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Vintage-inspired wedding dresses in Dorset

PUBLISHED: 13:00 25 February 2015 | UPDATED: 14:42 25 March 2015

Minna Dress with Frieda Headdress £145 Gorgeous vintage inspired bridal dress using a mix of contrasting lace, it has a fitted waist, oversized sleeves and a low open back £1,100

Minna Dress with Frieda Headdress £145 Gorgeous vintage inspired bridal dress using a mix of contrasting lace, it has a fitted waist, oversized sleeves and a low open back £1,100

Annabelle Claire Dalby

Minna Hepburn’s eco-luxe collection of vintage-inspired wedding dresses, not only look beautiful but are thoughtfully designed with love and lace in the heart of Dorset

Lizzie dress £800 featuring a halter neck tied top with low back and Sierra Veil £180 deicate handmade lace flowersLizzie dress £800 featuring a halter neck tied top with low back and Sierra Veil £180 deicate handmade lace flowers

According to the traditional rhyme by wearing ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’ on your wedding day you will be blessed with luck. So superstitious brides to be, who are seeking something romantic with a dash of ethical ethos should beat a path to the Dorset door of acclaimed fashion designer Minna Hepburn.

With premises in Shaftesbury, London and Helsinki, this Finnish-born designer who bares more than a passing resemblance to supermodel Claudia Schiffer, has evolved her own brand of ethical and ecologically sensitive fashion, with an emphasis on bridal wear and accessories.

“My manufacturing principles mean that I use plenty of left over ends of rolls of textiles. I even recycle trimmings whenever I can,” she says. At the moment bridal appointments are in her studio at Brixton Road in London but she is hoping to open her Dorset studio later this month. “Our current “Dorset home” is at the gorgeous Gold Hill Farm in Child Okeford, near Shaftesbury, where my shop will open to public from the end of February.”

Minna’s bridal gowns, which have featured in the likes of Vogue and Elle, are all handmade with gorgeous silk and lace sourced from around the world, and mixed with genuine vintage and organic fabrics. “Because I have to reproduce a dress more than once there has to be a production line of sorts, but it is all handmade and the way we then embellish each dress gives it our signature look.”

Although Minna is passionate about the textiles she uses in her creations, design was not a career path she ever imagined following. Having read War Studies at university she believed she was destined for a career in banking, like her Canadian husband. But a four month back-packing trip around the world shifted her ideas. “I had a chance to think about what I really wanted to do with my life” she says. “And I surprised myself by really wanting to become creative.”

Over the next few years Minna immersed herself in the world of fashion, an experience that was both hugely informative and educational. “I made factory contacts in Vietnam and started to design my first collection. Once back in London I set about getting a stall set up in Spitalfields and Portobello market. I learnt about the fashion industry the hard way by queuing at 6am to get a pitch for my stall.”

Maxi length Annette dress is made from crinkled silk georgette. Designed with billowy sleeves and an open back. It is embellished with delicate handmade flowers, a wrap effect neckline, fitted waist and A-line skirt. 
£1,250 - Ashley Veil £145Maxi length Annette dress is made from crinkled silk georgette. Designed with billowy sleeves and an open back. It is embellished with delicate handmade flowers, a wrap effect neckline, fitted waist and A-line skirt. £1,250 - Ashley Veil £145

After doing that for a year Top Shop discovered her range and Minna’s business started to snowball. “I quickly learnt about the speed the fashion industry moved at,” she recalls, “and I was really alarmed by the throwaway culture of the business. It made me realise that this was something I wanted to address.”

Two things made a real impact on how Minna approached designing fashion. The first was making a shift into bridal wear, and the second was leaving London and moving her family to rural Dorset.

“I think my real creativity came from that move,” she says. “I found so many pieces of vintage and antique lace at local fairs and markets. That was the real beginning of my business. I knew I had to do something to bring these vintage pieces back to life. Lace has always been my inspiration.”

Minna’s exquisite wedding dresses are made in a style she calls ‘eco-luxe’ - combining an ethos of ecologically aware fashion with the joy of using beautiful materials. Much of the lace she uses is made in Glasgow by local workers. “My label has always been very bridal inspired because of the fabrics we use and I am just so happy to do bridal now as opposed to ready to wear, its where my heart lies.”

Although she wears her ethical credentials with pride, Minna is practical about how important it is (or isn’t) to her customers. “The ethical fashion arena is a very political one. I have attended various panels to discuss ethical fashion and the conversations were often quite unrealistic. Yes there are issues to be tackled but ultimately it’s the consumer who drives the market and fashion should be fun. When a woman buys a wedding dress she wants to buy a beautiful dress – they don’t usually want to make some huge statement on their wedding day about ethical fashion at the same time,” she adds.

“Many of our brides tend to be quite DIY about their wedding, they’re often very cool and edgy,” she says. “I sometimes think we cater to the ‘anti-bride’ – who comes into the showroom and says – ‘Help, I’m getting married in two weeks!’ When you haven’t got much time or a ton of money to throw at a wedding it tends to make you more creative.”

Effie a full length lace dress £1,400 one of Minna's most popular designs - Frieda headdress £145Effie a full length lace dress £1,400 one of Minna's most popular designs - Frieda headdress £145

Minna’s latest collection combines the funky with the individual. “Having skipped a season in 2014 we have done a much bigger collection for 2015. We took time finding out what our customers were after. So this new collection is called Every Woman because it is very much inspired by our clients and the fabrics we source.”

In addition Minna is also stocking a small range of dresses from the New Zealand designer The Flower Bride. “Their bohemian style gowns really complement our range,” she adds.

“Our aim is to have a fabulous selection of gorgeous and affordable bridal gowns for every woman out there. Our website is filled with over 70 luscious dresses, there’s something for every shape and size and age.”

When a bride chooses a Minna dress they tend to get all their accessories from her range too. “I have seen brides absolutely sure they don’t want a veil and then try one on and they always end up buying it!” muses Minna, who adds that the usual spend is around £1000 with all the accessories. “It sounds a lot, but it’s not really for handmade bridal wear,” she smiles.

“When I started I thought my strongest selling point for the range would be the price but for many brides it’s all about finding a beautifully made ecologically produced dress that can be worn more than once – and that’s what we are all about.”

Discover more at Minna’s website minna.co.uk; 020 7735 3270

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