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Posts from the ‘Bridal’ Category

What goes into making a couture Chanel bridal gown (or three) like Sofia Richie’s

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Lily Rose Depp wearing Chanel Haute Couture Spring 2017 Pic: Lucile Perron

When Sofi Richie got married at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, South of France last week she wore not one but three Chanel couture gowns: one for the rehersal dinner, one for the wedding ceremony and one for the evening reception. Here’s a look back at when Chopstix had a behind the scenes look at what goes into a Chanel couture bridal gown.

“A wedding is very special at Chanel,” says Madame Marie-Louise de Clermont-Tonnerre, the gloriously named and exquisitely dressed international spokeswoman who oversees the house’s couture division. The House of Chanel shares the same superstitions as other bridal establishments: garters are encouraged, the presence of anyone other than the bride’s mother and bridesmaids at the fittings is discouraged, and the groom is not allowed to see the dress beforehand to guard against bad luck – but there the similarities end.

“We don’t have racks of wedding dresses here. And a wedding dress is never reproduced – never ever,” says Madame Marie-Louise. “If you order it then it is yours, no one will have it again. For couture we can sometimes have two ladies wearing the same dress but with bridal, never.”

Chanel Haute Couture Spring 2017 Pic: Olivier Saillant

Number 31 Rue Cambon, Paris is steeped in tradition. The Chanel headquarters have been based on this narrow street, just along from the Ritz (so near that Coco Chanel once lived at the hotel), since 1923 and at its heart lies the coveted couture division. From a fairly unremarkable street level entrance, albeit one guarded by a security man, a curved Art Deco staircase leads up to the first floor salon.

Alternate cream and black leather chairs are laid out in neat rows for customers and journalists to view the twice yearly couture collections. Leading off here is the VIP room where an elite clientele choose from the collection and the ensuing fittings take place. [UPDATE: with the influx of Asian clients, Chanel also now holds intimate shows in China, Hong Kong and Tokyo.]

Chanel Haute Couture Spring 2017

For the customer, everything starts with the shows. “Ideally the bride should have gone to all the couture shows to choose the best one and of course she will choose Chanel!” says Marie-Louise. After the show she will make an appointment to discuss her choice and any adaptations she would like. These are all subject to Karl Lagerfeld’s approval, no changes are ever made to his designs without his permission.

Over a period of six to eight weeks a minimum of three fittings will take place: the first with the outfit made up in toile (a simple muslin fabric) and the last being a dress rehearsal complete with veil or hat and any jewellery to be worn on the day. “It’s obligatory,” says Marie-Louise explaining that it’s important to see the ensemble as a whole.

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Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel couture Spring 2017 with “the bride” Pic: Lucile Perron

Beyond the public spaces at Rue Cambon lies a warren of offices and workrooms sprawling over several floors where all the hard work takes place. On the fourth floor, overlooking the street and flooded with light from the enormous windows, is Karl Lagerfeld’s studio, once where Chanel herself designed and still bearing the words Mademoiselle – Prive – on the door. Dotted around the five floors are the three ateliers – one for tailoring, two for more fluid pieces like eveningwear – where the designs are turned into reality by a team of 100 workers.

Traditionally a robe de marriage is sent out at the end of the couture collection each season. Sometimes though the designated bridal design is not ‘the one’. “When Karl presents a wedding dress, possibly a bride wouldn’t want that one so we adapt,” says Marie-Louise. One season for instance a client ordered the bridal gown without the train, but more usually an evening dress will be chosen from the couture collection and modified. One second time around bride chose a white boucle coat for her winter wedding while another chose a jacket and pants worn with a veil and Chanel’s signature camellia. The now former wife of a famous musician tied the knot in a jacket from the technical ski collection.

Chanel Haute Couture Spring 2017

Mostly though, a wildly romantic evening dress such as La Rose – a pretty pleated tulle gown in pale pink – is chosen. An American client has expressed an interest in the design though Marie-Louise points out the decollete will have to be modified as she thinks it’s too revealing for a wedding. “For France, anyway,” she adds: “but maybe not for America.” All the pleats have been sewn by hand, graduating almost imperceptibly in width as the dress progresses towards the floor. The colour also graduates very subtly from palest pink at the top towards a slightly rosier shade at the hem. Only one person worked on this dress to ensure that the graduation was seamless, and it took a total of 200 hours to make.

At Madame Cecile’s atelier, men and women known as les petits mains (the little hands) are dressed in white coats and sitting at large table strewn with pencils, rulers and every conceivable shade of thread. They work on (seemingly) random delicate fragments of fabric, a pink silk bodice here, a black tulle sleeve there – that will go to make up a luxurious whole. Mannequins shaped and padded to resemble specific bodies and with discreet labels bearing names are dotted around the room. On the walls are sketches and Polaroids of the latest collection.

Madame Cecile is distinguishable by the absence of white coat and presence of cream and black Chanel tank and skirt. A small purse with telltale chain strap and interlocking Cs hangs around her neck, holding all the accoutrements of her craft. As premiere of the atelier, the highly skilled job of cutting fabric will only be entrusted to her or a specialist cutter under her supervision. She then decides who will work on a particular part of the dress. Between one and three “hands” will work on a wedding dress depending on the complexity of the dessing. The pleats, tucks, frills and ruffles are left to the more experienced hands and the beading, buttons, feathers and flowers are given to specialist companies such as Lesage, Lemarie and Desrues which have supported the couture industry for decades.

“The lady who made the dress will dress the bride at the final fitting says Marie-Louise. “It’s a very special relationship between the client and her fitter.” In the past, finished bridal gowns, like any couture purchase, have been wrapped in tissue paper and packaged in custom made boxes. The modern bride, however, prefers a light garment carrier as it’s easier for storage.

At the most lavish weddings the bridesmaids are also dressed in Chanel. One bride chose to have her dress – a printed taffeta in sweet colours – copied six times for child flower girls. “It’s very expensive,” stresses Marie-Louise. And this in a place where a couture gown (costing a minimum of tens of thousands of pounds to around £100,000) is referred to as “quite expensive”.

Later, from a room adjacent to the salon, La Rose is whisked out of the glass cabinets where it has been waiting with some other samples to be tried on by prospective clients. This particular frock is bound for New York where one lucky bride to be awaits.

[This piece was originally published in 2003.]

Happy 10th Anniversary William & Catherine

Catherine’s wedding band just seen beneath her engagement ring

On the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s tenth wedding anniversary on April 29th we look back at why the British royals wear Welsh gold wedding bands.

While celebrities tend to choose wedding bands adorned with diamonds to match the bling of their engagement rings, British royalty including the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex opt for something more understated. For nearly 100 years Britain’s senior royals have worn plain yellow gold wedding rings and this regal metal has derived from Wales – the rarest, most expensive in the world with Welsh gold bullion worth up to five times the spot price.

The custom started with the Queen Mother in 1923 when a nugget of pure gold from the Clogau St David’s mine in North Wales was gifted to the royal family, a piece of which was used to make the then Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon’s wedding ring for her marriage to the future King George V1. That same nugget was used to craft wedding bands for Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, Princess Anne and Princess Diana. 

Handily in the 1980s the Queen was gifted more gold from Wales. 36kg was presented by the Royal British Legion part of which was used to make Sarah, Duchess of York and, it’s thought, Sophie, Countess of Wessex’s wedding rings. And 1kg was gifted from Gwynfynydd mine in celebration of the Queen’s 60thbirthday. This is likely the source of Catherine and Meghan’s wedding rings.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex

Ahead of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s nuptials St James’s Palace made the statement; “The wedding ring that Catherine Middleton will wear will be made of Welsh gold. The gold was given to Prince William by The Queen shortly after the couple were engaged. It has been in the family’s possession for some years and has been in the care of the Royal Jewellers. There are no further details on which mine the gold was mined from.”

Sitting half hidden by her huge sapphire engagement ring, Catherine’s slim yellow gold wedding band was made by royal warrant holders Wartski. Fittingly the jeweller was founded in North Wales and has a store in St James’s, just around the corner from Prince William’s London home at the time.

Similarly at the time of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s marriage Kensington Palace made the statement; “Ms Markle’s ring has been fashioned from a piece of Welsh gold, gifted by Her Majesty The Queen.” The band was made by Cleave and Company which also holds royal warrants and is the jeweller Prince Harry chose to create his now wife’s engagement ring. A spokesperson for Cleave says they were asked to produce “a classic 18 ct gold wedding band” for the Duchess. The ring appears to be daintily slim, in keeping with Meghan’s apparent fondness for delicate jewellery.

Gold hasn’t been extracted in Wales since 1998 however Alba Mineral Resources who took over Clogau in 2018 plans to reopen the mine and has also submitted an application for exploratory digs on nearby land in Snowdonia. So there could be a new Welsh Gold Rush on the way which would ensure the royals’ wedding ring tradition continuing for some years yet.

Inside the Crazy Rich Asians’ Bachelorette Resort

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Royal Villa at Four Seasons Langkawi

[UPDATE: “Samsara Island”, setting for the film Crazy Rich Asian’s lavish hen weekend, was shot at the Four Seasons Langkawi in Malaysia. The interiors have been updated by the resort’s original designer Bill Bensley. Four Seasons Langkawi is due to re open on July 10th 2020]

Set between a white sandy beach and soaring limestone cliffs synonymous with the Malaysia archipelago, the Fours Seasons Langkawi has the luxury of never feeling crowded. Within 48 acres of luscious, landscaped grounds there are just 91 rooms.

With so much space to play with starchitect Bill Bensley has had a blast. Starting with a stunning Moorish-style series of reception spaces complete with torches and reflecting pools when you arrive. The attention to detail is impressive: everywhere you look, there’s something to swoon over.

After a refreshingly short transfer from the airport where we spot families of monkeys on the roadside, we are shown (via golf buggy) to an Upper Pavilion, one of four units in a Malaysian style wooden house. Our pavilion has a breezy wraparound terrace and a glimpse of the sea but the wow factor is the bathroom – including a huge terrazzo tub set in an alcove beneath a high domed ceiling.

Upper Pavilion Bathroom

For a Crazy Rich Asian experience (hopefully without the toxic friends) book a Beach Villa (pics below) or the Royal Villa in a secluded spot right on the sand – where Araminta Lee’s (played by Sonoya Mizuno) hen weekend was filmed.

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The resorts’ three restaurants cover Malaysian, Italian and Western cuisine between them. All three overlook the sea but the prettiest is Ikan Ikan, housed in a traditional Malaysian wooden villa. While all the restaurants serve dinner, only Serai is open for breakfast and the Kelapa Grill open for lunch. Many guests opt for in room dining, especially if they’ve booked a beach villa.

Cleverly, families are booked into one side of the resort (close to the children’s swimming pool and kid’s club) and couples into the other – near the adult’s only pool and a delightful bar where the best spot is a swing seat overlooking the beach.

Adult Quiet Pool Pic: Ken Seet
Adult Quiet Pool Pic: Ken Seet

Most of our stay is spent at the adult swimming pool – a long (bigger than Olympic size) infinity pool punctuated by fountains. From our cabana we look out to the trademark verdant outcrops that jut out the Andaman sea and slink in for a dip in the pool via private steps.

Adult Pool Cabana Pic: Ken Seet
Adult Pool Cabana Pic: Ken Seet

A few forays are made to the superb Geo Spa which plays beautifully on Langkawi’s status as a UNESCO Geopark. From the spacious treatment pavilions, each set over water, we get a dramatic close up view of the limestone cliffs. As well as being stunningly designed, the spa offers more interesting and better executed treatments than most.

Geo Spa treatment room Pic: Ken Seet
Geo Spa treatment room Pic: Ken Seet

If you’re an active type, there are plenty of water and adventure sports on offer from paddle boarding to rock climbing. We’re tempted away from the resort just once, by a boat trip straight from the Four Season’s beach to the nearby mangroves. As well as the entertaining commentary of our guide, Aidi, (“Africa has the big five, we have the little five,”) our reward is the sight of kites, sea eagles and families of monkeys – the latter lining the banks of “monkey alley” and taking a cheeky look at us as we glide by.

FS mangroves

A version of this piece was originally published by BA Highlife in 2014

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The Allure of Chanel Couture

01_SS 2017 HC - Finale pictures by Lucile Perron.jpg

Lily Rose Depp wearing Chanel Haute Couture Spring 2017 Pic: Lucile Perron

“A wedding is very special at Chanel,” says Madame Marie-Louise de Clermont-Tonnerre, the gloriously named and exquisitely dressed international spokeswoman who oversees the house’s couture division. The House of Chanel shares the same superstitions as other bridal establishments: garters are encouraged, the presence of anyone other than the bride’s mother and bridesmaids at the fittings is discouraged, and the groom is not allowed to see the dress beforehand to guard against bad luck – but there the similarities end.

Read more

Will Pippa Middleton plump for Packham?


The Bride wore Jenny Packham

Fashion experts say the smart money’s on  Jenny Packham for Pippa Middleton’s wedding dress. Fabulous choice P-Mid!

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