Award-Winning North East Based Bridal Designer Kate Fearnley is Flying the Flag for British Design
We catch up with Kate to find out more about her 20 years in the wedding business
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I graduated from Northumbria University in Newcastle in 1999 with a BA (Hons) degree in women’s wear, fashion and textiles, and worked in the fashion industry as an occasion wear designer. I launched my own occasion wear label, Kate Fearnley, in 2002 and the collections were mostly sold to small independent boutiques throughout the UK and Ireland, as well as Asos and Selfridges, and at its peak the brand was stocked in more than 80 boutiques. Luckily, it attracted lots of celebrities including X Factor, Michelle Keegan, Girls Aloud and (dare I say it) I made Katie Price’s bridesmaid’s dresses! Alongside this, I opened a boutique in Middlesbrough (which had previously been my dad’s record shop and grandad’s photography studio) to sell the collections and introduced a bespoke service, all made in-house from the same location. As time progressed, we decided to concentrate on the bespoke side of the business and stopped selling to other outlets, introducing a new bespoke prom and bridal service. After winning Wedding Designer of the Year National Award in 2019 and 2020 at the Wedding Industry Awards, we then made the decision to launch a bridal range to the trade at London Bridal Fashion Week… then Covid hit and we had to postpone this until last September when we could finally unveil the collection, which has been very well received across the UK by bridal boutiques. We’re currently stocked in 11 boutiques, including our own studio which we have now moved to Stokesley in North Yorkshire.
What inspires your collections?
I love texture and fabric details so there is always an element of this within my collections. The new collection ‘Awaken’ is inspired by the reawakening of my love of creativity, new beginnings, and the reawakening of the world in general, focusing on a lighter look for modern life.
‘The new collection is inspired by the reawakening of my love of creativity, new beginnings, and the reawakening of the world in general’
Do you have a signature style?
I’d have to say my signature style is generally a full circular skirt (with pockets!), and a top consisting of 3D embroidery or layering of different fabrics to create depth and texture. I try to make sure the gowns are relaxed yet luxurious, with movement, freedom and comfort at the forefront of all my designs, and I use beautiful soft stretch laces, feathers, embroidery and sequins, coupled with vintage-inspired lace and the softest tulles and stretch satins too.
How do you start designing a new collection?
I tend to work with the fabrics first, experimenting with the hang and layering. The silhouettes are then drawn up and we start to work on the samples. This can be a lengthy process, sampling again and again, tweaking designs to make sure the collection sits perfectly together and answers the brief of the brand. This is definitely my favourite part of my job as it is exciting seeing the designs and ideas come to life. I have an amazing in-house team who make the collections with me, and it is a full team effort.
Can you choose a favourite piece from your latest collections?
That’s a hard question as there are elements in all the dresses that I love. My favourite pieces from the ‘Awaken’ collection are Ivy and Petal as they are my signature go-to pieces and suit all sorts of brides. But I still love my first design which is Orchid, because it is so intricate and pretty with the flowers… and then probably Pixie with the tassels, as this is what I would wear if I got married.
Bridal trends are changing all the time – what’s big now? And what’s next?
I don’t really tend to follow bridal trends as such as I want the designs to feel timeless and right for all types of brides and weddings. I want the pieces from the collection to feel modern and fashion-forward, flattering, and relaxed, but still recognising the bride needs to feel like the bride.
Do you offer bespoke designs?
Yes, we offer a bespoke and couture service from our Stokesley studio where the client can mix designs together, change fabrics and colours, or have me design a complete one-off piece for them that nobody else will have. We offer this for all occasion wear and have seen an increase in mother of the bride and groom bespoke services too.
Your best advice to a bride to be?
Try different silhouettes, sometimes out of your comfort zone to make sure you find the shape that suits you the most. Go in with an open mind and enjoy the experience – but trust your gut, it is often the first dress you are drawn to.
What should brides consider when trying dresses?
A bride should feel the best she’s ever felt in her wedding dress, so it is important that she feels confident on the day. Think about this when choosing the style and silhouette. Not everyone suits white, or ivory, so explore the option of other muted colours such as shell pink to warm the skin up. There are no rules in bridal anymore and it is about choosing the right thing for you and your body shape, which I can always advise on.