“I love working with brides who want to escape the typical bridal gown. The kind of bride who knows her worth and places a high value on exclusivity, self confidence and comfort without worrying about how she looks. I, in term, provide the added value of expertise, knowledge and creativity. Allowing my clients the option to consider issues such as sustainability through design, with a gown that can be seamlessly remodelled post wedding into a dress that can be reworn. A Cynthia Grafton-Holt bride is a forward thinking bride who stands way ahead of the crowds. She is privileged, confident and adored in a dress that is every bit as unique as herself; from knowing her wedding dress is exclusively designed and perfectly fitted in all the right places, she is free to relax and enjoy the celebration with imbued confidence.”
SO WHAT INSPIRED ME TO BECOME A WEDDING DRESSMAKER?
I’m from a small town in the West Midlands where I was born. My parents arrived in the UK in the 1960’s, part of the ‘Windrush generation’ who were invited to come to Britain where they could find work and build a better life for themselves.
Growing up, I remember quite vividly how Saturday night was party night. Where the women would dress like they hadn’t a care in the world. They were the true masters of innovation and fashion on a budget. They couldn’t afford designer labels and worked hard in the local factories, where every penny earned went towards raising their families in the UK and sending money for those who were left ‘back home’.
Looking back fondly, I’d have to rename them the true ‘Queens of Crinoline’. Their gowns & frocks were beyond gorgeous. They were ingenious at recreating copies of Dior and English royalty. If the Queen, Princess Margaret or Shirley Bassey wore it, so would they. I loved their inventiveness and how they would rework their gowns to make their spend go further. The would rip the petticoats from old dresses into strips to use for ruffling on a new design… there was nothing that couldn’t be done. Even marbles would be covered with fabric and used as glass buttons and dresses weren’t abandoned but handed down and passed on with pride. It didn’t matter who you were, or what size you were – none of that mattered. What was important, was the fact that they could live their best dream life, irrespective of anything else. These were the women who could make even ugly look beautiful.
Working in the fashion industry for many years for high end designers enabled me to master the skills required to create high quality garments from luxury fabrics. And that experience means that I am one a few highly skilled London Wedding Dressmakers & Designers who can achieve impeccably fitted gowns with appropriate balance and style for the individual. Handcrafting bespoke gowns for high profile clients is an art form. There have been occasions where I have created gowns for clients whom I have never even meet in person; requiring indepth understanding of both the clients needs and the job itself, to be able to cut and fit remotely, is dressmaking at a higher level. Of my most favored skill (that my clients benefit from), is my ability to create discreet internal corsetry that is supportive, redefines the waistline and elongates the body totally without surgery.
In short, I could [probably] craft any gown with minimal fittings [one of which could take place online] having done so many times over the years. But there is nothing that I enjoy more than working one-to-one with clients and the joy of seeing their transformation as the gown progresses at each fitting.
Providing my clients with peace of mind and trust is high on my list. I am a member of the Guild of Master Craftsman. A body whose work it is to enable the public to distinguish the work of a qualified craftsman from those who are not.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY AND WHAT I ENJOYED MOST?
I loved every minute. Its a tough industry to survive in and totally unforgiving if you don’t have what it takes.
From my time working with some of the most talented Fashion Designers in the business and also from teaching others, I fully appreciate why the designer, as visionary, must be applauded for their work. But equally saddened at how slow the industry has been to recognise the work of the skills that enable the designers vision to arrive on a stage; as that is ultimately where the true art lies.
It has taken me years to acknowledge just how valuable my skills are but also, I just needed to get to the stage where I had the confidence to step out into my own limelight. It is a challenging and demanding role, that changes every day with the requirements of the current job in hand, that I wouldn’t change for the world.
DID I MAKE MY OWN WEDDING DRESS?
Yes. It was the most difficult dress I have ever made and I am not ashamed to say that I was a nightmare to make for. I kept changing my mind right down to the final week. I had no wedding dress budget. My [now] husband reckoned that if I was such a wedding dress connoisseur then I would’nt need a budget (funny how men think isn’t it?)
It was beyond stressful to work on my own dress and to design and make the dresses for my bridesmaids plus design the wedding day stationery and rsvp’s too. We did have 12 months between finding the venue and the wedding date but that time went by in a heartbeat – so I didn’t have nearly as much time as I would have liked.
WHAT SORT OF QUALITIES DO I LOOK FOR IN OTHER PEOPLE?
Gentleness, openness and the integrity of Nelson Mandela. I just love honesty – the kind that makes you move mountains. I adore Michelle Obama’s style and down to earth approachable personality, which is what I want my clients to feel when they are with me. I think above all things respectfulness tops the list. I just appreciate when people treat each other with the same levels of respect as they have received.
MY THREE FAVOURITE WORDS
Chocolate with nuts ♥
Music | Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Mary Jane Blige, Aretha Franklin, Stormzy ” I’m never too big for my boots..”
Shopping – Any day of the week – because I am worth it!
WHO IS THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU HAVE MADE DRESSES FOR ?
Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon, Rosamund Pike, Linda Evangelista. And of course a few Russian oligarchs whilst working for Ralph and Russo – but I never even got to see those as they are whisked away the moment they are finished.
AS A WEDDING DRESSMAKER WHAT WOULD BE MY DREAM PROJECT ?
To make a dress where there is no budget and to have my dream team help me to make it….it would be a true work of art – created from my heart. In fact, I think I would love to do a famous wedding dress, in my own right as a designer – just to be proud and to be able to say I did that! – I’m still working on that one btw.
WHAT I LOVE DOING MOST WHEN I’M NOT WORKING?
Ideally? Lying on a Caribbean beach with sand running through my toes, my boom box, a rum punch and a great book..
“Cynthia used her natural passion and enthusiasm to create something quite special. The whole experience with Cynthia was so enjoyable as she is a wonderful lady who puts so much energy in to her work which is truly natural and unforced. She is great fun and we feel blessed to have met Cynthia and benefit from her services“.
J Harvey | Berkshire