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WINterview / Patricia Barclay

She has been designing wedding gowns for nigh-on 20 years but this is her first time at Harrogate as a solo designer and with her eponymous label, Patricia Barclay. We found out more about designer Patricia as she seeks to collaborate with savvy boutiques in the UK and internationally, starting with a stand at Bridal Week Harrogate.

Tell us about you

After watching a film called Private Benjamin, about a female soldier in a man’s world, I thought: Hey! I could do that! Although I was very girlie with long hair and being petite, I stood for no-nonsense, and I definitely wasn’t weak. I was a proper GI Jane – hobnailed boots and combats by day, but could easily carry off heels and a posh frock. I was one of the guys as well as one of the girls. I could drink a yard of ale faster than any male member of my squad, well I am from Yorkshire. My military career stood me in good stead to do anything and everything I wanted to do without fear of being a failure.


Why bridal?

Now that is a question! I never studied fashion or design, but as a child I wrote short stories about history, love and romance and all the characters were strong, independent individuals who were fearless yet passionate about everything around them. As I grew up and joined the Army, I loved how clothes could make a person feel. I felt strong, powerful and afraid of nothing when I wore my military uniform, but still felt feminine at the same time. My ethos is: 'Clothes don’t make a person, but a person makes the clothes!'


I started in Bridal over 20 years ago, in a tiny boutique, and have been designing custom and bespoke wedding dresses for hundreds of brides during this time. Believe it or not, I do actually remember every single bride who has ever worn one of my creations on her wedding day. I love the sketching, the creation and finally seeing my bride wearing the dress of her dreams on her wedding day. Many of my bespoke brides became friends as we spent a lot of time together during her wedding dress journey, although I do feel old when I create a prom dress for her daughter!

What’s your earliest memory of fashion design?

That’s easy making matching clothes for my dolls when my mum would give me the offcuts of fabric from the dress she had just made me.


What do you do when you’re not working?

I’m always working as I have a constant flood of ideas for the next collection or working with my private clients. I love walking and hiking in the countryside especially the Yorkshire Dales and the Moors.


I get inspiration from everything around me, the cloud formation gives me ideas of how soft or voluminous the skirt should be. The strong oak tree with its proud branches and trunk is the structure of my corsets, the bobbing heads of flowers and butterflies the detail and the lakes and rivers, texture. So even my chill time is work time.


Do you keep sketches of all of your designs?

I keep all my sketches of every dress I have designed in their various formats, as these bring the dresses to life and allow me to go back and add or delete any details later. Like fashion trends, things come around again in bridal just the same.


Do you have a signature style?

My style is structured with support, it is all about the corset, a bit like a building, get the foundations right and it will support whatever you put in it or on it, I work from the inside out. If I ever look at a dress I look at the inside first – it doesn’t matter how pretty it is on the outside, a bit like the Oak tree it is the roots that support the trunk and branches and then the leaves.


What does your bride look like?

My bride is a strong, independent woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go out and get it, but she is also girlie and demure and still believes in fairytale princesses and the tooth fairy.


If you were getting married in the UK next year, where would the wedding be, and what would you wear?

I’m already happily married and would do the same again, but if a bride asked for my opinion, I would say, somewhere special to you, wear something that makes you feel like you but only better.


Have you ever walked the catwalk?

No way, but I did walk the boards at the Halifax Playhouse when I was 12.


Which boutiques stock you in the UK?

I only have one boutique at the moment, I have been dressing my own brides for many years. I would love to work with a small number of boutiques that have the same ethos as me, which is every bride is unique and she should be treated as if she is the only one, is special and you are honoured to help her find her dream wedding dress.


What makes a good bridal boutique great?

Fabulous customer service, being friendly and welcoming and making every bride who walks through your door feel special and that you genuinely want to help her find the dress of her dreams. She found the love of her life all by herself but needs our help and guidance, and if a bride feels happy and relaxed, she will usually buy her wedding dress from you.

What makes you unique, and successful – what is your USP?

I listen to my brides and take on board what they say. It may not always be doable what they request, but I will never just say no, we will find common ground. This is also the format I would use for potential stockists, for example, if they were missing certain styles or their brides were requesting certain styles, they would be in my next collection. I guess this is one of the reasons I also do bespoke for my private clients, I get to work with my bride directly.


Whose accessories complement your designs the best?

I have my own collection of accessories, matching veils, sleeves and belts.


Can we have the complete low-down on your latest collection the inspiration, the process, the plan

My latest collection is a combination of skirts and bodices that can stay as separates or can be created into a dress you can add sleeves, bows and belts, change the fabrics. It is one unique collection with so many options for both the boutique and the bride, can be made into any size so no separate plus or curve collection just one unique collection for everyone.

What are you feeling excited about in the coming year?

Still doing what I have loved doing for the last 20 plus years.


What’s your favourite gown in the new collection, and ever!

As a designer, I don’t have a favourite as I love them all. If I dressed 20 different brides in the same dress, they would all look unique. As I said at the very beginning clothes don’t make a person, a person makes the clothes.


To find out more and to enquire about stocking Patricia Barclay in your boutique:

Contact +44 (0)7542 169460 or sales@patriciabarclay.co.uk

See the latest collection at patriciabarclay.co.uk Visit the team on stand B8A at the Harrogate Bridal Show - 10-12th September 2023


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