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Wonder Woman Wednesday: Charlie Brear

Next up in our Wonder Woman Wednesday series is Charlie Brear 

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Bridal designer Charlie Brear
Bridal designer Charlie Brear

I’m sure we’re all familiar with this week’s Wonder Woman – Charlie Brear, the Founder and Creative Director at Charlie Brear. Through hard work and determination, Charlie has created her stunning, luxury bridal label. We catch up with the successful designer and business owner to divulge a little more about her background and secrets to success.

Check out our In Conversation With... Charlie Brear here.

Tell me about your background.

Fashion is in my genes! My maternal grandmother Betty worked as a seamstress for the famous haute couture designer Elsa Schiaparelli in London’s Mayfair in the 1930s. She was an amazing dress maker.

I was born and raised in Hertfordshire but moved to London in 1997 and Queen’s Park has been my stomping ground for the last 20 years. After university, I did some work experience at ID magazine which helped me land the role of Presenter’s Stylist at MTV and within a year, where I was heading up the Wardrobe department. I went on to style big budget commercial and music promos. I started my own company and fashion label in 2005. Charlie Brear is what it is today through sheer determination and hard work.

Read more: hear how designer Jacqui James made her way into bridal.

How did you get into bridal?

I’d been working as a successful Fashion Stylist for 10 years and really fell into the bridal market spontaneously. In 2004, whilst working as a Fashion Stylist, I sourced around 100 vintage wedding dresses for a music video and was struck by the growing interest among my circle of friends for something alternative to get married in, which at the time seemed limited. This motivated me to launch my own bridalwear company, selling one-off original pieces.

Subsequently in 2007 I began designing my own collections and fell truly in love with bridal. We first sold to market at White Gallery in 2011, our Styling Additions collections made a big impact and helped shape the huge offering of versatile bridal products that are now on the market. The addition of a red carpet-focused line in 2013 has also made Charlie Brear a destination for beautifully made eveningwear.

Today, Charlie Brear is stocked in over 50 bridal boutiques globally and also retails from our central London flagship showroom.

What are your secrets to success?

Sheer determination, hard work and a true passion for running my own business.

We ensure we’re always moving with the times and one step ahead of the next big trend - it’s important to Charlie Brear as a brand that we’re seen as a leading authority in fashion forward bridalwear. For example, jumpsuits are having a big moment in bridal and these have been a popular part of our collections for the last five years.

Another reason Charlie Brear has become such a great success is that I’ve always tried to not compare myself or my brand to others, which is hard in such an accessible world. I like to keep trying new things and switching things up, be it with the website, social media or collections. If someone else starts doing the same thing I try to change it, at times I have made the wrong move but always being commercial is boring, sometimes you need to take a risk, other times you need to reign it back in.

What also keeps us relevant is the fact that as well as bridalwear, we offer eveningwear. Our experience in both sectors allows our bridal collections not to be dictated by conventional wedding style. Often brides will shop both collections in order to create their desired bridal look.

Our Styling Additions collection is also still very much a strong force in the USP of our brand; as the collections have always been conceived with styling in mind they work alongside it, they are not an afterthought. They are something that we do really well.

All of our collections are also designed and produced from start to finish in London, something that is extremely important to me. My family roots are deep set in London, my Great Grandfather was a Yeoman Warder and my Grandfather was born and lived at the tower of London. I have an amazing heritage of fashion that I love to reference but above all I love to design fresh and innovative product.

Read more: our previous Wonder Woman and bridal retailer Marisa Rooney explains her secrets to success.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

Juggling it all! As well as a growing team to manage, I’m a mum too so having the devotion and sheer determination needed to oversee a business alongside family life is definitely a great achievement.

From a purely business point of view, my biggest achievement is growing a fledging start-up from the ground up to a global success story rooted in Britain. I’m very proud that my collections are produced ethically in London, and that they have been worn by the following influencial women: Sienna Miller, Alexa Chung, Nicole Kidman, Carolina Issa, Cat Deeley and Jessie Bush.

How does an employee catch your attention, or impress you?

An instinctive eye for detail, an ability to remain unflappable, intuition with clients, brilliant interpersonal skills or simply their ability to spot when a cup of tea and a biscuit is much needed! We have been so lucky to have had hard working and fun staff over the last 10 years, we are always grateful to anyone who has given us some of their life and time.

What does your typical working day look like?

My eldest daughter is an early bird like me and usually pops in around 6am, I check in on our social media and my diary for the day. By 6.45am I’m preparing school bags and trying to grab a decent breakfast with her and my twins. After dropping my daughter at school, I head to the Queen’s Park studio and depending on where we are in the season, I might meet with the team to discuss production or be talking through an upcoming campaign shoot.

In the last month we’ve been doing a lot of TV interviews with press from around the world keen to hear our thoughts on the Royal wedding. Although I would love to focus my time and attention solely on the creative side of the business, I tend to have a hand in every area of the business!

Lunchtimes (if I remember them) usually involve a quick, healthy bite to eat or a meeting with an editor to tell them about our upcoming collection. Every single day is different, but the afternoon usually consists of meetings with my sales team, discussing wholesale plans, meeting fabric agents for future collections and catching up on my emails.

At the end of the working day I try to squeeze in exercise to keep me as strong as possible after my back surgery several years ago, and then its home for 6.30pm for a family dinner and downtime!

Read more: Check out our Wonder Woman profile on Latvian bridal designer, Diana Elizabeth.

5 Interesting Facts about Charlie:

  1. I got married in 2006 in an original 1960s dress that was one of the first pieces I sourced for the new business. It was laid back and I loved everything about it. I then changed into a short D&G lace number for the evening.
  2. My husband is the MD of our company, working together can be challenging but Charlie Brear would not exist without him.
  3. I am a total romantic. I’m a Pisces but I am actually very low maintenance in terms of grand gestures; a cup of tea in bed, some last minute garage roses, a handmade card and general kindness are my idea of romantic gestures.
  4. I’ve had back surgery twice, after both my pregnancies. I now have a Titanium back, sometimes I definitely feel like I am channeling a super hero!
  5. I’m a devoted yoga and pilates junkie - I practice regularly in London and head off every year for retreat with my girlfriends without fail. Exercise and laughing with old friends is the cornerstone of being successful at anything.

Want to hear more from our Wonder Women? Check out bridal retailer Joanne Stott’s profile here.

 

 

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