With bridal heritage dating six decades, designer Charlotte Balbier talks about innovating sector

Where do you look to spot “trends” and keep abreast with what brides are looking for?

My biggest passion is high fashion and haute couture and I love to keep an eye on all the latest collections from my favourite designers. I especially adore Ellie Sabb as his red carpet gowns are simply out of this world. Valentino is my all time favourite and I have huge respect and admiration for Jenny Packham and Vivienne Westwood. All very different designers but I love them both.?

There is so much you can learn from watching a catwalk show. At the moment Separates bridal wear is really on trend so I created an additional line to my regular collection of dresses. You have to react fast in this market and we designed this collection due to a surge in the market for demand for Separates bridal wear which is a fantastic look for a beach and weddings abroad.

Where do you draw inspiration from when creating a new collection?

Our newest Willa Rose collection is feminine, ethereal and romantic. Combining boho free spirited designs with classic Balbier designs and attention to detail that make them instantly recognisable as a Charlotte Balbier design. Inspiration is around me daily and I draw on so many sources. Boho inspired and free spirited floaty chiffon styles have been popular from my last two collections so I developed these styles for 2016, creating more beautiful pair downed simple gowns. Equally though the big skirt is very much back and brides love the layers of tulle ball gown style skirts (as do I) I also adore Mikado as a fabric to work with and love to create show stopping gowns In this glorious fabric like the new Tarron gown.

How long does a collection take you to create?

A new Collection can take anything from four to six months. A new collection starts with research and ideas which I am collating all the time. I am constantly seeking out fabrics from tradeshows and my travels. Sitting down and sketching out designs takes time and can be a relaxing part of the role. I then send the sketches to our artisans in the studio to create the drawings into reality. I am a complete perfectionist so the next part is the longest.?

I work with our artisans to make sure the dress falls right. If I am not completely happy with a design and the way it?s sitting then I?ll completely re-create the gown from scratch. We launch our new collection of 25 gowns at the White Gallery every May so the months leading up to this can be hectic. It?s always rewarding seeing your creations and hard-work walking down that catwalk show though.

How do you stay on top of constantly evolve the brand to stay one step ahead of the industry?

You have to constantly keep your eye of the ball! We look at what our competitors are up to and how the bridal industry is evolving. We?re constantly looking at ways of improving our brands. We keep on top of trends and our Tarron gown hit the lovely trend of a key-hole back detail. We train our stockists and really keep in touch because a good relationship is everything. Our clients can see we constantly evolve and come up with ideas and this drives them to be our loyal client base.?

We also listen a great deal to our brides and their needs and I am always travelling the country for trunk shows to meet brides personally. We?re always looking for the best talents too and look after our staff well. Some of our employees have been with the company over ten years, which is a huge compliment. This year we have found an amazing photographer who just nails it every-time!

What are your tips for building an unknown brand into a well-known one?

I concentrated a great deal on the Charlotte Balbier branding and invested heavily in the logo and all branding collateral. Having a great brand look is a key component to establishing a brand in the market place. I networked long and hard with journalists to build a following to help with media attention and gain clients.?

Right from the beginning I recognised the power of social media. I used social media to build a voice and relationship with the consumers from day one. I am very accessible and I chat to many brides on a daily basis and stay in touch with brides long after they have been married.

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