Catherine Blades is a force to be reckoned with, a powerhouse and true boss babe who founded a company of the same name. Catherine Blades Couture , award winning wedding dress designer, exploring the world of art, love and female consciousness and a name that should be on everybody’s lips. When you think wedding, you need to think Catherine Blades Bridal.
Catherine Blades provides a fully bespoke service creating stunning wedding gowns and occasion wear that are unique to every client.
Her intimate knowledge of cut and fit set her apart from other designers. She is a highly skilled dressmaker, taking your ideas and transforming them into the dress of your dreams. The warmth and personal service you will receive at the Blades Bridal studio makes having a dress designed and made by her a truly wonderful experience, one that has her clients feeling at ease, and thoroughly enjoying the process from beginning to end.
Catherine learned her craft with some top name designers, including Alexander McQueen, and over the past 20 years has refined her skills to become a couture dressmaker, designing and hand crafting exquisite gowns using a mix of traditional and modern techniques, luxurious fabrics and stunning embellishments. Catherine designs with innovation, and her creations are cutting edge.
Catherine works from the beautiful Blades Bridal studio, set in the tranquil countryside on the Berkshire/Hampshire border. All dresses are designed, made and fit by Catherine personally and her attention to detail leave her clients owning a truly stunning bespoke gown.
Catherine is not just a couture designer. She is an artist in her own right, creating stunning works of contemporary art and exploring the art of bridal in a totally different way. Her work as an artist allows her to bring that creative vision to her design work, which sets her apart from so many other designers.
Here, we spent some time with Catherine to find out more…
Tell us about our journey so far to get to where you are today
Working for Alexander McQueen and being a freelance creative pattern cutter, working in the wedding industry was not at the top of my list. Whilst freelancing, I found myself working in a reputable bridal shop. The very first customer I had sent flowers to me at the shop as it was the best service she’d ever had. I think from that moment I was pretty hooked, knowing that I had the ability to use all my skills and make a difference to each and every bride during this life transition filled my heart with joy. I worked in retail for 12 years before Catherine Blades Couture began in 2012.
It was the day of Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s Royal Wedding that cemented the fact it was time to open my own studio. Having worked for McQueen and also the lady who created the flower girl’s dresses, I felt that it was my time.
My philosophy has always been the same, that each bride should be totally unique and have something designed and created just for them. Having sold 5 of the same wedding dress in one day, telling each girl how utterly lovely she looked, it felt fake. I didn’t want my brides to feel that they were on some sort of conveyer belt, so now each dress is designed working closely with the bride, using my expertise in cut, fit and design, to create a dress which conveys not only the way she wants to look, but the way she wants to feel.
I work with the most incredible women, the most luxurious materials, and, in the most tranquil of settings on the Hampshire, Berkshire border, in South East England. I spend my days creating bridal gowns that are loved and cherished by their wearer.
You recently made a pivot in your business and want to take a slightly different direction, tell us about this
I have discovered, whilst on my creative journey, that what seemed to be the ideal job, has now become a quest for true connection to ones heart, soul and authentic self, that in a time when, as women, we are learning to embracing a new sense of femininity, we need a bit of courage to love ourselves in totality. From the pit of my stomach, I knew brides suffered from a lack of self love, and as female consciousness rises, the need to express this through art has become a must for me.
The new direction of my business aims to express how to love ourselves fully. This journey is detailed on my blog, The Art Of Bridal.
I shall be getting all romantic, positive and creative. Showing you how I work for my brides, what inspires me, and also taking you on a journey of self discovery, as I embark on producing some exhibition pieces for an art show that combine a variety of creative, philosophical and spiritual works, helping us, as women, become more connected to the divine feminine, peace and balance within our hearts .
When people say “I Love My Job” part of you thinks “yeah right” or “is that even possible”, but for me it’s true. Everything I do is in the pursuit of becoming more whole, in order to serve my beloved brides. From the ability to manage my own stress, to pushing my boundaries of creativity to meet a bride’s desires, the sense of reward is immense and for these opportunities of growth I am truly grateful.
There is no other dress that is as important as your wedding dress. To me, a wedding dress is a sacred gown, that empowers the bride with love for herself, and the journey ahead, representing her in all her glory, and radiating her inner beauty. The seams, fabric, cut and every detail must be infused with deep love, confidence and the pure potential for a successful loving life. This is my Zen and hopefully it can be felt in abundance by the wearer.
What is it like working in the wedding industry
Working in the wedding industry has been an absolute joy. I’ve met some incredibly talented and supportive individuals. Coming from a bridal retail background it is exceptionally different having your own business. I now have the ability to support and connect on a social level, an essential part of both my business and my personal growth. I’ve built some beautiful relationships with my clients and other business owners alike.
One of the most important relationships I have is with my colleague, right-hand woman, former wedding photographer and graphic designer, Jo, of Grey Card Creative. We work closely on my brand direction, website and promotional materials, and have a great working relationship as well as friendship.
Collaborations have been essential in order to bring my visions to reality, starting with ex-bride Chrissy Lippett of Smart Frames Photography on some branding images and art works. I have recently collaborated with Sam Lucas of Sam Lucas Photography, and the husband of one of my brides. Sam is an incredibly talented individual, and we have worked closely together on creating branding and artworks together in the past year. My mentorship of him has been most rewarding for us both.
Tell us about the most important relationship in your life
The most important relationship in my life is the one I have with myself. This may sound egotistical, but I’ve come to realise, in the last few years, that when my connection to myself is in balance, when my mind is focused, and when I’m creating from the heart, this is reflected through each and every relationship around me.
This has not always been the case. When I have been in a state of war with myself, when my self talk was aggressive, this was reflected in the lesser amount of love and connection I was able to give to my clients and to others around me.
My home life is one of laughter and love with my husband, daughter and dogs.
Although different to my home life, the relationship I have with my brides is one of great depth and honour to be part of such an impactful time in their life. I’m lucky enough to class the majority of my brides as friends. This individual connection to me is like gold.
The one relationship that I value above all others is the one with my daughter Sophie. She is 15 years old, and is part of a generation that is under such pressure, more than any other generation has had before. As I connect with her, the work I create is my legacy to her.
What does self care mean to you
Self care to me is about creating a reality that feels like a dream, allowing stillness and clarity everyday. The social world we live in has us pushing constantly, breaking down boundaries, and presenting the best version of ourselves. Self care and a balanced life to me, are the same thing . I keep it very simple, but these simple daily habits mould my day and mental state. I awake early and work the best in the mornings.
I take a long walk with my dogs in the woods every afternoon, no matter how busy I am. This always clears my head and helps me to work more efficiently.
I have a Himalayan salt bath every evening and go to bed at a decent time. These simple habits help me to live a wholehearted life, where clarity and balance are essential.
In fact these are the topics of my art. Clarity is discovering your authentic self, not the one you’ve been told or programmed to be, not the one that society would lead you to become, but a version of yourself that comes from the heart, from a deep understanding of who you are and your connection to everything around you.
A life that leads to being calm, centred, transparent, joyful, fulfilled, balanced, inspired to live as a fearless, free and a joyful master of incredible clarity and integrity.
“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness,” Brené Brown writes in Daring Greatly. “It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.”
I am forever tweaking and learning how to be the best version of myself and it’s not always pretty and perfect, sometimes we have to unravel a little in order to learn how to live the right way .
Top of travel bucket list
The top of my travel bucket list are visiting Japan and Tibet. I have always been fascinated in a zen way of living. Oh and Burning Man!
Outside work, what do you like to do to switch off
I take a long walk with my dogs in the woods every afternoon, and take pleasure in being in nature.
Family time is important to me, and I make sure that my life/work balance is considered.
Looking back over your career, what have been your highlight
The highlight was the day I found my sanctuary. A random set of circumstances lead me to take an alternative route, driving past a to-let sign. I turned left past a beautiful grand house, and opposite some tennis courts was the studio, a converted and extended stable unit, with a wild flower meadow and romantic mown path leading to some grand oak trees. I fell in love instantly, not only with the location, but the potential of who I could become there.
There is always a moment with every bride when I’ve created her vision, and I know that all the hard work, worry and endless hours of hand stitching have paid off. When the deepest of connections happens, and the bride is transported in her mind and heart, standing next to the person she loves. This has to be the highlight for me with every client.
Yes, I drive a sports car. Yes, I have the freedom of being my own boss. But the real highlights of this career is making other people happy, and it fills my soul.
Is there anything you would do differently
There is always a darker, more serious side of me, that wants to come out and play. I think it’s the Alexander McQueen influence in me. My art allows that, and also the red carpet dresses that I’m creating. I think if I were to do things differently, I would have started my art work sooner, but I often think that maybe I didn’t have enough to say then, and the timing is perfect right now.
I would have worried less in the early days if I’d know what I do now. The first 2 years were torture, feeling like I had to have everything figured out, scared to make a mistake, scared to get anything wrong. The loneliness was intense and my inability to share my vision was frustrating. I felt I had to be everywhere and know everything, whilst raising a young daughter and keeping a happy marriage. The standard pressure of being a women in business these days. Now I realise it is possible to have it all, and not be under so much self-inflicted pressure.
What does 2020 look like for you
In 2020 I hope to produce some of my best work to date. My dream is to exhibit at the Satchi gallery and have a Harper’s Bazaar front cover. To dress the stars and provide centred guidance. The change in my business has opened the cage door, allowing me to function as the truest version of myself. As an artist, as a soon to be reiki master, and as a master couturier.
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