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Arts + Lifestyle

From The Desk Of... Kate Halfpenny

Kate Halfpenny created her bespoke bridal dress business in 2005 with the aim of bridging the gap in the market for fashion-forward designs.

Her refreshing approach to bridalwear made an immediate impact within the luxury bridal category, appealing to fashion-conscious, style-savvy women with a desire to express their individuality. Proud to design and make her garments in London, it’s no surprise Halfpenny’s grown-up glamour, stunning simplicity and modern detailing make her a best-selling bridal brand.

Joining us desk-side, Kate reflects on her career so far, and shares the most rewarding part of her job as a designer.

How do you start your days?

I tend to get up at 6AM and start my day with an espresso shot alongside collagen powder, MCT oil, and some chaga mushroom powder. I do some qigong before my shower, then sit down with my son to do his homework and have breakfast before school. When I’m not in London, I head to either the beach or the woods for a long dog walk with my Australian Labradoodle, Rambo. When I’m in London, I dash for the train to St. Pancras for a breakfast meeting at The Standard, then into the Halfpenny London boutique and atelier for a day of meetings, brides, and fittings.

What’s your go-to uniform?

I live in Issey Miyake trousers with a black COS shirt and a Needles by Nepenthes cardigan. Some Nike x Undercover trainers and a pair of my statement glasses. I never forget a handful of rings and a stack of bracelets.

Describe your workspace…

I work between my home studio in my vicarage in Faversham, Kent, and the different spaces I have on Woburn Walk in London’s Bloomsbury; these include my boutique when meeting brides, the atelier when designing and fitting collections, and head office when having team meetings. I’m all about my environment so it’s key that each space has a distinct vibe and its own heartbeat. Each space is an extension of my personality and I love to fill them with objects that bring me joy or inspire me.

Define your aesthetic… 

It’s really impossible to define my aesthetic as it’s so eclectic. This doesn’t mean that there’s stuff everywhere but just means that my aesthetic can be influenced by my mood or environment, or perhaps the latest piece of furniture or art that I bought. It’s constantly evolving.

Identify something in your workspace that’s special to you…

From the minute I opened the shop I had a tiny little framed dragonfly. I bought it from a gallery in Westbourne Grove in 2008 and it’s moved around my spaces; including coming home with me for a while, but I eventually took it back as it’s something that has to stay in the boutique. I’m an avid collector of art and love to move paintings around, or rearrange the objects and pottery that I collect. I think what makes my spaces unique is that there is always beautiful art around. The new shop is part gallery, part boutique and I find that so inspiring.

What are your workplace essentials?

My Smythson featherweight notebook, a fine liner pen, a retractable Papermate pencil with a rubber on the end, a layout pad, and my iPad pro and pen. All those things are literally always in my bag. I don’t leave home without a small Smythson notepad and pen. It’s almost like a comfort blanket.

What time of day are you at your most creative?

The morning. I’m all about the morning. In the afternoon my parental guilt of wanting to get home in time for my son kicks in. The dream is always to make the 5:20pm train to get home to spend an hour with Sylvester before bed, but it doesn’t always happen.

Work takes you most frequently to..

Los Angeles. That’s the place I’ve frequented the most and where a part of my heart lives. I love it with all of my heart but I’m not sure I could live there, even though in my dreams I quite fancy it. Really, I couldn’t cope with the traffic. I love hanging out in LA with natives, popping to Palm Springs or up to Big Bear Mountains to ski. It has it all for me.

What’s your go-to lunch order?

The cauliflower bites, superfood salad and a kombucha at The Standard.

What is the most rewarding part of the job?

The joy of seeing our brides when they find their perfect dress in our boutique, or we create that bespoke gown for them. I love seeing their pictures after the weddings when they land in my inbox, or being tagged on Instagram and seeing the love and light in their faces, wearing one of my dresses that makes them feel utterly amazing. It’s such an honour and privilege.

And the most challenging? 

Costing my dresses because I just want everyone to experience the joy of wearing a dress that makes you feel like the best version of yourself. I was a stylist for twenty years, dressing women who were privileged to have stylists, and I now want to share the experience and wisdom I’ve gained over the years, and my beautiful British-made gowns for everyone.

If you were to write a two-line job spec for yourself, it would read as follows… 

Enthusiastic, creative, and maverick needed. Must have skills in designing and making, and be passionate about empowering women. Passion, drive and motivation are all essential. Must be a people person.

What did you study in school or university?

I studied a BA in Fashion Marketing and Manufacture and specialised in bridalwear for my final collection. Then, I went onto the MA Design for Textile Futures at Central Saint Martins.

What was your first job?

My first job was in a fruit and vegetable shop in my home town. It had an open front so it was freezing all the time and I remember being thrilled to be promoted from putting out the produce to being on the till.

What first sparked your interest in bridal design? 

I’ve always been a dreamer and adored big ballgowns and silhouettes. I’m a true romantic! Princess Diana’s epic wedding dress by Elizabeth and David Emanuel definitely also had something to do with it.

Do you have a mentor or inspirational figure that has guided or influenced you?

The maverick of Vivienne Westwood was a key inspiration throughout my education. I always admired her and I’m so inspired by how she would stand up for what she believed in.

What were some hurdles you had to overcome in the early days as a designer?

I came into bridalwear with a different perspective and it took time to build the public’s trust in my brand. I had to be patient and show that I was authentic and that Halfpenny London was here to stay.

What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learned?

Don’t overstretch yourself. You can’t be everywhere at once so you need to prioritise.

The best advice you’ve ever received?

Be authentic.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on my next collection. We’re about to shoot it and I love this time of the year.

What’s next for Halfpenny?

World domination and creating more magical outfits for our brides.

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