They say that things get better with age – wiser, bolder, more refined. And following two days filled with fantastical wedding inspiration, glorious fashion and more talented prowess than you would think imaginable in one place at the same time, we can confidently say that we think the Quintessentially Weddings Atelier falls firmly into the ‘second the best’ camp (to use that school refrain).
Launched with a private view at its new Somerset House home on the Thursday evening with entertainment courtesy of Wandering Hands, looked after by the ever-discerning Sternberg Clark agency, over The Connaught and Quintessentially Vodka’s signature Atelier cocktail – see the recipe here – and delicious canapes from Urban Caprice, lucky previewers stepped into a ‘Spring Parade’ themed world of some of the most celebrated bridal designers and suppliers in the industry. Personally, there was little I wouldn’t have done for more of Urban Caprice’s melting crusted lamb parcels or Chanel’s fragrance wardrobe. But synonymous with the exclusivity of the showcase, opened up to just a couple of hundred brides and grooms-to-be, it all had to be kept secret until now.
Matching the journey that many a newly affianced couple makes on the route from ring to ‘I do’, picture if you will stepping into a flower-filled departure lounge with enchanting blooms by Vogue favourite Juliet Glaves of Thoughtful Flowers, and the comfiest and prettiest salon created by Farley – the extraordinary curators of antique furnishings and props usually only seen on the set of Downton Abbey or Hollywood period fare. As many a bride-to-be knows, ‘prepare, prepare, prepare’ is the key motto when it comes to smooth and enjoyable wedding planning. Where better to make that first transition from fiance to bride than by prepping your skin with nourishment that delivers incredible results over weeks and months, and putting a glamorous brave face on. Proving that if you feel and look good, this naturally empowers you, Chanel delivered Bridal fragrance Les Exclusifs de Chanel masterclasses alongside mini-makeovers and skincare tuition in their beautiful Chanel pop-up beauty lounge. Having been one of those brides who panned the idea of wearing a different scent on the big day, I can now say that I am a convert thanks to Chanel: I wish I’d known about No.22 oh, twenty months ago. As the queue for appointments grew (fear not non-attendees – you can have the same make-over treatment at the Covent Garden Beauty boutique) the first brides slipped into the world of Browns Bride. Celebrating their 10 year birthday, the premier luxury bridal fashion destination showed limited edition gowns from their top designers. Vera Wang almost stole the show with a vision of manifold horsehair-stiffened tulle and delicately draped bodice, but Elizabeth Filmore’s caped silk bazar gown epitomised Game of Thrones zeitgeist elegance, and shades of powder pink, palest lavender and sky blue cast beautiful dresses by Mira Zwillinger, Reem Acra and Lela Rose respectively. Brides stopping here were treated to a consultation with founder Caroline Burstein; what this lady doesn’t know about timeless bridal style isn’t frankly worth knowing! Teamed with a beautiful suite adorned with more lovely floristry from Juliet Glaves and striking accessories including a dramatic appliquéd veil headpiece from Piers Atkinson, this formed the perfect start for brides en route to their dream dress.
Just how excited were we to play host to a display of Vivienne Westwood’s couture bridal collection and all that it promises when it comes to romance, spirited femininity and oh yes, the Carrie dress? The team of super-talented couturiers and stylists demonstrated just why these gowns are held in such high regard by the fashion powers that be – and why if you are fortuitous enough to be a VW bride, the luxurious fabrics and sensual cuts have that certain dusting of magic so rare in bridal fashion. In the adjoining salon, Christian Louboutin, who incidentally adopted an Instagram amnesty, so keen were they to retain the special experience of attending the Atelier for guests alone, set up an unapologetically fabulous pop-up of their flagship Mount Street store. Exploring the dedicated bridal line alongside colourful and wild options for the unconventional bride and groom, the Macaron bearing team also talked guests through their Special Order service and Tattoo offering, both of which lend a maverick personalised beauty to your big day footwear.
With jewellery not just for the affianced and to pledge your troth with, fine jewellery curator Danielle Harper wooed many with her array of lustrous gems and antique pieces. A personal favourite had to be the gobstopper Opal necklace; any remnants of the superstition of said stones being augurs of bad luck happily cast aside on seeing this twinkling, moon-like beauty. Stepping across the hallway, a vision in fresh peppy spring greens, narcissi and apples from Rob Van Helden, Nicki Macfarlane reduced many to cooing. The maker of bridesmaids and page boy attire for everyone who’s anyone, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, her pretty gowns proved to be irresistible to all. One bride was even overheard pondering who she could rope in as a flower girl, so desperate was she to have the excuse to have one of these silky confections in her photos. Lingering was more than encouraged in Chanel’s florist of choice Rob Van Helden’s studio, which continued the playful take on the spring motif. Centred around a witty and typically glamorous table centre featuring an upturned mannequin sporting a sparkling pair of Louboutins, Rob charmed all with his unique imagination and cheeky brand of Dutch humour.
Thousands of iridescent crystals twinkling, oceans of silk satin and possibly the world’s most perfect wedding gowns greeted brides-to-be as they entered Phillipa Lepley’s imitation atelier. The blend of classic styles and decadent detail, all executed with a rare precision convinced even the most hardened of cynics that sometimes, bridal just has to be beautiful. No fuss, gimmicks or faddish silliness here. Teamed with a sophisticated yet sexy take on groom’s wear from Spencer Hart, where we discovered the virtues of an unlined suit (a must for summertime grooms anxious to avoid that clammy stickiness of layers but retain the elegance of cut), these two names synonymous with luxury in the wedding world showed us the huge difference investing time, and yes money, can make when it comes to true beauty on your wedding day.
A short stroll up the hallway led to Urban Caprice’s open kitchen, all chic whitewashed picnic benches, flower filled food crates and serving their unique take on a spring feast. Palma Violet panna cotta and deconstructed Cheese straws (think nuggets truffled parmesan, pecorino snaps and gossamer fine bread twirls all dappled with a Comte infused oil) besides other treats kept guests going. Paired with The Connaught’s cocktail lounge with free-flowing Champagne which made a chic introduction to this glamorous wedding venue, come 4pm on both days there was a veritable party going on in here. Nipping next door rewarded guests with morsels of Fiona Cairns’ fast-becoming-legendary wedding cake. Spread across three dressers adorned with whimsical curious from The Shop at The Bluebird, the master bakers diverse styles and ability to turn her hand to almost any flavouring with delectable results unsurprisingly this was one of the hit rooms of the entire show. Neighbours Cutture and Magnolia Images provided some equally lovely eye-candy. Known for their elaborate and otherworldly paper cut-out stationery, Cutture took it up a notch with life-sized trees clad in paper detail and a wedding breakfast set up entirely with lace-like paper goods almost too pretty to eat at. The Magnolia Images team have long been regarded as some of the nicest folk in the wedding industry, and we’re sure every guest like myself left their jolly space feeling like they’d known them forever. That they produce such beautiful films is the icing on the cake. Pausing just before Agent Provocateur’s secret boudoir Shane Connolly had created the most wonderful centrepiece, a veritable living table runner, using rare varieties (many of which could be replanted, making this some of the most eco-friendly wedding decor we’ve ever seen) but it paid to stand a chat a while with this true gentleman. “Look up” he said; bemused, I did so, to be greeted by hanging blossom covered trees that almost stole the show.
Agent Provocateur’s boudoir, as was to be expected, was nothing shy of a paradise of sweet nothings. Showcasing both their bridal lines, corsetry, lounge wear and exclusive Soiree line, this was the space that almost everyone left daydreaming about a trousseau filled with such prettiness. Crossing over into the yes, less saucy, but no less beautiful enclaves of the ‘art gallery’ as I liked to call it, master calligrapher Paul Antonio dazzled with his bewitching pen craft whilst Jane Hartley, perhaps our greatest discovery in recent years, caused a traffic jam with her gorgeous fashion illustrations. Offering a newly established service whereby she attends a wedding to sketch the bride in her gown, this was the second time during the weekend I wished I was marrying again. There is just something about a painting that says so much more than a photo ever could. The stationers behind the hydrangea blue ticket that every guest received Prantl continued the pageantry and indelible beauty of said ticket with their exhibited collection of wedding invitations. No wonder they’re a go-to for anyone after that balance between timelessness and a little playful élan.
Transporting guests into another world, Quintessentially Travel drew up many a dream trip in their destination lounge in partnership with St Tropez and Aman Resorts. It was uncanny how many brides and grooms wandered into this space with not a clue about where to honeymoon – and left singing the praises of some unheard of far flung shore that was perfect for them. Sharing this transportive space was one Keith Appleby, a much respected photographer who just so happens to be the lovely Caroline Burstein’s talented husband. One glance at his portfolio albums was enough to make one feel that I had attended and sobbed right through several weddings in just one hour, such is his ability to really immerse you in a moment in time. Finally, in the room that perhaps most reverberated with laughter, Royal wedding photographer Hugo Burnand charmed everyone’s socks off alongside videographer Andrew Gemmell of The Filming Biz. Seperately, they are wonderfully talented, but together, should be commissioned by the BBC pronto for a wedding orientated sitcom.
See all of the live images on Instagram here, and stay tuned for details of the autumn Atelier!