots of beautiful French laces, silk chiffon, organza and some duchess satin. The collection is small but varied and uses only the best fabrics and couture cut and make. I meet all the brides who purchase a dress and make sure they fit to the
In one sentence, what would you say encapsulates your design style?
To sum up my work, my designs are classic elegance with a modern twist.
What advice would you give brides about choosing the perfect dress?
The best bit of advice I can give a bride is to make sure the dress is making you look and feel your absolute best and don’t buy a dress just because everyone else likes it.