Interview with designer dressmaker, Mette Baillie

This month award-winning Mette Baillie of Edinburgh-based Freja Designer Dressmaking tells us all about her business, and has a special offer for McBeth Photography customers:

1. You’ve been designing wedding gowns for ten years. What changes have you seen in that time?
I feel people are becoming more adventurous and individual. When you look at wedding pictures from 15 years ago you can say exactly what year they got married; there was one style with a few variations for that year, or couple of years. Today, it’s much more individual. Brides take inspiration from different historical periods, or another theme to influence their wedding dress, and they try to get this theme to tie in with the whole wedding.

2. How would you describe your designs?
I try to get to know the bride and her ideas about her wedding, and then I try to understand how she feels about her body.  I always think it is my most important job to make the best dress for that bride, not for any bride that season.  My designs also depends on what fabric the bride likes … I love to mix heavy, light, floaty with stiff, see-through with opaque … all of this is what gives my dresses a lot of detail, rather than a lot of added on extras. A lot of people don’t quite understand the service we offer till they have tried it as it is such a different way of buying clothes.   When I make a dress for you, you are part of the process of developing the garment, from using fairtrade silks to getting it to fit to the last millimetre.  It is very different to when you buy a wedding dress or bridesmaid dress or mother of the bride outfit in the shops.  Hardly any companies have production in the UK any longer, so you may want to consider the fact that your wedding garments could be made in a sweat shop in the Far East.  I obviously feel it is both the most environmentally-friendly and the most conscientious choice for the modern bride.

3. What is the price range of your wedding gowns?
My dresses come in a lot of different price ranges, because I work with such individual styles.  I have made a lovely simple linen dress for a beach wedding, so that would never be very pricey.  However the average price for a wedding dress is probably around £1500.

4. What is the most important advice you can you give brides when selecting their wedding dress?
Use the information you have from every-day dressing e.g. if you do not like to have your arms uncovered, do not chose strapless.   If you have a special need for certain underwear, then that should be taken into consideration.  Other than that I think it is important that you make the most of your figure as it is.  If you have bigger hips, try and have some detail on your upper body to draw the eyes to your best features.  And then celebrate your best features, don’t get hung up about what you would like to change about yourself.

5. Have you ever designed for anyone famous?
I have a lot of famous people on my books, more so as regular clients, but I have confidentiality agreement with those people!

6. Please tell us a little about yourself, your background and how you developed your business.
I trained as a fashion designer in Denmark.  My degree is in haute couture, so it’s about making one of each garment rather than thousands of each style. I worked for a small fashion house in Copenhagen after my graduation and then I worked as a pattern cutter for Marks & Spencer ladies wear.  This was when I decided I wanted to set up my own business, making individually tailored designs.  I set up ten years ago, which was part-time in the beginning and I was working from home. It was a challenging time … I worked a lot of hours and I had dresses stored all over my tiny flat. Then I got premises in 164 Dundas Street in Edinburgh, and soon the business grew.  I now have three employees.   We make a lot of wedding dresses, bridesmaid’s dresses, mother of the bride and groom outfits. 

7. You recently won the 2009 VOWS award for bridal dress design.  Please tell us about your award.
I won the VOWS 2009 and it was a great achievement.  We are by far the smallest company in the category, but this means we can keep very close contact to the bride and the whole bridal party and I think that has helped.  The VOWS goes into so many aspects of the business, such as concern for the environment, the staff, and the general procedures of having a dress made.   However most of all, it is about the service we give to the brides, and the brides of 2009 said we were the best.  So it is a great honour that they all took the time out to fill in the form and say that.

8. Do you have any interesting anecdotes from your years as a wedding dress designer?
I have a lovely story from a wedding in 2009 where I had promised to come and help the whole bridal party get ready on the day.  When everyone else had gone to the church, I was left with the bride and her father and it started to rain heavily.  It was pretty stressful to help the bride into the car without getting her covered in mud, but we managed it and the car drove off.  Then I turned around and saw that her flowers were still sitting on the front step!  So I jumped in the car and drove very fast to the church, parked badly and ran up the path.  I reached the church door just as the bride was about to walk in, and I passed her the flowers. The gratitude in her face was worth it all. She had a wonderful day, and it was lovely to have participated in making it so special.

Next Steps
In addition to wedding attire, Mette designs evening dresses, formal suits, holiday wardrobes etc. Want to know more? Mette can be contacted on 0131 556 5407 or by emailing or visit her website at Appointments can be made to visit Mette’s workshop at 164 Dundas Street, Edinburgh.

Special Offer!
Place your order with Mette before 1st March 2010 to receive a 10% discount! You will need to quote McBeth Photography.