One of the very best things about planning a wedding to a bridal gown beader’s son are her brilliant bridal contacts. It was inevitable that the first place we’d go to look for a dress was the Knightsbridge showroom of young UK bridal designer Suzanne Neville, since my future mother-in-law has been her sole beader for 16 years.
Disclaimer out of the way, it might seem equally inevitable that I would give Suzanne a great review. It wasn’t – I had reservations because I thought Knightsbridge plus expensive dresses might equal too much detail or traditional design for my liking. That was until I saw her exquisite, modern, romantic work. It was a match made in heaven.
But instead of gushing about how lovely Suzanne herself is (and she is) or going into raptures over the fact that the workmanship on even the sample dresses is so fine that you could wear them inside out (you could), I’ll simply describe the experience as I had it and you can make up your own mind.
I wasn’t taken through the frocks by Suzanne herself, but by a lovely employee of hers called Nina. There was no sense of special treatment per se – I saw other brides going through for fittings and dress choices and we were all spoken to with the same courtesy and patience. Nina went through the rails of the current collection, convincing me to try different dress styles but most importantly trying to match the ‘ideal’ image I had in my head.
In the end I ditched several of the requirements I thought I had because of a dress that Nina suggested thanks to her long experience of fitting brides. All samples are a 12, but you’re laced into them with the help of elastic bands (if bigger) or just cinched in tight if smaller. The corsetry is phenomenal, the idea being you shouldn’t need a bra. To a 32F, size 14 bride, that was music to my ears.
Having tried each style and whittled it down to two, we tried those out again and a winner was apparently. “You’re under no obligation,” Nina reminded me. “If it’s not perfect, it’s not your wedding dress.”
A 45 minute appointment soon spiralled to almost two hours as I also picked out shoes and discussed beading (which, I have to admit, I am getting for free!) The dress, jacket and shoes, bead free, came in at a little over £2500, so you’ll need to be putting aside a big chunk of budget for this, as I already had. Dresses start at around £1,500, however, and you can stipulate a budget on the enquiry sheet you fill in when you arrive.
[I should make it clear that I am not getting the dress for free, neither does Suzanne know that I am writing about her…]
If a well-structured, elegant dress and efficient, friendly service matter to you, you’ll be in the right place. I won’t pretend that dresses are inexpensive but I don’t think that’s a surprise given the location of the showroom. There’s another in Guildford, and all tailoring is done locally in Harrow, north London, reflecting Suzanne’s very British roots.
There are accessories and, in a first for a bridal designer in the UK, a scent available to buy as well if that’s what you’re after.
Check out the latest range on the website, or make an appointment to try on designs. I will warn you that the website, though beautifully designed in Flash, can be a little inaccessible on slower machines, particularly Macs. But you can’t win ’em all…
Alexandra Roumbas is a writer and editor living in London. Her mother, who liked the chosen frock from the start, is always right.