Q&A with Libelula
Tell us a little bit about your brand…
Libélula has become well-loved for the effortless glamour of our vintage inspired dresses and gowns. I started sewing when I was six, and during my time at school, I used to make evening dresses for my fellow students at £20 a pop, so doing a job in fashion was always in the pipeline for me! I trained in fashion design and worked at several high profile brands including Temperley and Alexander McQueen. My skill was always pattern cutting and for some reason, it’s something that comes very naturally to me. Following a campervan trip to live my flamenco dreams in Spain, I decided to start Libélula and it has been growing steadily ever since by word of mouth. I am now a mother of three small boys so I am very strict about only working in the mornings in order to be a good mother for them in the afternoon. It’s very important to me that they don’t feel that they come second to my work. I feel like have got a really good balance; the business is going from strength to strength, but I’m also able to give them the attention that they need. I’m not the best cook and our home is rather chaotic as a result but something has to give!
What’s a typical day like in your job?
As we are a small company, everyone has to do a little bit of everything so each day is completely different, but we work to the six-monthly fashion calendar following a seasonal cycle that influences what happens and when throughout the year. At the moment, I am starting to design SS15 and the whole process will take until the beginning of summer, with prints and colours being considered first, then new shapes and styles, then finally samples will be ordered. Over the next five months, we will also be sorting out the production of AW14 once we have received all the orders from our agents. All year round, we are continually updating the website – we have just re-launched it – and fulfilling the orders is a full-time job. My particular areas of focus are the design, production and financial side of the business, although I do anything else as and when required.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I started my own business for various reasons. Firstly, I am a curvy woman and could never find flattering dresses or tops that worked for my figure, so as cutting patterns is my skill, it made sense to make clothes myself and see if anyone else wanted to buy them (which it seems they do!). Secondly, I figured that if I was going to work really hard in life doing something I love, then it would be better for the rewards of my hard work to benefit my family. Another reason is down to my father; he always had his own companies that I spent a lot of time at as a small girl, so I suppose it’s in my blood to do my own thing. He and the rest of my family have been hugely supportive and when things are complicated or tough, I always have them to turn to for advice which has helped me a lot over the years.
Libélula means ‘dragonfly’ in Spanish. What was the reason for choosing this name?
I was living in Spain when I started Libélula and I nearly called it a word which meant gravedigger, but luckily a friend pointed that out to me just in time! Whilst I was thinking of a new name, a dragonfly flew into the room and the girl that worked for me at the time told me the Spanish word for it was ‘libelula’. I thought the word was so lovely, I decided to call my label after it. I made a conscious decision not to name it after myself as I wanted the brand to be focused on the actual dresses and not about me.
What’s the inspiration behind your wedding dress designs?
Many of our dresses come from vintage styles that we find and adapt to make them more contemporary. Every dress I make must also be flattering to the female form so this is always at the forefront of my mind when designing a new collection. The print ideas come from somewhere in my brain (I never quite know where!) or from vintage fabrics I collect. Normally, I start with a huge mood board and whittle down the ideas until I have one or two that I really love, then I work on them non-stop until they feel right. We always make them in a couple of different colours that fit with the colour trends for that particular season.
Which era do you think had the best wedding dresses?
The 1930s and the 1950s are the decades I adore for their elegance and timelessness.
What’s your favourite wedding dress from your collection and why?
Oh, I love them all and would wear every single one of them, but my absolute favourite is probably the Long Millie Dress with the metallic beading as that’s what I wore for my own wedding.
Which is your most popular wedding dress?
I would say that along with the Long Millie Dress, the Long Poppy Dress and the Long Sofia Dress are all the most popular shapes. I think it’s because they all have a v-shaped neckline and are super flattering.
How do you go about choosing a wedding dress that suits your shape?
I always think you have to try on lots and lots of dresses to know when you find the one – it’s a bit like that feeling when you know you’ve found your man!
Are there any do’s and don’ts to remember when choosing your wedding dress?
The most important thing is to look like yourself and feel totally comfortable with what you’re wearing. You should love every minute of your wedding day and feel that you are you, not some other person that you (or the groom) doesn’t recognise when you look in the mirror.
What tips or advice would you give to wedding guests when choosing an outfit?
I personally wouldn’t wear white or cream to someone else’s wedding, but again I think the most important thing is to feel comfortable and completely yourself when you are at any party as that is when you have the most fun. I love a bit of colour and also dresses that swirl out when I dance, but that’s just me!
When will you release your next bridal collection and what can we look forward to?
We don’t do seasonal bridal collections, but instead we expand our existing range by introducing more and more classic shapes. Each time we design another fantastic shape in the main Libélula collection, we’ll add it to the bridal range in cream.
What’s the best thing about working with brides?
It’s so exciting to play a part in someone’s special day. Last year, a magazine editor came and chose a Libélula dress for her wedding, and when she tried it on she burst into tears as she knew she’d found the dress. It was such a lovely feeling to know that one of our creations made someone so happy that she cried! As a wedding present for my little sister, I made her wedding dress myself using ten metres of Parisian lace – she looked absolutely stunning. There were lots of late night fittings as I have three small sons, so there aren’t many peaceful moments during the day (and lots of little sticky fingers usually get in the way). It was wonderful to be a part of her wedding and to know that I helped with making her look so beautiful. Many of my friends have also worn Libélula on their wedding day and it’s such a joy to see them begin the next phase of their life in one of our dresses.
Can you tell us what the big wedding trends will be for the next 12 months?
I have to admit I am not a great follower of trends and tend to favour style instead; I know what I love and what I find beautiful. To me, something that is timeless and glamorous is much more important than being on-trend.
Spring, summer, autumn or winter wedding – which do you prefer and why?
Although there is something terribly romantic about a candlelit winter wedding, I love summer weddings for their long light evenings and warm fragrant air.
What’s the best wedding you’ve ever been to?
There have been a few… I lived in Spain for about five years and they really know how to party (a Spanish wedding can carry on into the early hours)! One particular wedding in Spain that’s very special to me was the one where I met my husband. Another memorable wedding that I will always cherish was for my oldest friend in the world. Her dad is Italian and her mum sadly died when she was at university, so everyone came together to make it an incredibly special day; I brought all the champagne over from France, another friend contributed the marquee, an old family friend did the flowers and someone else organised the music. It was the most beautiful, personal and wonderful wedding because it came from everyone’s hearts.
What would be your ideal honeymoon destination if money were no object?
We never had a honeymoon as I was seven months pregnant with our eldest at the time. Now that we have three children life is pretty chaotic, so I think that a deserted (child-free) beach honeymoon relaxing with lots of cocktails and books would be my dream, although that definitely wouldn’t have been the case a few years ago!
You’re attending a wedding – what present from OKA would you give the happy couple?
I always offer friends a Libélula piece for their honeymoon, but if I didn’t do that I would always choose something off their wedding list, as I think it’s better to give the couple an item that they actually want or need.
Sophie Cranston studied fashion design, honing her skills in the backrooms in Saville Row and Bellville Sassoon. After winning the prestigious Designer of the Year Award at Graduate Fashion Week in 1999, she went on to work for Alexander McQueen, then set up Temperley in 2000 with Alice Temperley. Whilst she was in Spain, Sophie set up Libélula with the aim to create beautifully cut, timeless and flattering dresses made from luxurious fabrics that would be treasured for a lifetime.