With the launch of her new bridesmaid collection under her label Mrs Press and her ever growing passion for all things vintage, feminine and stylish, Clare Press has a soft spot in my heart! So I am delighted to have Clare join us today on Polka Dot Wisdom sharing the thoughts behind her very successful label.
Would you tell us a little about yourself? Were you always a creative person, even when growing up?
I was always writing. I used to start these epic novels, and get about half way through before moving onto the next one. I was about 11! Writing is in my bones, my soul. I still write as well as design. I write the Ask Mrs. Press column for Instyle magazine, and my new book, The Dressing Table (Lantern, $45) comes out on October 31st.
I started my career in magazines – I was at Australian Vogue for five years – and it was through writing about fashion that I started to dream about designing it.
How did you become interested in fashion design?
I have always loved clothes and style, always had an eye on the runway and on vintage pieces. My mother bought me my first very old dress when I was about 14 – a homemade 1920s dress made from intricate panels of crepe de chine. I have taught myself about patterns by looking at vintage dresses, trying to figure out how they were sewn. I unpicked a lot of old dresses from markets and eBay to study them. I still do it.
What inspired you decide to pursue this creative endeavour, rather than pursue a more ‘conventional’ career?
Goodness knows! Sometimes I think I am completely crazy. I used to have salary and holidays! Running your own business is very hard. But it’s also rewarding to be your own boss.
Do you have a mentor?
I have several. I am enormously inspired by my fashion friends Jenny Kee, Fleur Wood and Fernando Frisoni. I’ve just stared working with a new business mentor who used to be at Victoria’s Secret.
Do you have a ‘design philosophy’?
How do you keep on learning? What keeps you ‘fresh’ and wanting to go to work every day?
My customers. When you are having a rubbish day, say it’s raining and you have bills to pay, or your hair looks bad or whatever it is, someone will come into the store and say how beautiful it is and that keeps you going. I get super-excited when people react positively to my work. Plus I really adore fashion, and this world I have created. It’s inspiring. I am surrounded by beautiful things. I suspect that’s what we all dream of.
What was the catalyst for creating a bridesmaids’ range?
The idea grew out of demand – we had so many girls come to our Paddington, Sydney store asking us to custom-make. The new collection allows this, you can choose variations on styles (for example longer skirts, caps sleeves, bow details etc) as well as fabrics and colours. Prices start from $475 and go up to $850.
What do you love about creating these pieces for bridesmaids?
I’m a romantic! I started my label after I customised my wedding dress out of a vintage piece. And I love, love, love the concept of surrounding yourself with you best girlfriends and sisters, cousins etc. on your wedding day and getting gloriously dressed up!
How do you see the bride using your dresses?
The idea of the new collection is that you choose from our basic shapes and then add your own take on it. Typically you can book an appointment to see me and we will take you through the samples and show you fabric swatches and we can discuss the details. I want to start serving high tea, and making it a treat you can share with your maids. But so far we’ve been so busy we haven’t gotten round to that yet! It’s really taken off. We now have a wait list for next year.
What style of wedding would they best suit?
I don’t think of it that way. I think for us it’s more about people liking our aesthetic. We’ve made dresses for bridesmaids at garden weddings, beach weddings, great big weddings, small ones. One of my customers bought our ‘Sophie’ silk faille dress in black and wore it with little ankle boots to her registry office wedding – she’s a rock star! If you love Mrs. Press, and you are getting married, now you can come to us for your bridesmaids too. It’s personal. It’s what you make it.
Do your designs suit most figure types?
Yes, the idea of the collection is to provide different shapes that suit different girls, moods and body types. The tulle ‘Lola’ dress for example is good for skinny girls who want something frivolous and festive; the beautiful draped neckline on the ‘Sophie’ style is great for bigger busts; ‘Michelle’ is very glamorous and would work for black tie weddings, and the ‘Jean’ dress is super flattering for pretty much everyone! You can also customize your skirt lengths, add or take away sleeves.
Can bridesmaids choose your bridesmaids dresses off the rack, or do you only make them to order?
We make to order. That said, there are dresses we have in our ready-to-wear collections that would work well for bridesmaids. If we don’t have enough in stock in the right sizes, we can always make them. It’s about being responsive – because we are small and our studios are above our store, we can do that.
Can bridesmaids order your dresses from your online store (by supplying you with their measurements for example) if they can’t get to any of your stores or stockists?
Absolutely. We can easily send out fabric swatches and make dresses to order in standard sizes. All you need if you are not in Sydney is access to a local seamstress for minor fit alterations.
Thanks for joining us this Monday, Clare! Check out the Mrs Press website for more information on the Mrs Press brand.
THANK YOU MS POLKDA DOT