Last night I had the privilege to attend a Maggie Semple night at the studio of bespoke dressmaker Susie Stone. Both of these wonderful women are after my own heart, as they both hold the story and the memories of clothing as dear. Maggie Semple OBE, a maven who has worked throughout her career in education, media and the arts, got thinking about the stories behind our clothes. This led to her creating a special limited edition book, and the Semple Secrets project, which is designed to encourage women to share their stories about life, through those very special clothes.
Throughout the Semple Secrets journey, Maggie is finding interesting women to share their stories, and this time the turn was Susie’s. At only 26, Susie already has a successful business, passion and determination. Susie brings that special, individual feel back to dressmaking. As a client of her’s you can go in and talk to her about what you want, she will help you with what suits your body type, you then choose a dress shape from one of her 12 toiles, and can add your own touches to it, such as changing the neckline, the sleeve length or hem length. You then choose the fabric, she has over 400 swatches to choose from, all her fabrics are sourced from the UK as she believes in supporting British industries. The process is very collaborative, as you get to design the dress together. About a month from when you first walked in, after a few fittings, giggles and cups of tea with Susie, you will have your own very special, unique dress.
Susie grew up in a family of fashion, her father worked at Marks and Spencers for most of his career, staring as a trainee and working up to Managing Director. Hearing Susie talk about her childhood, her inspiration (a very chic grandmother) and her journey to creating the studio, was made all the more special by her father’s presence in the audience. When Maggie invited him to add something about Susie’s journey, Lord Andrew Stone, said something to this affect. It is about finding something creative, and something where you can give love as well as receive it. That really stuck out for me, as I have found in my own path that the need to join up being creative and giving back to the world has been the basis of many of my choices, and brought a depth of joy to my work.
As Susie shared her stories about two items of clothing from her own wardrobe, she revealed the two sides of her. Her items were both vintage dresses from when she lived in Toronto (you will be able to learn more about these through Maggie Semple’s project), one a glamourous prom dress that speak of disney princess, and the other a very funky, stylish and practical shirt dress. We discussed the idea of the dream versus who we really are.
Susie Stone is an ethical fashion designer, not in the way that you might find her exhibiting at Estethica, but because of the love, care and thought that goes into everything that she makes. She takes you back to the days when everyone had a dressmaker, who takes care to bring out the best of your shape and style. Her clothes are designed to be loved, mended and handed down through the generations. She quoted Yves Saint Laurent who said “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” Susie’s work is about personal style, and confidence.
As well as being Susie’s newest client (I have so many ideas of dresses I want her to make, she will certainly be one of my twenty purchases this year!), we have already started talking about collaborating, so hopefully you will be hearing more about Susie from me soon!
As for Semple Stories, I am delighted to be hosting an event with Maggie in March, where we will talk about my journey and of course my wardrobe – details to follow soon.