On a modular approach to bridalwear
Founded in early 2019 by designers Amy Trinh and Evan Phillips, WED is a London based duo pushing occasion wear into the future, by addressing the ‘one-day-dress’ concept
Amy and Evan met at Central Saint Martins studying fashion design together. After graduating they went their separate ways for a few years. Amy went on to work for Stella McCartney, COS, and Susan Fang. Evan went on to pursue an MA and then worked for Richard Quinn and Simone Rocha. Once Amy got engaged, the duo decided to come together and tackle the bridal wear gap in the market, which led to the creation of WED – a surrealist bridal brand like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
What narrative are you intending to portray with WED?
WED was formed because we wanted an alternative to what was out there, a shift from the whole ‘princess’ thing or the casual white dress. We felt the need for an in-between that wasn’t fully addressed: something special with an element of ready-to-wear that you can also wear again.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
We like to be very hands-on from start to finish, from pattern to final sample. Exploring techniques – for example looking into automatic writing – is usually the basis of our inspiration that then translates into experimenting into the art of draping. We prefer to just do instead of thinking too much about the desired outcome. We start by having a story for each season (for example exploring a spiral) and then we sit back and enjoy the process of seeing where our exploration goes. Generally, we don’t like working from sketches because we feel that by doing so we’ve already limited your possibilities. We just scribble and see where it goes so it isn’t as regimented; then we play with the fabric from there. Seeing what happens without an expected outcome is exciting and fun but sometimes it doesn’t work out so we just try again and explore different methods.
Can you recommend any books, films or exhibitions that have influenced you?
It’s been such a long time since we’ve been to any physical exhibitions or anything which is quite sad. The last exhibition I went to was the day before lockdown actually. I saw the Dora Maar exhibition at the Tate which was great. It reminds me that we should take a break and have a look at new exhibitions which are out now! We also like books like Thought Forms by Annie Besant. It’s a really obscure book that you would find in like a crystal shop and the images are formed around the visualisation of thoughts, experiences, emotions and music. We tend to focus more on techniques rather than aesthetics. Abstract ideas tend to take our fancy more than an obvious visual image, so our collections are composed of techniques, drapes and manipulations.
Amy, prior to your own engagement and looking for a wedding dress were you planning on working with occasion wear / bridal wear?
I actually used to make jokes in school about doing bridal wear because it was stigmatised for being so ‘uncool’. But the more we talked about it we realised we could turn it into a more high-fashion-focused medium and give it relevancy. Evan also said he would never do bridal wear so I guess we both surprised ourselves.
Do you have a different process when creating bespoke pieces (for clientele like Celeste) as opposed to creating garments for your main collections?
Yes, for sure. It former involves more sketches. We still do 3D mock-ups, but definitely more sketches than just scribbles. It all depends on how much the client knows what they want but we never start from initial drawing. Celeste and her team had a clear vision and references which were already based on WED designs, so the process flowed in a very organic manner.
You worked for Stella McCartney and Simone Rocha; how does the process differ from conventional design studios?
We take elements from what we have learned through other people or design studios. We have a very close and trusting relationship so we always check in with each other. Just like other studios we have very open conversations to make sure our thoughts are aligned. We don’t envision the final outcome when we start. Everything develops over the collection and we mostly go with our gut feelings and what feels relevant to us.
Everything develops over the collection and we mostly go with our gut feelings and what feels relevant to us.
Working as a duo, do you find your personal aesthetics ever conflict when designing? How do you work collaboratively?
We never have conflicts actually. We’re both always willing to try something out if the other believes in it. It’s obvious if something doesn’t work and then we don’t push it, but to get there we must go through the stages of demonstration of why something is a good idea or not. You can’t always see the potential until the project comes to fruition. Firstly, we think about form in relation to the body. We start from the idea of fabric manipulation then take it to pattern. Usually, we drape separately at first, fit together and then the process turns technical. The initial drapes are very abstract and make no sense but then we build together from manipulation. We’re always going backward and forward and adjusting.
What difficulties do you face as a smaller brand?
Every garment has a challenge. Working at a small-scale means that sometimes not all garments work together, or that the pieces aren’t fully aligned into a cohesive collection. In a large company it is easier to assure consistency as you have multiple stories in which to translate the collection, but when everything has to work together and tell a story on a smaller product scale it is more difficult to find the balance that works. WED is a pioneer in the future of bridal wear and the ways in which consumers view the commemoration of unity and partnership.
How do you design for inclusivity for the different marital unions?
Anyone can come to WED with heirloom pieces that they want to rework for a particular day or occasion. Although we cater to bridal wear, WED fits into a broader spectrum. The concept of marriage has changed. It is no longer just a traditional ceremony between two straight people. Now with civil unionships you can get married in jeans and a t-shirt and you might not refer to yourself as a bride anymore. WED is for the people who don’t see themselves limited by tradition. It’s for those looking outside the box, those who don’t want to follow what was once the only option. After the wedding day, the garment becomes occasion wear but that is totally down to the wearer. We believe it is the wearer who should dictate their wedding day and the utility of their garments after the event.
We believe it is the wearer who should dictate their wedding day and the utility of their garments after the event.
Surrealism plays a large role in WED’s aesthetic. Are there any particular surrealist artists who inspire you?
Surrealist artists who are a fixture on our mood boards are Dorothea Tanning, Dora Maar, Lee Miller, Man Ray and Joan Miró. The artists don’t usually inform our designs though. We use the images to set the mood for the collection rather than using them as rigid references.
How was it working with Fashion Revolution earlier this year? Since upcycling and sustainability is at the core of your brand, is this a partnership you plan on continuing in the future?
We’ve now worked with them twice. It’s nice to work with an organisation with such a great mission. They’re doing the hard work that needs to be done. We made two films in collaboration with Fashion Revolution and Stephen Walters (the mill that WED works with). The first film was an open studio film about WED’s practices and transparency. The film explains how everything works and how the clothes are made, showcasing every stage of the process. We have a very transparent chain and are completely involved in the business – WED is more on the lines of a dressmaker than a large brand that has a complicated supply chain that you can’t trace or hold accountable. It was a really great collaboration so we would definitely work with them again if the opportunity arises.
Can you talk us through your experience with Sarabande Foundation and the importance of these initiatives for young designers starting out?
Sarabande Foundation is great because it subsidises rent, offers support, opportunities, and helps teaming up creatives with companies and industries, which is essential when starting out. Without access to these, it is difficult to pursue your dream because there are so many barriers in fashion if you don’t have the right connections or funds to be able to crack the industry. That type of support is really helpful. Having the space and opportunity to be able to do whatever you want without restrictions is invaluable. It helps you realise your goals faster because you have less obstacles to distract you from the goal. Sarabande helped us get to another level both mentally and physically. Otherwise, we would still be in Amy’s flat working from her kitchen.
In recent years couture has lost its value and fast-paced consumerism has replaced intricate high-fashion. It feels that with WED you are not just reviving couture, but also pushing the conversation forward in term of both sustainability (materialistically, wearability and durability) and inclusivity. What do you hope for the future of fashion?
What we saw happening on Black Friday with fast-fashion brands was simply repulsive to us, as we could not comprehend how anyone could place such little value on clothes. Because we do so much work from the very beginning of development to the actual making of physical samples, we understand how much work goes into these things. The hours, skill and craft that goes into manufacturing. To value clothes as little as 20p is shocking, as it means that these brands do not value the work involved in making the clothes, the craftspeople and the designers. It is a shame that although there is so much done in in making a good headway for sustainability, we have situations like these that take us back. This makes the demand for cheaper clothes more prevalent. It exacerbates throwaway fashion. But it also highlights that we need to do more to show what goes behind making clothes, the art and craft behind it. People need to see clothes as more than just a one-wear thing. It is interesting to me that every day people aspire to have lots of clothes so that they do not appear to wear a garment more than once on social media.
And lastly, how would you describe your personal daily styles?
What would you normally wear to the studio or to a special occasion? Our personal daily style is motivated by comfort and utility. We wear what will make it easy for us to do our job. We haven’t had any special occasion for a while, but I (Amy) wear WED quite often to work paired with trainers – but not in a Lily Allen type of way!