“When I grow up I want to be a Princess” that’s the fervent hope of so many small girls. Sadly that never happened to me but I caught a little glimpse of what it might be like to be a Princess when I visited designer Nicholas Oakwell in his boutique in Claridges. He dresses royalty – not just Hollywood royalty on the red carpet but real royalty – real princesses.
The couture gowns that line the walls were not just sparkly and beautiful, on closer examination they were works of art. Each bead has to be hand sewn in place in a particular way so it catches the light. Nicholas Oakwell is keen on glass beads and feathers – both make for a feminine and glamorous impact when the gown in completed. I can only imagine what it must be like as those beads catch the light of a thousand paparazzi cameras on the red carpet.
There are few folk in the fashion industry that are as charming as Nicholas. He was gracious – and polite and enthusiastic –I am so happy he is coming to Bath in Fashion as I think he will be delightful especially in conversation with the legendary Hilary Alexander – another fashion industry pro who came to Bath before to interview Barbara Hulanicki talking vintage BIBA.
Not only are we getting Nicholas but we are also getting one of his magnificent frocks. It’s not just any old frock – well none of them are – but this one was specially commissioned by the GREAT Britain campaign to be taken around the globe to show off the fabulous British fashion industry. It took some 90 metres of silk organza and 2320 hours to make. The bodice sparkles with real rubies from Garrards and there are 200 000 hand dyed ostrich feathers each stitched in place by the Royal School of Needlework students. It was thanks to our lovely friends at the RSN that we were introduced to this extraordinary creation. The RSN embraced the haute couture tradition of “les petits mains” to realise this ambitious project. The gown was created for super model Erin O’Connor and David Downton (another VIP guest at Bath in Fashion 2016) came along to record the enterprise with a few of his elegant brush strokes.
The day I visited Nicholas he was talking in hushed tones about how the dress was being altered – well remade – for Cheryl Cole who would be wearing it for the final of the X factor no less.
Well maybe I will never walk the red carpet but I too have a sparkly red dress – not a couture gown of course – purchased from Heavens Bazaar in Margaret’s Buildings for a modest sum – it is covered with beads that catch the light and I feel just a tiny little bit like a princess in it….
Nicky Hancock is Bath in Fashion’s Director of Marketing and Director of Hancock Communications.
Nicholas Oakwell admires his gown worn by super model, Erin O’Connor.