Travel and shopping go together like brunch and Bellinis, like great handbags and Jimmy Choo stilettos…. Like Lady and Gaga. If there’s one thing that should have become clear by now to anyone who reads this blog, it is my firm conviction that shopping is not merely an afterthought related to travel, it is a reason in and of itself to travel. Which brings me to the couture point of this week’s blog.
A few days ago on a rainy afternoon in London, I had the most unexpected treat. One of my dearest girlfriends who happened to be in London at the same time, invited me to meet up with her at the cozy London studio of bridal couturier Gwen Russell to offer my gay-vice at a fitting for the romantically epic bridal gown she will soon be wearing down the aisle. Having heard so much about this gown for the last year and a half, I of course had to accept the invitation if only out of curiosity. Besides, what type of good gay friend would I be if I wasn’t there to help my girlfriends prepare for their wedding days (of which there have been many…though I will not use that fact as an opportunity to digress…nor will I expect any special thanks on account of it)?
The treat of the afternoon turned out to not only be that I finally got to see my girlfriend’s stunning gown in all its intricate loveliness but that I also got a crash course in 18th century couture from the disarmingly charming and delightfully Scottish Gwen Russell, whose creations have appeared in film on everyone from Michelle Pfeiffer, Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett to Michelle Williams, Christina Ricci and Helena Bonham-Carter.
Remember those wonderfully intricate period gowns that Michelle Pfeiffer and Glenn Close wore in Dangerous Liaisons? Or the wedding gown that Christina Ricci wore in Penelope? What about the spectacular costumes that helped Cate Blanchett bring Elizabeth to life? Well those were all the fabulous handiwork of Russell who is crafting a meticulously authentic 18th century wedding gown for my friend’s fairy tale wedding which will take place this fall at a chateau in the France’s picturesque Loire Valley.
Every detail, every stitch and every inch of fabric…right down to the corset, the lace, the garters and the stockings… is being constructed as true as is humanly possible to the way it would have been done in the 18th century and it is a marvel to behold. Equally spellbinding is Russell’s calming temperament which I am pretty certain has disarmed more than a few battle-scarred Bridezillas and temperamental starlets over the years.
Flipping through a book of photographs documenting Russell’s volumes of wedding gown creations through the years, what the designer herself explained to me became wholly evident — she genuinely collaborates with the brides she works with to create the fantasies they have dreamed about. And that is what defines her style. From creations that are period to contemporary or classic to Hollywood glamour, Gwen Russell is a dream weaver and that is why my gut told me you absolutely needed to know about her.
Whether you‘re planning a wedding or just in the market for something special for a special occasion…an appointment with Gwen Russell might certainly be in order on your next visit to London because nothing says Living Wells better than treating oneself to a bit of finely crafted couture.
All together now…Amen.
Find out more about Gwen Russell at www.gwenrussell.com.