We caught up with Gill Harvey from Eliza Jane Howell ahead of The Harrogate Bridal Show 2019
Gill Harvey is the renowned designer behind bridal brand Eliza Jane Howell. We caught up with her to find out more about the brand’s background and what to expect in the upcoming year.
I grew up in Swansea, South Wales and came to London when I was eighteen years old to study first 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.
My mother told me that Eliza Jane Howell was established in 1890. My maternal Grandmother started her 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.
My life as a designer started with the glamorous Italian knitwear collection for the “Medici” brand. My knitwear always leaned towards occasion dressing and so it wasn’t long before I started adding beaded evening gowns to the collection.
Just under seven 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 business.
We both felt that bridal dresses were not catering to the modern bride who is far more aware of fashion trends and has developed a personal style long before she is 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 Fair. All the dresses were hand beaded and made in less than five weeks. Our stand was mobbed and Eliza Jane Howell was reborn.
Read More: Secrets to Success: Eliza Jane Howell
I have always loved glamorous clothes. 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.
I suppose my signature style could be described as "Modern Vintage”. Any vintage gown can inspire me. The craftsmanship involved in creating such wonderful gowns is hard to find today. Usually, only the highest levels of couture are able to work with such talented artisans.
We pride ourselves at EJH that we do work with some of the few remaining couture beaders in the world today.
Read More: Grown Up Glamour From Eliza Jane Howell
It is always the most recent collection that sticks in my mind and that I am most proud of. So, this would be our 2020 collection aptly named “The Roaring Twenties”.
I can’t give away my secrets but all of the gowns are created from scratch. I design the beading patterns, choose the beads and accessories, sketch the artwork for the fabric and the shape of the new gown. There are many stages in the creation of a new gown.
We often add a touch of silver or gold metallic thread hand embroidery to enhance the beading on a gown. This was traditionally used in the past for military dress uniforms and badges. The Maharajahs costumes were adorned with metallic embroidery and exotically patterned beads.
We think of our gowns as modern vintage and an heirloom to pass to the next generation. I wonder in twenty years’ time whether we will still be able to work with beaders of such a high standard.
Read More: See Eliza Jane Howell’s 2019 Collection
This is where we launched the Eliza Jane Howell Brand seven years ago. We have participated in every show since and the success of the first show still continues. Buyers have always loved visiting The Harrogate Bridal Show. it will always be a special show for us.
We are preparing for our new photoshoot which will have a completely new feeling for the 2020 campaign - a younger, fresher feel but still displaying our beautiful vintage inspired gowns. Vintage with a modern twist.
Eliza Jane Howell will be exhibiting at The Harrogate Bridal Show 2019. Make sure you register for the event here so you don’t miss out.