Just arrived from London, on her first visit to Madrid, Kate Halfpenny meets me at Love is in the Air, the only shop in Spain to sell her British-style bridal collection. Kate gives off good vibes and exudes peace, making you feel instantly relaxed.
Still unnoticed in Spain, Kate Halfpenny is one of the most well known celebrity stylists in the UK. Kate has been responsible for big campaigns of L’Oreal and Marks and Spencers and has dressed celebrities such as Kate Moss for the last 20 years.
Halfpenny has designed bridal dresses since her first years, however, it was not until 2005 she decided to open her own space for brides in London.
How would you describe the “London look”?
Bridal separates are becoming very popular. My collection has had a warm welcome because of the fact that it is so interchangeable, so you can have a very simple dress with an overskirt and a different top, being able to change elements of it. I would definitely describe the London look as the ability to create something unique to yourself with pieces of my collection.
How do you think this fits the Spanish bride?
Brides today, regardless of nationality, look for simple dresses to accessorize in different ways, and make it unique to each one, so it is definitely translating into the Spanish bride.
Why did you decide to enter the Spanish market?
I was introduced to Love is in the Air through a British bridal wholesale market consultant. I loved the atelier, Isabel and the ethos that Isabel has, together with the diverse clients as well. We felt my brand would sit perfectly here, and so it does.
Do you see any differences with the British market?
I think Spanish brides are quite dictated by their venue, while in the UK you choose your dress regardless of it. They might want a bigger veil but they won’t necessarily make the dress fit the venue so much.
Spanish brides tend to respect traditions over their own personality.
From my experience, Spanish brides with a religious ceremony tend to choose a more classic dress with a bold wink, like a back completely out.
Do you think your bridal separates allow Spanish brides to cover up for the church and be bolder at the reception?
Yes, exactly. When I do society brides that are having cathedral weddings that is what happens. We do the covers for the church that the bride will remove later during the reception.
It has become very popular in Spain to wear two wedding gowns, one for the ceremony and one for the reception.
Brides will find different elements in my collection to create two or three different looks. We have a lot of slip dresses that will give you a slinky look that, combined with an overskirt, will give you the texture and shape for the ceremony. Then you can take off a layer during the reception or the party.
What do you think brides are looking for when they come to Halfpenny London?
I think they are looking for something slightly different to the classic and traditional dresses. My brides love how I use fabrics and textures, and how I mix those elements. Starting off from a classic cut you can get a special and different effect simply by adding an embroidered tulle, for example. The quality, the British-made and the amazing fabrics are my hallmarks.
Is Halfpenny London one of the brides’ first options or do they come to you after a frustrated seach?
In the UK they come for me.
Many brides get discouraged when they can’t find THE dress, after trying on samples that are too big or too small.
Those are my favorite brides. When they don’t know what they want, they’ve had a terrible experience, and my team and I transform everything. It is so rewarding, that is what makes my job so wonderful. To give a woman that celebrity feeling, feeling special, rather than a number.
Could you describe a bride’s experience when she arrives to your boutique?
All brides that come to my boutique have one hour and fifty minutes to try on as many dresses and outfits in the shop. The experience is total freedom, no choosing three options from a book or the site. You can choose anything. Of course, it always helps if there is something in particular they want to try. I will start making suggestions when they’ve tried what they wanted to try on.
Your motto is that you adapt the dress to the body and not the body to the dress, do you think this is what attracts your customers?
We have a lot of brides that come to us that are the anti bride, that have had a terrible experience, or maybe they haven’t been dreaming all their life about their wedding. Many say they don’t know what they want and that they need some guidance. When they tell me their preferences I try to find a similar look with the necessary modifications, even in the collection designs. That is how they have a true haute couture experience. It is all about being intuitive and nurturing.
Do you think your prestige comes from this exclusive treatment?
My business has grown to what it is today because of word of mouth. I have never advertised. My career after 20 years being a celebrity stylist and costume designer has deeply influenced my collection. I have dressed almost every shape from super models to Kate Moss’s petite and delicacy, together with real model campaigns. That is why the collection has something for everybody.
What is the biggest praise you have received?
When we get emails from moms, to tell how incredible their daughters looked.
Do you think brides want to dress like celebrity brides?
Celebrities definitely influence people. Their weddings become something global, they become an inspiration to others. Sometimes customers have seen Kate Moss in one of my designs and they ask me to do that as a wedding dress.
What do your customers have in mind, looking like a celebrity or feeling good?
They want to look good in their skin. The celebrity thing is not so common. My collection is designed so you don’t have to wear spanx under your dress, or workout to make the dress work, but the opposite. I don’t want you to change anything in your day to fit the dress. We work all your upsets and cover up flaws to make the outfit work.
With all that, some celebrity brides have worn your designs. Are they instantly added to your collection?
The last celebrity bride wore a top that went immediately to the collection and the skirt was part of the collection.
Today’s diverse market is partially affected by brave brides who dare wearing special dresses, encouraging other women to “break the law” of traditional dresses…
Yes, that is correct. I had a fitting with a very bold bride yesterday. Together we combined a pair of trousers underneath the skirt together with a top from my collection, so she will be looking different.
What features do your brides have in common?
They are so diverse. My collection works very well for all body types. We have sample dresses we know will fit women with a 44+, and we will soon be launching a collection for curvies.
What would your recommendations be to a bride that is just starting the dress hunt?
I would definitely recommend do some research, trying to identify a few designers and the style they like, but please don’t come with excess of information.
There is a term in finance used for the excess of information, when you have reached the point where the amount of information becomes a problem to carry out your work. This term is called infoxication. I like to use it in the wedding industry too, as the enormous amount of information available to couples is so overwhelming that it becomes difficult to make a decision.
Do you think bridal infoxication affects brides?
I think all this wedding information available is making brides to not know what they want or who they want to be on their wedding day. They want to be all the brides and all the models, and that is not possible, you have to choose and define your style.
How do you help them decide?
It is about nurturing and guiding them. I help them feel great. I don’t let them take photograps at my boutique because I want them to decide upon the feeling, not the picture, because you are not trying on a perfect size. At the end of the day it is about how incredible you feel.
When a bride walks in through your door, do you know what she is going to wear on her wedding day?
Not always. Only 80% of times (laughs). I don’t know what suits them, but the style I can guess by how they are dressed.
Photograps and videos: Halfpenny London and The Wild Bride
If you would like to get married in Spain contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here to read the original post written in Spanish and published in La Razón.