A week ago this morning (taking the 5 hours difference between New York and London that is), I was guest at the Claire Pettibone runway show for the launch of her glorious new ‘Gothic Angel’ collection for 2015. The show was a trade event that took place during New York Bridal Fashion week – an opportunity for press (so many press!) and suppliers who want to stock gowns from this glorious new collection for brides to be able to buy from wedding boutiques from early next year.
Friday morning was the first day we had woken up in New York (I was in Manhattan with my husband Philip, part on pleasure to celebrate my birthday, part on business to support our sponsors and discover exciting new brands). The sun was shining, the air was warm and there was a feeling of excitement and anticipation about the city. We were amongst the first to arrive at the impressive Highline Hotel. Described as a ‘hip boutique hotel in a converted 1865 dorm that boasts a collegiate vibe’ – the space where Claire was showing her new collection had the feel of a de-commissioned Church – all high ceilings and stained glass windows. It was a majestic and elegant space, chosen with clear intent to perfectly set the tone and backdrop for Claire’s new collection to come to life in front of their first big crowd of admirers.
‘Notre Dame, Westminster Abbey, Milan and St Patrick’s – the Gothic cathedral imparts a majesty and splendour designed to enlighten and inspired mankind. Glimpse heavenly skies through intricate stained glass windows, while silver and gilded gold impart opulence beyond our dreams. Ornate facades and intricate leaded glass and carvings are interpreted into French lace and silk embroidery.
The iconic angel comes to life, not on the feathered wings of an imagined future, but here and now, as a powerful and beautiful Woman, welcoming us to Heaven on Earth’
(Claire Pettibone on her ‘Gothic Angels collection)
The show opened with the stirring notes of Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ – the sound of which always moves – such an expressive and emotional piece of music and one selected on this occasion to clearly pay homage to the designer herself. The music that followed however didn’t detract for one second from the incredible gowns that were to grace the runway for the next 20 minutes of pure magic. I was in my element.
There were twenty gowns in all – each of them bearing the Claire Pettibone signature – that ethereal whimsical aesthetic that Pettibone has become so well known for, inspired by her fondness for fairytales and all things mythical. I can picture Lady Galadriel floating through the enchanted forest in one of these gowns, just as much as I can a beautiful bride making her way effortlessly down the aisle to her emotional groom.
Each of the gowns was named after their iconic angelic and gothic cathedral inspirations. Raphaella, seen above and below, was the first gown to truly take my breath away with it’s appliqued angel’s inspired winged sleeves. The Notre Dame gown, the first dress pictured on this page, was Claire’s show-stopper, the most exquisite long sleeved French sky blue and black lace with stained glass beading and illusion back. It drew gasps from the crowd and the press cameras went into overdrive as this particular gown made it’s heavenly entrance at the top of the runway.
It’s easy to fall in love with Claire Pettibone – her slight shyness and lack of any sense of ‘celebrity’ and her unassuming nature are two of the qualities I love her for the most. I still remember meeting her in person for the first time, three and a half years ago – once again during bridal fashion week in New York. I’d already ensconced myself deep in to Claire’s fan-girl world by then and was a little bit star-struck to realise the lady I’d been chatting to at her exhibition stand was the designer herself. Cue a rather embarrassing few moments that involved me fluffing my ‘oh hiiiii’ introductory lines completely and going utterly beetroot red, whilst Claire giggled as she kindly overlooked my faux pas.
Claire is as stellar a super star as you can get in the international bridal fashion world – and yet if you met her in person having no idea what she looks like, you’d have no idea just how popular she is, how revered her designs are by brides, suppliers and industry peers all over the world
As the models sashayed effortlessly past our front row chairs (how lucky?), my husband leaned towards me and whispered ‘The backs! Beautiful!’. The illusion backs (you know, the kind of fabric that is ‘barely there’) in the Gothic Angels collection were simply exquisite. I don’t know any other designer who does this aspect of design as well as Claire, it’s part of what makes her designs so strong and immediately recognisable. A truly elegant and feminine bit of wow-factor.
I need to mention the attention to detail that had gone in to making the whole experience for anyone who attended this show a truly wonderful one. Upon arriving, a beautiful ribbon tied box had been positioned atop each seat, with a pretty flower resting on top. Inside the box were healthy yummy snacks and chocolate treats, make-up samples, bottled water and little lavender pouches.
Model’s hair and makeup was graceful and elegant with an air of youthfulness, and perfectly styled to suit the show. Think pink cherub lips and cheeks and a fresh dewy-look foundation with hair loosely gathered up, sometimes plaited, but the whole look and feel was completely translatable for any bride planning her wedding today.
I was also so delighted that Claire had teamed up with the wonderful Emmy shoes for the show – every single model wore a pair of Emmy’s elegant heels that were the most splendid match for these divine gowns.
I know these dresses are going to represent Claire’s most successful collection yet – it is such a strong, cohesive set of designs that captivate and beguile. I’m absolutely delighted for this charming and most talented of designer’s and genuinely love to watch her and her incomparable brand go from strength to strength.
Claire Pettibone is based in Los Angeles with stockists all over the world. LA based brides, you can be amongst the first to view this collection in full via Claire’s primary store, ‘The Castle’ on 24 and 25 October – full details here. British brides – you can contact your nearest Claire Pettibone stockist via this page to find out when the collection will be in store and available to try on for your 2015+ weddings. Claire’s UK based distributor is Russsell at Blackburn Bridal. UK based stockists should drop Russell a line if you are interested in carrying any of these beautiful new designs in store from next year.
Our deepest of thanks to both Claire Pettibone and her husband Guy for making Philip and I both feel so welcome at this beautiful show. We had the very best time and I’m so thrilled to be able to share these images with our readers today and speak from the heart about how moved and inspired I was by this whole collection.
I thought I’d finish with a couple of the Instagram videos I took during the finale of the show – seeing them move and come to life really helps to better-understand the most beautiful nature of these gowns…
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this new collection. Are you a Claire Pettibone fan-girl like me?