Photography by Sacha Williams
AF’S SABINA HARPER SITS DOWN WITH TH&TH
‘A modern take on tradition that nods to the bygone era of glamour and decadence‘ – is the perfect introduction to TH&TH. They’re known primarily for their bridesmaid gowns, and I dressed all twelve of mine in their breathtaking designs. But in the back of my mind, I always knew I wanted to shoot the collection myself. And with the need for some magic with all that 2020 has been – that’s exactly what we did. We were also delighted to be able to catch up with Co-Founder Louie Tew on all things TH&TH…
How did the brand begin?
When I (Louie) was planning my wedding in 2014, I struggled to find sophisticated dresses at an affordable price point. Having worked in the fashion industry for 10 years I decided to design my own, and with the help of my friend Ping, who was working for an evening wear production house at the time, together we created the bridesmaid dresses for my big day. Once the photographs had made it onto social media, a wedding magazine got hold of them and asked which brand had made the bridesmaid dresses. Pretty much on the spot we answered, our brand, and TH&TH was born. The third co-founder, Kitty, came on board as Chief Designer and we set about building our brand.
Tell us about your different areas of expertise and how being in different locations works for the brand?
I’m the commercial head of the brand, coming from a fashion management background with a focus predominantly on sales and marketing. Customer service is my ‘magic power’ and I’ll will bend over backwards to solve a problem and get you that dress! Living in Leamington Spa close to the TH&TH warehouse, I also run a lot of the day to day activity.
Kitty is the visionary of the brand and creates our aesthetic and mood, you will find her running our design direction and inspiring our campaigns. Kitty’s background is pure creativity having worked as a senior designer for some of the world’s best dress brands. Having recently moved to Grantham after stints in New York and London she is enjoying a greener and more peaceful life which helps with her design direction.
Ping is the fashion foundation of the brand and manages our development and production. With 15 years experience in occasion wear, she is on the ground in Hong Kong working with our production house to turn our ideas into reality. Having Ping so close to our teams has been crucial to our growth, being able to make decisions quickly and being able to visit the factory floor is very important to us.
As we are 6000 miles apart we run our business via Whatsapp most days, we have a facetime every couple of weeks to check in. What did we do before mobiles?
How do you describe TH&TH for those who are new to the brand?
We describe ourselves as ‘A modern take on tradition’. We look back to bygone era’s of glamour and decadence and inject a modern and contemporary edge to our designs. Our customer looks for timeless style.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
A lot of our inspiration comes from vintage patterns. We adore rifling through Burda pattern boxes. We also look at 1950s Vogue magazine tears and silver screen icons.
What makes you different from the many other options out there?
We give extra everything! Everything we create has been designed by us. We ensure our fabrics are top quality and that our styling detail is high end. We add metres and metres of fabric into our skirts to ensure our dresses look the best they can be. Everything we put into a dress is really considered, they are our babies!
How has COVID and the cancellation, rescheduling and constant government changes to wedding guest numbers impacted your business? What has this time taught you?
It has had a huge impact on our business. In March we were very scared as it seemed like every single bride returned their dresses to us after the postponements and cancellations started. It was a very scary time, every day we were receiving thousands of pounds of returned dresses. We would have been out of business quickly if we didn’t do something quickly. On the day of the Boris lockdown announcement we raced to our warehouse and scrambled to count all of our samples, photoshoot samples and end of line bits and pieces and launched our first ever online sale. It was a real saviour for us in those following months. We’ve had to be super flexible this season, we’ve held a lot of brides’ hands whilst they have been going through turbulent times. Your wedding planning should be full of joy and expectation and currently brides are just feeling worried. It’s taught us that there is no set way of doing business and if we can change parts of our business quickly we will be in a stronger position going into the next season. We’re just very VERY excited for 2021 now!
You offer bespoke options. We’d love to know more…
We offer a bespoke colour service, where you can create any of our collection dresses in any colour. We also offer a totally bespoke service where our customer can design from scratch and create her ultimate dream gown with us.
You’re part of the Selfridges Project Earth launch. Tell us about that? How did that happen? What made you pick a peach gown?
This really is our ‘Pinch Me’ moment. We’ve been partnered with the groundbreaking rental platform Hurr since their launch and when they told us they were opening up a rental concession in Selfridges and had chosen our dress for their window display we almost fainted – we were so excited. We have an edit of one-off TH&TH dresses available to rent with Hurr. These are gowns that cannot be bought, so we made our best selling Luna gown in a Princess Peach colour to add to this curated collection.
Wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses are often known as one time only items especially once they’ve been fitted and altered to the wearer’s body. How can people re-wear and re-invent their TH&TH gowns?
We design our dresses with multiple uses in mind. We design with a contemporary feel so the dresses can be worn again to other occasions. We have also seen our customers shorten our dresses to create a cocktail look which looks fabulous.
When planning my wedding I saw such a lack of diversity across the bridal industry, from skin colour to body shapes. It was quite disheartening as a bride to be of colour and with an international group of bridesmaids who are a mix of Bajan, French, Lithuanian, Bermudian, Turkish, Maltese, Greek, Indian and more… We were delighted to see a beautiful shoot on your stories recently featuring three black women. Have recent events and the BLM movement of 2020 made you think differently about how you connect with your audience and customer?
We have always felt strongly about creating a brand that reflects all women. The lack of diversity in the bridal industry has been apparent for too long and we are pushing against this. We know we can do more and with the recent BLM movement we stopped and looked inward and dissected everything about our brand and we noticed elements that were not as inclusive as we had believed. For instance, our best list of suppliers had a minimal amount of black owned businesses on it, so we researched and spoke to some fantastic suppliers who we can now recommend and elevate. We want to use our position in the industry to celebrate the joy and beauty of all women and we are working hard to ensure we represent everyone.
The brand is evolving so much. What’s new and what’s next?
We can’t believe we are still only in our 3rd year. So much has happened! We are about to launch our new made to order range. An edit of show stopping gowns that we will only make limited numbers of. We are conscious of over production so a made to order collection will ensure we only make what is needed. We are also expanding our bridal range. We get so many requests for registry second dresses, that we will be launching a small range of new ivory gowns. Flower Girl outfits and accessories are also on the radar for 2021!
What advice would you give to anyone starting their own bridal business?
Be consistent, be relentless and bring the magic!
What advice would you give to women / friends thinking to work together?
Ensure you work out what your working style is before you do anything together. Once you’ve worked out your work personality you will avoid the clashes and frustrations that can build up when you don’t understand each others way of doing things. Reasoning with each other is key.
Quick fire questions:
- Favourite quote? ‘If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help build theirs.’ Tony Gaskins
- Favourite first dance song? – Elbow – One Day Like This
- Favourite wedding themed show or film / moment? Father Of The Bride
- Cocktail of choice? Mojito
- If you could be anywhere, where would you be? On Rossnowlagh beach in Donegal. A total escape to the wild ocean. #acccessFASHIONdaydreams