A fun and bubbly Scouser with a passion for occasion-wear and bridal, Catherine Fisher has been running her own successful business for many years, creating bespoke garments for private clients. Recently, Catherine completed a master's degree in illustration, focussing on fashion. Coming to terms with Eliza Jane Howell without Gill Harvey in it was tough for all of the label's stakeholders. Still, Catherine’s arrival was made easier by understanding how Gill worked, how she designed and most importantly how she made her mark on wedding and special occasion fashion. Already well-known to Andrea Cutts and the rest of the Eliza Jane Howell team, Catherine was already up to speed and the label's latest collection Legacy of Love is a testament to that. Here we chat to Catherine about her role, her way of working and her plans for the future of the label…
Tell us about you I’m Catherine Fisher, the new designer of Eliza Jane Howell!
I have always adored the romance and glamour of bridal; I love constructing silhouettes and achieving the perfect fit for each of our styles by using my artistry to hand draw each unique beaded pattern. There is something very special about being involved in making a bride's dream come true by creating a stunning gown that they fall in love with for the most important day of their life.
What’s your earliest memory of fashion design? I have always loved art and design, as a young child I was always drawing and designing (well trying to design) clothes. I remember reading fashion magazines in my early teens and my mum who was a talented seamstress helped me to bring my designs to life and this is where my passion for passion began.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I must admit I am a bit of a workaholic and if I'm not working on new designs I also work as a fashion illustrator. On the occasions I do step away from work I love to travel and visit friends and family, I'm happiest in a room full of people listening to music, enjoying each other's company and enjoying a good Malbec!
Do you keep sketches of all of your designs?
I do like to keep a record of all my designs as it's important to have an archive of each season's collection. It's invaluable to understand which dresses really worked, so every year when we offer new designs, we are considering what we have learnt. We are also honouring the label's past and creating a legacy for the future.
Do you have a signature style?
I think my signature style has always been a sleek elegant silhouette with a twist, be that a dramatic sleeve or a jumpsuit that has the shape of a dress that offers an unexpected surprise. I try to ensure that when people see the dresses, they immediately know it's an Eliza Jane Howell dress, offering something that sets it apart from other labels.
What does your bride look like?
I think our bride is someone who wants a timeless piece that will never go out of style, a bride who wants to look not only beautiful but also wants to look different from the perceived traditional dress. Eliza Jane Howell's dresses offer that point of difference.
If you were getting married in the UK next year, where would the wedding be, and what would you wear?
It would almost definitely be in a gorgeous setting like Chelsea Town Hall with eating, drinking and dancing until the small hours at a cool London venue like The Londoner. The next day all my guests could relax and recover in the amazing spa before heading home. As for what I would wear I am not your typical bride but something like the HARLOW from our new Legacy of Love collection would be perfect. I would have it in a custom colour like black so it would fit with the vibe and theme of the wedding.
Have you ever walked the catwalk?
Oh gosh many many moons ago in my student days and this frankly is where my walking days will stay...I leave it to the professionals now!
Which boutiques stock you in the UK?
Too many to mention... They are all listed on the stockist page of our website!
What makes you unique, and successful – what is your USP?
We are unique in that our dresses are entirely hand-drawn and everything, including all the beading and embellishments, are designed in house. Each piece is hand-beaded by our small team of craftsmen who we have worked with for many, many years. We take great pride in our long-standing relationships with our ateliers as this ensures consistency of quality so each of our stockists and brides know they are investing in something special and unique within the bridal market. We like to think that an Eliza Jane Howell dress is an heirloom piece that will be passed on to the next generation.
Whose accessories complement your designs the best?
We have our own accessory collection that beautifully complement our dresses and we love styling our photoshoots with them. For our latest ‘Legacy Of Love’ campaign we collaborated with Laurence Coste who design striking statement earrings perfect for our dresses. For shoes we always collaborate with Emmy London and Harriet Wilde.
Please give us the complete low-down on your latest collection – the inspiration, the process, the plan.
Having the chance to design the new collection for Eliza Jane Howell was a very exciting opportunity. Gill and I had worked together for many years and we discussed the future of the brand and how to move things forward for future brides. I wanted to introduce some new silhouettes, statement sleeves and some younger, fresher looks still with our beautiful hand beading that we are known for. I feel we have achieved what we set out to do with our latest Legacy Of Love collection. Designing our bead patterns sets us apart from the crowd and getting this right is the foundation for each dress. Once we have these patterns this then organically inspires the shape and structure of each dress to bring my vision to life. The strongest examples of this process are the VIOLA, the ATLANTA and the FELICITY. VIOLA when the pattern was finalised, I knew the shape needed to allow the beading to shape and flatter the figure, very clean lines helped achieve this but then the dramatic sleeve balances out all these key elements. ATLANTA even though the beading may seem simple it had to work wrapping itself around the body, almost designing the one-shoulder feature itself this then flowed through to the dramatic shoulder train which we decided needed to be detachable to add versatility to the gown. FELICITY This delicate beading evolved into a soft romantic shape. The sleeve feature coupled with the train allowed the dress to feel feminine and dreamlike that when worn makes the bride feel magical.
What are you feeling excited about in the coming year?
I’m excited to see what new styles develop. 2024 feels like a canvas waiting to be painted with fresh ideas and styles. I enjoy my retail boutique and the insights I get from it – hearing from brides about their wishes for what they want to wear inspires me greatly. I think something that will develop further is the second reception – a less formal or short gown that we’ve had in the collections for a couple of years now.
What’s your favourite gown firstly in the new collection and secondly, ever!
My favourite gown from this new collection has got to be the HARLOW, I love the play on the fact that at first glance it looks like a dress but then the surprise comes that it's actually a jumpsuit (it's also available as a dress if wanted) the neckline and sleeve coupled with that amazing back really makes this a show-stopping piece for me! My favourite gown ever is the VICHY dress, this for me is the absolute epitome of what an Eliza Jane Howell dress is. The fit is extraordinary, and the subtlety of the beading brings just enough drama and fun to the dress to make it an absolute classic.
To find out more and to enquire about stocking Eliza Jane Howell in your boutique:
See the latest collection at www.elizajanehowell.com Visit the team on stand B38 at the Harrogate Bridal Show - 10-12th September 2023