Alice Shreeve (left) & Hannah Coniam-Thompson (right) are in their 30s and are Creative Directors at Belle & Bunty.
I noticed Belle & Bunty while I was Editor at a wedding glossy a few years ago, but it wasn’t until around a year ago, when Belle & Bunty’s inimitable style popped up in my Instagram feed, that I fully understood that there was more to this brand than just wedding gowns. I immediately clicked the follow button; on first sight, I was smitten with their pretty pictures – the romantic colour palette, cute props and lovely locations were gorgeous. I fell in love with Alice and Hannah’s feminine style and, as a fairly short girl, I was in awe of their long legs (they go on for days). Belle & Bunty’s sugar-coated Instagram feed is one of my all-time favourites, however – as we all know – Instagram is a curated version of life. What interested me most about Belle & Bunty’s feed was that I could really sense who Hannah and Alice were, partly due to their amazing photos but also because they value their followers and take time to engage with them on a personal level. Belle & Bunty/Alice & Hannah are fun girls who flirt with life, while working hard to make their business work. Their brand is a pretty, super sweet dreamland where brides can find understated, effortless glamour with a unique, personal touch, by women who love women.
Where are you from?
Alice: I am from Chiswick in West London so am a true Londoner!
Hannah: I grew up by the sea in Bournemouth, Dorset and love going back to my roots for fresh air and beach walks.
Where do you live?
We both live in North London, which is near to our boutique and studio. Its a great area with a fantastic mix, and has small pockets which feel very village-y!
What did you want to be when growing up?
Alice: I went to ballet school for years growing up so thought I might pursue that – but found fashion!
Hannah: I always wanted to do something creative as I was “arty” from a young age. After studying Art and Design and thinking I wanted to do Fine Art I fell into textiles, and then into fashion.
What does your job involve?
As creative directors at Belle & Bunty, we love putting our creative ideas together designing new collections, but there is so much more involved. We are attend industry events and fashion shows for research and inspiration, along with fabric shows to ensure we are sourcing the very best silks.
We manage all of our own production through our two London sample rooms so every dress is made-to-order for each bride. We also try to personally meet lots of our lovely brides, making sure each one receives the utmost attention and service – although we have a fab team that help us!
In the past couple of years our blog and social media has really taken off and we have put a lot of emphasis on this, working with some brilliant brands to show more of our personal style. Our blog and Instagram feed show an insight into our world; it’s very much about us as creative, fashion-loving girls rather than just about our brand.
What does your average working day look like?
Well, no day really is ever the same!
Alice oversees the production and sales, while Hannah deals with the PR and marketing side, and we come together for all things creative. So, we would usually start off with a morning catch up over a coffee and check in with each other to discuss and prioritise things with our team. Then Alice may go off to visit our two London sites where all our dresses are made.
We pride ourselves on making everything in England and are very hands on with making sure all our dresses are made with tender loving care, so that they are perfect for our brides. All our fabrics and trims are ordered with UK suppliers too. We often have fittings in our boutique, or appointments to show new brides our collections. Hannah may have a Skype meeting discussing PR for upcoming events and press requests, as well as working on blog content and collaborations and the social media side of the business – there is always time for an Instagram photo or two!
We tend to design out of the office where we can have clarity of mind and really discuss new ideas, look at interesting fabric swatches and generally be creative. This may be in a local coffee shop or at our homes, where we can concentrate on what we think our customers will really love.
Quite often we have lots of business meetings where we love seeing and discussing new opportunities, or we might might be at trade shows researching and buying items for our boutique to sit alongside our collections, or shooting outfit looks for our blog. We are always pretty busy!
Best thing about your work?
Being your own boss allows you to have a bit more freedom with your time in the eternal work/life balance quest. We love what we do, so in some respects it makes it easier to put in all the hard work.
Worst thing about your work?
It is all consuming and you never switch off, ever! But that’s the deal for having your own business – the flexibility of being our own boss majorly out weighs this!
We are never without a good cup of tea (or coffee), biscuits and our Macbooks and iPhones. Of course, we always have pretty stationery and pens on hand, and we love to fill the walls above our desks with sketches and photos of styles and prints that inspire us, creating moodboards as more inspiration.
What has been your career highlight so far?
There have been quite a few over the years. This year, we were lucky enough to win the Editor’s Choice Award at the You & Your Wedding Awards. Also, our very first catwalk show at London Fashion Week, which was so busy with people wanting to see the collection that we had to run the show twice! Opening our own boutique in London was also a biggie, as was seeing ourselves on Channel 4 in our own fly-on-the-wall documentary.
How have things changed since you started out?
Now, we’re both mums – so that means life is even more of a juggling act! Our time is more precious but you learn to be super productive when you are in work.
Who or what is your inspiration/motivation?
We generally find inspiration in anything and everything, inspiration tends to hit you when you least expect it! Both of us are magpies and are constantly collecting images, fabric swatches and pull-outs from magazines, which are then attached to our giant moodboard wall in our studio.
Living in London you are constantly inspired by day-to-day life and what you see around you. We like to visit exhibitions and museums for inspiration, and we look to street style for unusual styling and new ideas. Our last collection had a real 60s/70s retro feel, which stems from our personal style and our style icons like Dusty Springfield and Stevie Nicks, who we love. We strive for an effortless, laid back, unfussy way of being glamorous with a slightly flirtatious edge – this is portrayed in the designs, the models we choose, and how the collections are shot and styled.
Best piece of professional advice you’ve received?
Designer Caroline Charles is a personal friend and has given us advice over the years, but the biggest one was her suggestion to get in to retail. Having our own boutique has allowed us to have our own space to really showcase what we are about and also given us room to do whatever we want to do – rather than only relying on wholesale or fashion seasons, which is so tricky for a small brand. Plus, we get to meet our customers face-to-face, which is great for feedback and client relationships.
Top tip for getting into the industry?
Know what your USP is and dont worry too much what others are doing!
Paper or Digital: ALICE Paper / HANNAH Digital
Tea or Coffee: ALICE Tea / HANNAH Coffee
Heels or Flats: ALICE Heels / HANNAH Heels
Save or Spend: ALICE Save / HANNAH Spend
Day or Night: ALICE Day / HANNAH Day
Beach or Snow: ALICE Snow / HANNAH Beach
Phone or Email: ALICE Phone / HANNAH Email
Dogs or Cats: ALICE Dogs / HANNAH Cats
Sweet or Savoury: ALICE Savoury / HANNAH Savoury
Champagne or Cocktails: ALICE Cocktails / HANNAH Champers
Website www.belleandbunty.co.uk | Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest @belleandbunty
Image: Margarita Karenko @margaritakarenko