Thursday, 26 April 2012

Bush Telegraph 2013 is coming...

Whilst you youngsters are counting your wedding invitations, trying to deduce the myriad of themes, styles and dresses from the typography,  purveyors of fine frocks like myself are drawing a line under 2012 and looking forward to 2013.

I know whether your friends are channelling handmade or haute, rustic or riche, minimal or mahoosive. The dresses are ordered and are sweeping in on waves of glamour, racked like beautiful marionettes waiting to be woken. The fittings diary is booked and Senior Bush's workaholism is off and running.

As I am manually talentless I take no part in the physical pinning and sewing of dresses. I am very happy to join my brides in a fitting with the seamstresses and chip in with useful comments. Oh how Senior Bush and the girls love that...

Precisely what do I do at this time of year? Frankly, I don't think I can remember a time with so many girls shopping early for 2013,  conducting  appointments. The urge to shop is irresistable I know but literally this week has been the first week I have received any new 2013 dresses.

The first is from Anouska G - Elenore. I have been hunting for accessibly priced Packham-esque dresses. Jenny Packham's haute couture standards are never a budget option so this London based label really appealed - this dress has a SRP of £1200.

The second dress to arrive was an absolute beauty - it happened to arrive at the same time as Charlotte and Adam from Rock My Wedding though. The beautiful Brummies were on a scouting party (think Tusken Raider) and they swiped a new dress out of the box!

Source - amusing geek factoids here - but you just need to know they raid you ;)

The dress, were it in the shop, looks like this....

This is the romanatically named 2205 by Tara Keely - very classic, very wearable and SRP of circa £2000.

Clearly the team from Rock My Wedding were just casing the joint when they attended our Postcard from New York event. Check out the paparazzi pictures and approach this group with extreme caution - they WILL make you stylish...

Left to Right Peta Hunt, Editor at Large - You and Your Wedding, Me!!!, Charlotte from Rock My Wedding in the Bridesmaids boutique at Miss Bush

Left to right - Peta Hunt, Miranda Esaon Editor of You and YOur Wedding, Charlotte O'Shea, Adam Crohill - the man at Rock My Wedding

Charlotte - enjoying a cocktail from Shaken not Stirred

Adam Crohill - making off with a goody bag and cocktail...

 Photography by Juliet McKee

Bush Telegraph - The Princess Myth

Source Kick ass Princess Fiona

I had the briefest of exchanges with a bride buying a dress this week on the subject of Princesses.  A lot of non wedding industry readers may think that the interior of  Miss Bush is Princess Land,  the shop sprinkled with illusional glitter and delusional fairy dust.

My discussion  was more market research on my behalf - "would you like to be treated like a princess?" My bride - I would say late 20s/early 30s, London resident and business owner, marrying in cool and auspicious venue - said emphatically 'no'.

Reading around the princess fallacy I have found an interesting piece from a parenting blog - where the author, rather predictably,  is suggesting a parent counteracts the pervasive culture of the Disney Princess by posing six questions.( The subsequent arguments about the blog post discuss the facts regarding children and the influence it has on them - for those with small kids in your life)

Why do princesses always have to be rich?
Why do princesses always look alike?
Why do princesses always have to be pretty?
Don't you think princesses get bored waiting around all the time?
Why don't princesses ever learn how to do anything?
The constant assertion  that wedding dress shops 'make you feel like a Princess' - or ought to - and you should 'jolly well be one' adds to the anxiety for a lot of brides coming in for the first time to try a dress.
I would like to add the grown up questions the the Princess Myth questions
Why do princesses always have to be chaste?
Why do princesses have to be childless?
Why do princesses only have to marry just one prince?
Why do princesses have to be young?
Why do princesses have to be thin?
Why do princesses have to be heterosexual?
"The whole princess myth reinforces very specific ideas of femininity, passivity, body image,  as well as the desire to get married above and beyond any other desire" Source
Another bride that I met this week was torturing herself with worry about finding and buying a dress - believing that the above criteria are applied by us - either overtly or covertly!
Jane Shepherdson of Whistles hosted a recent fashion dinner honouring feminism ( Link to the Guardian coverage here ) which is very timely for me. and I have also been gripped by an overtly feminist and very funny blog Vagenda - (link here) The F word of feminism is rarely used in wedding world - the Guardian article states -
 "she (Jane Shepherdson) is also making a point: fashion is led by and driven by women, and yet feminism is rarely mentioned. This is an industry full of women who are passionate about their careers, as well as about clothes: how nice, to celebrate that."
Exchange fashion for wedding and there is the wedding industry. I have been ruminating on the role of the wedding dress shop, the expectations of the customer and the philosophy of the staff and it never occured to me to articulate and debunk the Princess Myth before.
I do not expect you to be a Princess and I will not treat you as such.  I do not expect you to conform to any of the above questions and I do believe that your wedding and dress is only part of your life. I want to help you feel beautiful and confident not make you Belle or Ariel.  It is possible to have wedding style and feminist substance...

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Bush Telegraph

I have been thinking of how follow up to last week's emotional reaction to an unfair article by a blogger about a fellow wedding retailer. I have been asked to write a few more articles - some trade and some consumer. Here are some early thoughts and some fantastic contributions from a couple of great bloggers that are not seeking to alienate themselves from an industry they purport to be in.

In 25 years of shopkeeping there is a lot of reinvention. adaption and moving with the times to be done. In fashion retailing the no-brainer is the dresses, the sixth sense you get about what to drop and what to buy.
In 2012 a bridal shop has to look like a palace, be staffed by angels and have the robust constitution of a prize fighter with a rock hard jaw. It is no longer acceptable, if it ever was, to sport artifical flower arrangements, border wallpaper and dresses in plastic. The shops have to be as chic and individual as a boutique hotel, have a customer service policy that is faultless, be prepared to work seven days a week if one includes bridal fairs and preferably be a social media marketeer. The competition is fearsome - more shops than are necessary, fewer customers than are needed, increased activity from auction sites and High Street chains wading in.

The stealth taxes like 20% VAT mean that margins are very tight - for your £2000 you are only getting £1600 worth of dress. Silk costs are spiralling, along with fuel and utilities. The only thing you can be very sure of is that UK wages are not following suit.

Yet we all love it - weddings, shopping for weddings, writing about weddings, going to weddings. Playing dress up in a wedding dress shop is a fun, emotional and memorable experience - good or bad. I would therefore appeal for some understanding. Wedding dress shops and their owners are not the billionaire oligarchs of wedding dress world - far from it. They ought not to be treated like playgrounds. Would you walk into a Porsche dealership and complain about the price of a car? You only want to go from A to B after all... No?

Effectively wedding dress shopping is a very different, unique shopping experience.  If we get all Bill Shankly and see it as " a matter of life and death, except more important," take it and oureslves too seriously, do not communicate we are setting ourselves up for a disappointment. A very clever blogger, Quintessentially Bride added to my Blog last week "I would always try to pluck up the courage to tell someone if I felt it was more than my own neurosis and sensitivity to blame for a disappointing experience." We. retailers, brides, bloggers, journalists will create a battleground  and severely reduce our own fun and happiness without a little bit of empathy all round.

Annabel from Love My Dress has found me a great quote from Barack Obama

"Obama acknowledged the emerging influence of blogging upon society by saying "if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, then what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding”

Food for thought? Let me know yours...frank questions gratefully received.

Jenny Packham 'Mimosa' available from September 2012

Thursday, 19 April 2012

It ain't what you do...

I have being trying to work out how to get this document on my blog in the same format as it appears on the PDF file that I send out to brides booking an appointment with me via email or via the website.  My lovely graphic designer Rochelle will be horrified that I have published this in text format. I do have a corporate ID and if anyone else sanctioned this I would be peeved...


Wedding dresses shops can be odd and slightly intimidating in abstract. A luxurious dressing up box or a Little Shop of Horrors? A lot of brides have all sorts of anxieties before coming in for an appointment - am I rich enough, thin enough, young enough, cool enough?  The simple fact is our customers are not 20 year old billionaire's daughters. Our customers are regular clever women that are approaching marriage from a million different backgrounds.

There are some famously haughty shops in the world - on the whole wedding dress shops are not among them. This does not mean however you won't feel slightly intimidated and on edge before your first appointment. Any act or situation that has huge gravitas and effectively defines our femininity done for the first time is likely to cause some anxiety. Like snogging, sex, first bra, first love - if it all went brilliantly well first time we could all stride forth in cool lingerie conquering the world with our hotness.

It doesn't happen that way - I didn't write off boys whilst laying flat on my back thinking 'was that it?' I understood, over time, that communication, expression of feeling and one or two killer moves make the difference - moving mundane to magical.

My point is that when you walk into a wedding dress shop first time you and your assistant will be strangers to each other. I can't speak for other shops or assistants but that relationship accelerates faster than any others. 'The quickest way to know a woman is to go shopping with her ' Within a few minutes - there are confessions of anxiety and life stories. I often see my customers in often no more than pants and heels. In my world this is normal. In the a bride to be's world it is not.

I wrote the FAQ about 18 months ago list to try and allay some fears. It's not sex it's just shopping...

If you are coming to the shop on a Saturday please be aware that you are not having a private
appointment. You will have a spacious and very private fitting room to get changed in but there are
usually two other brides trying on too. If this idea doesn’t appeal please talk to us about a private weekday
appointment or an evening appointment for which there is a small charge.
When you are being helped in and out of dresses one of my very lovely girls or I will be with you. It might
spare your blushes if you remember not to wear the skimpy thong emblazoned with ‘Hello big boy’ for
your appointment. Think about nude tone pants and a good fitting bra WITH straps. (Unless you are a
shameless good time girl – which is fab too.) At Miss Bush the strapless dresses are corseted and we can
simply tuck bra straps down but the softer dresses really need a bra with some uplift.
On a Saturday it is a good idea not to bring family heirlooms, veils or borrowed tiaras.
There is a good selection to try to create the looks you’re after. In addition there are shoes
available in sizes 2 – 9 to try on with the gowns in varying heel heights.
No photos please. This is always contentious. I would rather you didn’t take photos for the following reasons:
1. The shop is very cute and very old. Whilst this creates a great atmosphere it is useless for photography.
Professionals have struggled to get good shots battling the low ceiling beams and mixed light sources.
2. I have worked for a long time to create a blend of labels, styling techniques and top tips for our
customers. I am quite keen to keep the experience, the products and the service private and unique –
quite hard in the days of instant uploads to social media.
3. I stock samples from size 6 to size 18. It is Sod’s Law that the dress you love may not be a perfect fit.
Therefore being girls if we go away from a shop with images of our boobs squashed or our skirts too
tight or conversely with more pins than a Voodoo doll we are likely to obsess about our figures – not the
dress (Or is this just me?)
4. Most dresses are available to view online and your assistant will always give the
proper name for a dress not just our reference.
5. Muriel’s Wedding!!!!!!
My team at Miss Bush has years of experience – the shop launched nearly 24 years ago. The Miss Bush
girls know the collections, the designers and the labels inside out. They all have a brilliant knack of putting
looks together and an ability to handhold even the most nervous brides through different ideas and styles.
They are not scripted and not commissioned. If the girls or I think something looks great we’ll tell you – and
likewise if we know you can do better we’ll tell you that too. In the nicest possible way.
Our reputation is built on having great dresses and providing great service – as with the vast majority
of excellent bridal retailers. In contrast to other bridal retailers our collection of dresses reflects our own personal taste and we definitely try not to be all things to everybody. My team will give their own opinion,

a frank approach, but the aim is to create amazing bridal looks reflecting your personality and subtly
channelling all that’s new and gorgeous in wedding style. The choice of dresses is eclectic yet classic
avoiding carbon-copy brides and detouring from perilous novelty.
We love kids and babies. We have lots of children and grandchildren between us. You are very welcome
to bring them here on a weekday for your appointment. The shop dresses are samples so kids can’t get
sticky fingers on real life dresses and wannabe princesses can play with sparkly things – and you can even
request the shop to yourself! However we would ask if we have no under 10’s on a Saturday in the
main shop - it can get very busy and there is no where to put little ones safely.
Please let us know if you can’t make an appointment – especially a Saturday.
Please don’t bring more than two friends or family without prior arrangement
– the shop can become very crowded and intimidating.
Please make your friends aware of the no photos policy.
Please be aware that Saturday appointments are for an hour.
Train From London Waterloo – Woking. Try and get on a Portsmouth Harbour train – the first stop
is usually Woking. Very quick! There is a cab rank outside but if you want to pre book cabs
the best numbers are 01483 755555 or 01483 715555.
Bus The 515 runs between Guildford and Kingston and stops in Ripley. Agonisingly slow!
Sat Nav – postcode is GU23 6AZ
From London on the A3 take the Wisley exit.
From Portsmouth, Hindhead or Guildford on the A3 take the Ripley Woking Send exit (B2215).
Either way you’ll drive straight into the village and Miss Bush Bridalwear is in the centre next to a
pedestrian crossing and a Pub called The Ship. You actually can’t go wrong.
M25 Jct 10 A3 - southbound in the direction of Guildford/Portsmouth. Almost as soon as
you are on the A3 you’ll see signs for the turning off for Ripley.
Approximate timings are 20 minutes from Wandsworth/top of the A3 on a good day.
5 – 10 minutes from Guildford.
There is on street parking limited to two hours. Alternatively there is parking on the village green, or the big
free and unmarked car park. This is first left off Rose lane, White Hart Meadows, after the British Legion.
The Onslow Arms – Clandon
The Black Swan – Ockham
The Talbot Hotel – Ripley
The Anchor - Pyrford Lock, Wisley,
Woking GU23 6QW 01932 342507
Wisley Gardens
MISS BUSH, HIGH STREET, RIPLEY, SURREY, GU23 6AZ T: 01483 222815 F: 01483 224123

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Turning Rebellion Into Money

Picture credit

Having a pop at shopkeepers is not a new phenomena, Napoleon described England as a 'nation of shopkeepers' to suggest it was unfit for war against France. Source The country has been governed by a shopkeepers daughter in the divisive figure of Margaret Thatcher. The health of our High Streets acts as a barometer for the health of the economy.

As a child I grew up knowing nothing other than a family retail business. My family had two electrical retail businesses operating, still in the 1970s,  a pre war economic model. The company, CF Hall & Co Ltd, bore my grandfather's name and employed my mother, father, elderley aunts, uncles, my grandmother and various seemingly ancient retainers. As babies myself and my siblings were parked outside the shops in prams as the shop never generated salaries large enough for childcare. Customer service, the kind where you know every customer by name, their address and their personal preferences was automatic.

As a young teenager - actually twelve if the truth be known - I was 'made' to work in the shop. This was not a matter of forced labour but economic fact. Money was earnt. The shop I worked in was in an extremely affluent location populated by titled and/or wealthy inhabitants. These customers patronised our shop in the old fashioned meaning of the word and very often patronised me in the more contemporary sense. I 'served' in the shop - I didn't function within an articulated customer service policy.

Growing up in white middle class Surrey can do one of two things. It can make you a lifelong Tory or a rebel. I chose rebel, I chose punk, I chose counter culture. My Dad wanted me to go to University as a pioneer for our family - I wanted art college. The era, the early 80s, gave me a a fabulous set of mouthy left wing role models Morrissy, Paul Weller, Billy Bragg, Siouxsie Sioux, Boy George.

After a year at Art College I ended up at The  University of Warwick in the last few golden years where a poor kid like me from limited means could get their fees paid and a full maintenace grant because of now divorced parents. My natural rebellion and embryonic politics were developed with a fine line in Marxist Feminist rhetoric. Laura Mulvey was a way of life.

Post University I worked extrememly hard for barely more than an intern's salary in London until a surprisingly speedy marriage and even speedier unplanned pregnancy necessitated a move back to Surrey.

Major recessions and life changing moments for me seem to go hand in hand. There was no 4x4  and Venture photo shoot lifestyle for me. Like a lot of Mothers work was not a choice but a financial necessity. I joined my own Mother in her bridal wear business as a temporary measure.

That was nearly eighteen years ago. I didn't start the business because I was in love with weddings or because I wanted to live like a princess in perpetuity. I joined as an employee and I brought to the business an independant feminist streak. A lack of fear in being outspoken. An age very close to the clients - 26 at the time. I bought fashion in a time of frills.

Why, you ask, do I need to explain all of this to you? I have recently read an article that has incensed me so much that I still cannot be calm about it. I very much appreciate the freedom of expression that Blogging brings to the world. There is a line though between opinion and trolling. The article purported to be an undercover investigative piece looking at a wedding dress shop ( not my shop to be absolutely clear) - the first in a series.

The BBC, arbitor of all things fair, has an editorial policy that reads -

"When we make allegations of wrong doing, iniquity or incompetence or lay out a strong and damaging critique of an individual or institution the presumption is that those criticised should be given a "right of reply", that is, given a fair opportunity to respond to the allegations before transmission"

In a new age of social media the law governing what is fair and just is foggy. I accept hurtful and spiteful reviews on Review Centre. These are opinions and are read as such. They have also, on some occasions, been  useful in highlighting areas that need improving. I would still welcome a complaint directly. A letter or email clearly pointing out where Miss Bush has gone wrong and where we can improve. ( A full time receptionist would be one area if the budget allowed - interns wecome!)

I feel that blogs that are set out in a magazine format, accept advertising revenue and move to publish a magazine should have an articulated editorial policy to protect victims from smear campaigns as much as protecting themselves from legal action. I would hate  them to diminish through poor editorial judgement.

The reason for the brief synopsis of my life is to demonstrate a belief in rebellion as a force of good. Free speech as a fundamental right. I also believe that women working in service industries such as retailing do not deserve to be patronised as I was when I was 15. If acting like a rock star, posturing for the praise of strangers, is the driving force behind one's strategy I suggest picking up a guitar.

I am not presuming to talk for all women in bridalwear shops. I know I and my team work long, hard hours - we love playing dress up, we adore the clothes and most of our customers get on with is brilliantly. I fully expect some people not to find my service deferential enough. I refuse to tell you you look beautiful in everything if you don't. I reserve the right to integrity. Once - an only once -  have I asked a customer to leave.

I have stood strong and upright in the shop in the face of huge personal adversity because I have an commitment and obligation to my clients.

This is hardcore

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Jenny Packham 2013 - a cheeky first look

Last week New York hosted the first of the trade Bridal Markets for the new 2013 collections. I would loved to have skipped off Stateside to have a look at the collections from the US designers however I have been tied to the shop and almost literally the kitchen sink!

One of the treats of the trade show for me would have been a first glance at, Miss Bush perennial favourite, Jenny Packham's new season collection. Luckily for me Brides magazine was in NYC and has sneak peeked a few photos for us to collectively lust over long distance.

To check out the rest of their informal show images please follow the link to their website -!photo86
where you can find these images along with glimpses of Vera Wang's scarlet brides.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Postcard From New York - The Shoot and Inspiration

To avoid confusion for non-wedding industry workers the following pictures would be termed a concept, styled or collaborative shoot. This means creating a team of different trades, for eg. photographer, stylist, etc, to create an 'inspiration' shoot. These can take the form of a mock wedding or have more of a fashion editorial feel. At best these can break new ideas and show case genius at worst you want to look away quickly whilst making negative mental notes.

Perhaps my background in the shallow end of design and advertising leads me to expect a clear message and purpose from photo shoot images. Some shoots would seem to be purposeless. My task, as I see it, is to be the 'client' and to set a brief. I could no more 'craft' anything than I could make a dress. So befuddled would I be 'on location' that not one useable image would be produced. A learned friend of mine has described my job as being a curator of  dress collections. I would agree and add that have also hunter-gathered a brilliant team of like minded creatives to realise my ideas without any discernable skill input from me. No 'have-a-go' styling heroics from me.To paraphrase William Morris I struggle to see the point in photos I don't "know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." This shoot had a purpose commercially - to shout New York Style about the JLM Couture brand - I wanted useful and beautiful...

In my constant search for fresh looks, new brands I came across JLM Couture. To be fair they are hardly niche - they are a big US fashion house with a stable of labels. I wasn't trawling degree shows to discover Tara Keely, I don't want to position myself as Isabella Blow.

I will own up to developing a crush on them as they represent a sleek diffusion of New York supremos Vera Wang and Oscar de la Renta. The dresses at their very best steer a path away from the twisted, ruched and draped poly taffeta bestsellers of the ersatz designers on the mass market. The are pleasingly minimal but with a dose or perfume ad pretty.

To make a large song and dance about how much I like the JLM frocks and bridesmaids dresses I decided to hold a trunk show like no other. A shoot followed by a cocktail partyand fashion show.  In an uber competeitive market, where the world and it's mother are opening a bridal shop, the best way to demonstrate the difference at Miss Bush is to get your attention. To show you why we are different - why we are the 'out of town' Browns.

This shoot is supremely creative. I had my best girls on the case. The reason why I think it works is that it started on the premise of beauty. The three models we have used have been scouted by myself and Carolanne Armstrong. We regularly and mercilessly tease each other about our girl crushes - how we fall in love with women's faces. So despite our heterosexuality our lady loves manage to inform our choices. Jade, Jeni amd Ellie's faces are heavenly. Jade's face is beauty with art and intelligence pouring forth, Jeni's face is that of a sex goddess and Ellie face has the perfect pout and is irresistably youthful.

These faces were in place all the time while thinking about the USP for JLM. It's the New York vibe. The dresses are designed and made in New York - fantastically unusual - the benefit for brides being that the deliveries are great and the service second to none.

My mind became preoccupied with New York women, TV shows, films, music and night life. My first thoughts were Park Avenue Princesses - like the Gossip Girl women, a bit of SATC and Bergdorf blondes; Greenwich village girls all beatniks and Joni Mitchell; Wall Street woman - hard edges and Working Girl 80s style.

My Park Avenue Princess stayed. My Greenwich village Joni Mitchell "We had no money. I made my wedding dress... I walked down the aisle brandishing my daisies" moved to Tribeca and became a bit Olsen twin. Wall Street woman didn't work - Jeni, dammit, is too sexy. A tiny frame with a fine bust meant she looked ok at best, slutty at worst in some of the original concepts. So my mind whirled a bit more - I was still obsessing about suiting and masculine looks with her burningly beautiful face making it feminine. Her look is a fashion smoothie. Jeni is Annie Hall, she is Frank Sinatra crooning wedding standard New York New York, she is Elvis and kd lang. Jeni represents the New York of counter culture, freedom and Pride. Miss Bush brides are not always straight so the ambiguity of the gender roles is interesting layer to the shoot.

The colour scheme - it's all about the Taxi. Yellow, black and grey are Miss Bush's colours deliberately chosen to stand away from the twee-crowd.

Once the models were dressed in my head, the looks briefed. the flowers sourced, the location scouted what did I do then? I walked away.

Juliet McKee is a brilliant photographer - I am not. Amy Plank is a great stylist with unwaivering patience and attention to detail - I am better at the bigger picture. Carolanne and Sharon do great make up and hair - I still do GHDs and Rimmel. Gayle Evans is a flower genius - I don't know my aster from elbow. I know what their considerable strengths are individually but as a team they delivered more than I could have hoped for. Did the girls shout NYC style? You bet your bottom dollar they did...

"Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning
And the first thing that I saw
Was the sun through yellow curtains
And a rainbow on the wall" Joni Mitchell

 "Late last night the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi took away my old man " Joni Mitchell

"You told me again you preferred handsome men
but for me you would make an exception. " Leonard Cohen

"...I'm waiting for the sun to shine." Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver

"You're a young girl, you should be at home. You should be dressed up, going out with boys, going to school" Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver


Photography Juliet McKee
Make Up Carolanne Armstrong
Hair Sharon Roberts
Styling Amy Plank
Models Jeni Cook, Ellie Cooper, Jade Puttock
Flowers Bloomingayles
Menswear Hugh Harris
Taxi  Taxi RR Elite via Star Car Hire

Jade wears Jim Hejlm Blush Style 1156 from Miss Bush
Ellie wears Tara Keely Style 2052 from Miss Bush
Jeni wears Hugh Harris suit
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