Spotlight on: Holly Winter

This weeks spotlight is on wedding dress maker Holly Winter:

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m 40 and live in Farnborough in Hampshire with my husband Paul and our two children, two cats, and a hamster. When I’m not sewing, I swim, do yoga, wrangle the children or go for big country walks with the family.

How did you get into dressmaking?

My mum and grandma taught me to sew when I was little and I’ve been sewing since I could write. I’d make outfits for my toys and upcycle clothes that I grew out of into new outfits. I did GCSE Textiles at school (I got an A) and I continued making clothes; not only because I enjoyed it but being 5’9″, I simply couldn’t buy anything that fitted me properly.

What made you want to start a business?

It happened completely by accident; dressmaking was my hobby and it never crossed my mind to do it as a job. I had a PR and copywriting career spanning almost two decades but quit to be a stay-at-home mum in December 2015 and perhaps pick up the odd bit of freelance copywriting. Three months later, I was on a London shopping trip with my two besties and kept getting stopped by strangers complimenting me on my dress, which I’d made. The third actually asked me to make one for her.

My friends insisted this was what I should be doing so I set up a Facebook page on a whim and was suddenly receiving orders from around the world. I apparently had a viable business out of nowhere.

What’s your biggest success or achievement so far?

The successes come in the little things. Every thank-you card I receive from a bride or prom queen telling me I created her dream dress is a triumph. Appearing in the media (Huffpost, BBC, Woman & Home, Metro, The Sun and others this year) has been exciting. One of my favourite brands, Irregular Choice, called my work, “Amazing,” and I now blog for one of my favourite fabric suppliers, Minerva.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I sew for myself! It’s still my hobby.

What’s next for you/your business?

I’m collaborating with other wedding industry professionals on a photo shoot of my latest ‘not dress’ bridal wear.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Saying no. I’m a sucker for a bride in a pickle and don’t like turning anyone away. Even though I turned away more work than I took on this year, I was still doing the odd all-nighter to fit everything in during peak season.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

Getting to know my brides at such an exciting time in their lives to design and create their perfect wedding dress (or trousers, jumpsuit, playsuit, veil, etc). It’s a very intimate process so my relationship with them is somewhat expedited and many have become good friends.

What advice would you give to people starting out?

Don’t be afraid of not having a plan. My business began when, for the first time in my life, I didn’t have a goal. Before, I had always been aiming for the next goal, be that an exam, the next promotion or pay rise or whatever. I’ve just gone with the flow with my business, doing more of the work I like most and dropping what doesn’t work so well. I’ve never been happier.

You can see more of Holly’s work on her website, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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