In September I had the pleasure of showing my first ethical luxury collection at the home of the emerging designer, the House of iKons fashion show. The show took place in the Hilton Metropole in London during London Fashion Week and it was their 5th anniversary show.
The theme of the collection is 'what lies beneath' drawing inspiration from the beauty of our planets fragile sea life. I found this also ties in perfectly with my ethical values and the current climate issues being highlighted with sea pollution, particularly plastics.
,The spring led to much research of the type of fabrics available to me, in which to develop my designs. I was aware that this would be a bit of a challenge and so I had an open mind. I knew that I could get ethical fabrics that would translate well into day wear, work wear and other types of clothing lines, for example cotton, hemp, linen and cotton jersey, but I wanted fabrics which would be beautiful and luxurious for evening and occasion wear and was concerned about my ability to access these products.
I was limited to when ordering due to minimum order quantities. Some of the fabrics I would liked to have used were not readily available as they were either so new to the market or so expensive I could not justify the cost, which was a little disappointing. However, even in the six months since I started seriously sourcing ethical fabrics, I have found there is more choice and hope that soon the prices will be more comparable.
I believe there is a shift towards sustainability in the fashion industry and I would like my business to operate in the most sustainable way as possible. Sourcing the right fabrics is one way, but there are many ways in which fashion businesses can reduce it's negative effects on people and our environment. I am currently developing ideas on how to recycle and reuse left over fabric.
I have chosen to use fabrics which fall into a fairly broad category of low impact and luxury. Fabrics which are eco friendly as used in this beautiful purple silk hemp dress or locally sourced from deadstock fabrics, which are end of line like this black sequin fabric, used in the above red carpet dress, which also is made from a silk organza remnant fabric I had.
I was keen to source an alternative to leather that wasn't plastic and found that there were a couple of fish skin leather manufacturers around the world which make leather as a by-product of the fishing industry. The dress above left uses salmon leather on the neckline and is such a beautiful skin to use. The indigo sateen fabric on the right was sourced from a company who works with artisanal weavers and producers and the silk organza contrast was remnant fabric.
Above I designed a coat which I wanted to show off this gorgeous green GOTS certified linen which means that it has been produced in an ethical way to meet a certain standard. The beautiful pink outfit is made of luxury fabrics, the fake fur jacket is made from a couture brand of fabrics which is one of the best. The pleated slip dress is a made of satin which is a luxury fabric. Luxury weavers and mills are akin to ethical in that their manufacturing processes follow a high standard.
I was keen to use a UK made fabric and I have always loved Liberty Print fabric. During a visit to their store, I found this beautiful silk print in chiffon and satin and teamed it up with another new discovery of mine, sequins from the Sustainable Sequin Company hoping to create the effect of falling water droplets. The two piece bustier outfit is inspired by tropical fish and I used an ivory triacetate which has a lovely textured surface with some more of the black sequin. I chose to use triacetate as it is a manmade fabric using natural fibres, so probably not the most ideal fibre to use, but mainly the advantages of using it are in the ease of laundering. Excessive washing of clothing accounts for a third of all pollutants from the fashion industry as a whole.
I used an end of stock shocking pink silk satin to line this beautiful luxury pale turquoise chiffon dress, which is great, if like me you are only making limited edition garments instead of requiring hundreds of metres of the same fabric. The dress design was chosen to explore the creation of a pattern which uses less fabric waste in the making.
Now a couple of back stage pictures at the venue when I am fitting my garments on the models the night before and I was happy everything fitted perfectly so no dramas there! Below my final line up of the collection and am so pleased with the whole look of the show.
I am grateful for the whole experience of showing my collection at the House of iKons show it has been a great learning process for me and an opportunity to research ways to make my garments more ethical and sustainable. I feel that all the supply chains now face similar challenges if they want to be part of the change and the effects that the fashion industry has on our planet. The ethical components to make garments need to be available for there to be progress and designers like myself need to be creative in different ways with the resources we have available. I am always creating unique pieces for evening and occasion wear and searching for low impact materials, including UK fabrics, deadstock fabrics as well as eco friendly and sustainable choices.
I currently source all of my own fabrics, design, cut, make and finish every garment myself. I also make bespoke pieces for individuals who can't find what they want on the high street, which I feel is also a sustainable way to buy clothing, as you are having exactly what you want, it's made to measure and will hopefully be a treasured garment for many years to come. The fast fashion way of doing things is very harmful to our environment as people buy and throw away so many garments now and this cycle must slow down or be replaced by more effective alternatives.
I just want to thank Pardesi Photos for these amazing catwalk images, Savita Kaye CEO of House of iKons for organising the show, all the fabulous models and back stage helpers and Dens Creative Event team for hair and make up!
#carolinebruce #ethical #ethicalbrand #madeinengland #houseofikons #fashionshow #slowfashion #ethicalclothing #ethicalfashion #britishfashion #fashiondesigner #designermaker #bespoke #luxury #ethicalluxury #madetoorder #sustainableclothing #ladieswear #fashionchanges #emergingdesigner #worldfashion
Hi everyone and thank you for taking the time to read my latest blog although it has been a while since my last one...
Today, 5th August 2019 is a special day for me and my business as I have been going for 5 years now!
One of the first styles I created for the Caroline Bruce label in 2014
I just wanted to share with you a few of my favourite images of some of my previous designs with you from the last five years rather than writing too much! Although I do just want to explain some of the reasons I started my business in the first place and where I want to take it in the future.
First photoshoot with @janemucklowphoto in 2015 capturing the red hooded satin Jacqueline dress one from the Caroline Bruce label
I have always been a creative person and found out at a young age that I liked to create things using my hands and felt a sense of achievement from doing so, whether I was sewing, crocheting, knitting, sketching and so on.
Andra dress and Cape photographed by @janemucklowphoto 2017
I found that I could create something that didn't exist before from items around me. If I had some fabric I could make it into something wearable or useful or if I drew a sketch of a dress design I would always think technically about how to translate my ideas into a finished product.
Black & white image of the Amber dress photographed by @janemucklowphoto 2015
I had a curiosity for how things came into being and developed a real passion for art, fashion, textiles and music! Cutting to the chase, I studied clothing and textiles at college and had a career in the fashion industry.
Florence print crepe de chine and leather trim drape dress @janemucklowphoto 2015
As years have gone by, my passion has never waivered and my childhood dream of having my own business and my own fashion label has stayed firmly with me. I feel that I have been gifted with certain talents in life that I have yet to fully utilise, something unique to offer and I have much room to grow, not only in my business but as a business woman.
One of the eclectic styles created for the Caroline Bruce label that was shown in central London in 2016
As you may or may not be aware, I have two sides to my business. I am a bespoke dressmaking business but also I am now a trademarked British clothing label, Caroline Bruce, which actually makes me very proud to say.
This two piece suit was created for the Caroline Bruce Label in 2015
I have been working behind the scenes this year on a new ethical occasion wear collection to be shown at House of iKons 5th anniversary show in London on September 14th and this side of the business is something which I would like to make successful in the coming years.
Gorilla &Gowns Charity Fashion Show 2017 organised by Evexio Ltd Events and hosted by Port Lympne Hotel
I wanted to create a unique fashion experience with carefully designed styles which will be exclusive to my brand as well as more classic styles with a unique edge. As I have been developing my brand over the last few years, my dream has evolved into creating luxury products with an ethical narrative.
Emerald green dress with leather trim by Caroline Bruce shown @GGCharityFS 2017
My aim is to used ethical or low impact fabrics wherever possible and reduce the use of fibres which are harmful to our planet. As awareness grows about the affects of fast fashion on our environment, I want to make a difference wherever I can.
Mae frill dress from photoshoot with @janemucklowphoto 2017
Making bespoke garments for my clients and providing a sampling service for other start ups, small business and students in the textile trade has been the service side of my business among other things. I have acquired the various skills necessary to fulfil all those various clients needs over many years of experience.
Amber backless dress with leather trim for Caroline Bruce photo @janemucklow 2017
I am very keen to pass on my knowledge to the future generation as I feel this important skills set will be lost in the UK textile trade if we do not educate our fashion and textiles students fully.
The Jacqueline hooded dress captured by @janemucklowphoto in 2017 @GGCharityFS
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped me in the last five years and here's to the next five!
Happy 5th anniversary Caroline Bruce Designer Dresses! Please sign up to my new newsletter, which is coming soon, using the form on the home page for exclusive product launches and special offers too!
I know we are well into January now, but I couldn't let anymore time slip by without celebrating all my business achievements of 2018 no matter how big or small! Also I feel it is good to reflect on how I can improve things within my business and in turn, improve my focus on specific goals for the year ahead!
January 2018 started off with me attending The Future Fabrics Expo for the first time in central London. I don't have to look very far in London for events and exhibitions that interest me and are even better on a grey day in January! I believe that this event is expanding year on year due to the growing interest in sustainability in the fashion industry and the increased awareness of the effects the industry has on the environment globally. It was a great education for me to learn how fabric manufacturers around the world are exploring the production of ethical and recyclable fabrics which is off interest to me, in the possible use for my garment production and as someone who cares about the environment and admires innovation. It was also interesting to find out there was more to this than just hemp and cotton as I found some very interesting new fabrics including recycled polyester.
February saw the influence of the premier of the incredible Black Panther movie taking over the Screen Nation Awards which celebrates the achievements of film, tv and digital media professionals of African Diaspora heritage. I was lucky enough to be invited to the event and obviously wanted to look the part and so I had to make my own African inspired dress to be part of the occasion! Above right are pictures of the construction process with the calico toiles.
I just love the different exhibitions they have on in central London and almost all year round there seems to be something I want to see! In February I was lucky enough to get to the Balenciaga exhibition and see the amazing gowns on display and learn more about the work of this iconic couture designer.
I can't talk about February without mentioning @DesignsbyJosh, who at 12 had his first House of Ikons fashion show of the year!
Above is one of the amazing looks the then 12 year old boy designed and I was pleased to have made in the studio!
Photograph Frank Macdonald Photography
Modelled by Tiger-Lily Chandler.
March was a big celebration for me and I was lucky enough to go to Marrakech to escape the cold weather! I was instantly taken with the bold colours and intricate designs on almost everything... but especially the tiles adorning most interiors. This little adventure inspired me to explore colour and print design once again this year, which was a passion of mine in my younger years, so much so, that I even designed my first print design and made some silk scarves in the Autumn. Morocco was full of colour and I have to add another picture to show you...
I so lucky to get to go to Marrakech shortly after the new Yves Saint Laurent Museum had opened the previous November which is located next to the already popular Maison Majorelle gardens designed by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, so how amazing to get to see the two together which I certainly wasn't expecting! Above are some of his beautiful sketches on display there, but I wouldn't want to spoil it for you by showing you any more...
Aprils highlight was being added to the Make It British list of top 40 British-made womenswear brands by Kate Hills, whose campaign to promote British brands has encouraged me to keep on building my brand in the knowledge that there are other businesses in the same boat as me! I feel so honoured to be included even though I am still on the early part of my journey.
I also saw one of the first fashion documentary films of the year I had been waiting to be released, which was the Westwood film about the life of Vivienne Westwood one of our most treasured British fashion designers.
May was a month when I was focused on creating some new dresses for Joan Collins who stars in TOWIE, who you may know as mother of Gemma Collins also star of TOWIE and creator of her own glamorous plus size fashion range!
Joan has a great eye for colour, fabric and style, so we always have plenty to talk about when I am working for her! Look out for my blog about working with Joan coming soon...
June was a busy time making some separates for one of my clients and a couple of the previous beautiful silk pieces I have made for her are pictured above. Both pieces are made from a beautiful silk twill which is nice to work with. I'm so pleased that I also found the time to see the McQueen movie after last year seeing the fantastic exhibition, both of which I found an incredible source of inspiration. I appreciate being able to see couture garments in the flesh rather than just on a video and the hear the life stories of different designers.
July came around so quickly that I realised one of the things I had planned at the beginning of the year I hadn't actually started yet! I finally found the time to launch my online shop on my website and start adding some of my unique dresses to it, although this is a work in progress and there is so much else to do including more advertising!
August was wedding season and I had one particular project that I enjoyed working on for a lovely young couples wedding. The bride had bought a beautiful bodice that she saw in a bridal boutique and needed a skirt designed and made that would make it look like a dress when worn together. I confess that usually I am not so inspired by bridal garments but rather enjoyed putting the finishing touches of beaded embellishments on the fishtail skirt.
Photo on right by Annie Hall Photography
I also celebrated 4 years in business in August which was a fantastic achievement for me as I move steadily toward my goals growing my online ethical luxury occasion wear brand!
September was also celebrated by having been nominated for a second year in a row in the STP Awards (Sevenoaks Town Partnership) which is my local council. The two categories were New Business and Micro Enterprise of the year. It is so encouraging to be considered for any kind of awards as it makes you realise that people do notice the work you are doing and it makes it all the more rewarding!
For his second show of the year at House of Ikons, Joshua Birch-Jones' designs were on show as emerging brand Designs By Josh! I was again able to bring a few of his designs to life and was also invited to attend the fashion show in central London. To say he got an amazing reception is an understatement! I look forward to working on some of his new designs for the next show, he is a great inspiration to young people and definitely one to watch for the future!
Photograph by Frank Macdonald Photography
October was a time for a little more time out to visit the wonderful Azzedine Alaia couture exhibition in London, which was yet another incredible display of beautiful garments that are just breath-taking! This stunning pink gown was just one of so many beautiful pieces to pour over.
I cannot forget to mention the truly brilliant Bohemian Rhapsody movie I watched this month that was a complete joy to watch, bringing back musical and cultural memories of my youth! Music has such an influence in our lives and can be reflected in the fashions of the day.
How can I forget my second awards evening of the year...the IBAK Awards (Independent Business Awards in Kent)? That evening I received a runner up award for Best Home Based business, which I was thrilled to receive and two other nominations for Best Creative Business and Innovative Business.
I also, again had to make myself another special dress for that special occasion, so here I am pictured above wearing my royal blue satin cape dress!
I ended October with my first popup in Tunbridge Wells, organised by Support Local which is a great business which helps promote small businesses and local traders. This is where I launched my new silk scarf range alongside my rail of one off unique dresses! I had my first print design transferred onto a couple of the scarves, which was a side step into another passion of mine which is print and textile design, but beautiful fabrics anyway.
November was a time for smaller projects which can be just as interesting as the bigger projects. Here I am in the studio doing some pattern cutting for one of my bespoke clients. I have a range of clients, from bespoke wedding dresses to small alterations, although I do not primarily do weddings. My main passion is evening and occasion wear and developing my own brand, which I am trying to develop in an ethical way.
December was time for a new project and was asked to make some lovely pink uniforms in the form of jumpsuits and two piece outfits for Baker Girl Beauty Academy in Bromley! Above, one of the beauty academy professionals is wearing her jumpsuit. What an enjoyable project to end the year with and this has given me a lovely new network of friends too!
Well I hope you enjoyed reading about my business year as 2018 has flown by and we are at the beginning of another year! I am planning some exciting projects for this year, some of which are already underway and I am so excited to announce that I will be producing more of my own designs this year ... so I look forward to sharing them with you soon.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me and I wish you a peaceful and prosperous new year!
#fashiondesigner #fashionstudio #bespoke #eveningwear #occasionwear #partydress #ballgown #atelier #patterncutter #madeinengland #ethicalfashion #luxuryclothing #creativebusiness #womaninbusiness
Caroline Bruce designer, dressmaker and business owner.
I haven't written a blog in a while, but I couldn't possibly miss out on the chance to celebrate with this one! Can you believe it's been four years since I started Caroline Bruce Designer Dresses? If you don't know me by now, I am a designer and dressmaker of creative, luxury, ethical evening and occasion wear, making bespoke and demi couture garments. So much has happened in that time that I wanted to make this blog. It as much a celebration of my most memorable business achievements, as a celebration of all my various supporters, collaborators, customers, family and friends and of all the wonderful people I have met! So not much to read in this one but some great pictures to enjoy!
2014 -This was a House of Parliament landlords reception- with Cherise Cheney (Cherises Sparkle) talking about starting our own businesses as housing association tenants, hopefully inspiring the powers that be to support start up and small businesses! This came off the back of participating in the Popup Business course run by West Kent Housing Association earlier in the year, where it all started!
My much loved union jack dress, which I made to show that my brand is made in England, before I had my stylish logo designed for me!
My first commission was making bridesmaids dresses for Immodesty Blaize, the amazing English burlesque performer, this was through Designer & Stylist Jeff Mehmet 2014
Here are just some of the amazing images from a photoshoot by Jeff Mehmet using the styles I was working on as a freelancer for the brand Tempest 2014
My first fashion show @LSE Fashion Society Show was a major highlight for me! Here showing a capsule collection of seven pieces designed and made by myself 2015
Working for UCA Rochester Textile Students Final Collections 2015