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Wonder Woman Wednesday: Gill Harvey

Gill Harvey, the renowned fashion designer behind the luxury bridal brand Eliza Jane Howell, reveals her personal background, secrets to success, and more

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Gill Harvey from Eliza Jane Howell
Gill Harvey from Eliza Jane Howell

Can you tell us about your personal background?

I grew up in Swansea, South Wales and came to London when I was eighteen years old to study at Central St. Martins, and then The Royal College of Art for my MA in Fashion. Fashion was in my family and I would be the third generation to work in this field.

Read more: Wonder Woman Wednesday: Marguerite Hannah

My mother told me that Eliza Jane Howell was established in 1890. My maternal grandmother started the eponymous business, which was described as “wool merchant and stockings knitted to order”, with her aunt.

They used hand knitting machines from home which still fill the attic of my mother’s house in Swansea. Their sweaters and socks, in crazily coloured Argyle patterns, were sold from Swansea and Neath markets.

Eliza Jane Howell soon had a loyal clientele including several football clubs who wore knitted garments long before the tech fabrics of today took over.

Check out Gill Harvey’s stunning 2019 collection, The Grand Voyage.

How did you get into bridal design?

My life as a designer started with the glamorous Italian knitwear collection for Medici. My knitwear always leaned towards occasion dressing and so it wasn’t long before I started adding beaded evening gowns to the collection.

My approach to designing my collections has always been to make a woman look and feel as gorgeous as possible for the event she is dressing for. I want her to make a spectacular entrance when she wears one of my gowns.

Just over six years ago when Andrea Cutts and I started working together, we wanted to create a stunning new bridal collection. I had known Andrea for many years and had always admired her individual style and marketing skills in the fashion industry.

We both felt that bridal dresses were not catering for the modern bride who is very aware of fashion trends and has developed a personal style long before she’s ready to choose her wedding gown.

So, we took two dozen of our most glamorous evening gowns and remade them in ivory to show at The Harrogate Bridal Show. All the dresses were hand-beaded and made in less than five weeks. Our stand was mobbed, and Eliza Jane Howell was reborn.

Check out Charlie Brear’s Wonder Woman Wednesday profile to learn more about how this talented designer established herself within the bridal industry.

Where do you get inspiration for your bridal designs from?

I grew up watching repeats of old movies from Hollywood’s golden era and I was constantly inspired by the costumes of the magnificent Edith Head.

The great couture houses of Chanel, YSL, Dior and Givenchy dressed many of the most successful actresses including the style icons Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. These wonderfully-dressed women were a constant source of inspiration on and off the big screen.

Read Rosanna Garden’s Wonder Woman Wednesday profile to find out more about this designer’s bridesmaid dresses and her inspiration behind them.

What does your typical working day look like?

A typical day for me in our Connaught Street boutique can include helping customers search for their perfect gown or sketching the new collection and working on toiles and beading swatches from our factories.

What is your secret to success?

Hard work and dedication. Also, the ability to change as quickly as the wind – this is so important in the constantly-changing fashion industry.

Learn more about Eliza Jane Howell’s secrets to success in another exclusive interview with Gill Harvey.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

I was delighted to win several Best Designer awards for Eliza Jane Howell so soon after we launched the collection.

What’s the favourite part of your job?

Seeing so many brides of all ages wear my dresses; I love seeing how they style them.

What can we expect from your brands at White Gallery?

In the new collection, we continue to produce completely handmade gowns that we consider to be heirloom pieces for future generations to treasure. The new collection includes designs that are new and exciting but also come with a real sense of history.

Make sure you register to White Gallery so you don’t miss out on these unique designs and so much more.

Can you tell us five interesting facts about yourself?

  1. I have completed the London marathon on more than one occasion and continue to run several times a week.
  2. I love cooking and can make a mean risotto - all those years working in Italy paid off!
  3. If I hadn’t become a designer, I would have liked to be a dancer - modern ballet was my second passion.
  4. I’m a great animal-lover and share my home with two beautiful Siamese cats.
  5. I have an A-list Hollywood friend but would prefer not to name her. We met before her career became stratospheric but that’s all I will say. My lips are sealed!

Stop in at the world-leading fashion event, White Gallery, to see Gill’s gorgeous designs. Here’s what visitors and exhibitors had to say about White Gallery 2018.

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