Interview with Sadie Bosworth

Sadie Bosworth on Rosemary Anne

Walking into her studio, you are greeted by a gentle face and brown eyes, light is streaming in from tall industrial windows, a breeze flows through the windows. The sound of a train passing briefly reduces the greeting while you walk further into the space and allow your eyes to wander over all the delicate detail of dresses hanging on rails and fabric draped over tables.

There is always an offer of tea and then you get to chatting, standing or sitting - however the moment takes you. Sadie listens with soft eyes as she constructs your garment in her mind, it’s almost as if she is selecting the fabrics from a library within your imagination - already making note of the suppliers she will need to get in touch with.

This doesn’t take her away from the moment at all, but she moves while in conversation to a shelf of lace, embroidery, tulle, silk and many little embellishments...she has captured exactly what you have imagined in the smallest details.

Sadie designed and created my wedding dress, making sure it was perfectly me. We both loved it some much that it has now become part of her collection (to hired as is) and it’s name is, ‘Rosemary’. What an honour to have had my dress be a muse, what an honour to know such a beautiful person and have the opportunity to get to know her a bit more. There will be many more tea dates in the future!


How would you define your identity?

I would define my identity as being a maker. I started sewing and embroidering when I was very little, and have always gotten a sense of fulfilment from creating. I feel that the drive to make and learn is what keeps me pushing myself in my business and in every aspect of my life.


Who and what inspires your designs?

I find a lot of inspiration in the fairy tales and art books I used to read growing up. A lot of the fairy tales are really beautiful and romantic, but at the same time often quite dark. I find that to be an interesting dynamic and I often design with that in mind. A lot of what I design also pushes the boundaries of conventional bridal wear which is what keeps it interesting for me.


What are your favourite materials to work with? How do you use them in your designs?

I love the romance of really soft and delicate fabrics. A lot of my garments often only come alive when they are on and you can see the movement the fabric and design allows. I do love surface detail in the form of beading and embroidery and I want to start designing my own fabric.

When creating a collection, what is the process you go through?

Generally my collection planning will start with a particular inspiration image that sets the mood. Sometimes it is an artwork, or an image from an editorial. I then start designing the silhouettes of the gowns and picking a colour palette and fabrics. I do rough sketches and then go fabric shopping where I find the embellished fabrics; but this often changes designs quite a bit depending on what I find. I then re assess and start with the patterns and garment creation. My process is quite organic, so the designs are never set in stone and I often switch things up quite a lot but mixing and matching skirts and bodices as I make them, or will get a completely new idea and introduce that to the collection. It is really exciting and I do love how the collection often takes on a life of its own in the making process.


Can you talk a bit about your design process, from start to finish?

The design process when working with a bride or bespoke client is quite different. I ask clients to bring in their favourite inspiration pictures that they have collected and then I go through it with them, identifying the different silhouettes, fabrication and details. Once we have done that we discuss the brides figure and the thing she would like to emphasis or conceal, and compare that to the silhouettes we have identified from her inspiration pictures. I will then advise what I think works best for her figure and look at colour palette in terms of skin tone too. I do have stock of a variety of gowns at my studio that the bride can try on which is also very helpful in the process.

We then do a rough sketch and identify the fabrics needed to achieve the look and feel. If lace and beaded fabrics are necessary we go fabric shopping together and I show the bride the best options for her design. This can be a total turning point as the perfect fabric can change the design of the dress, but it is all a part of the process.

Once the fabric is bought and the design finalised I do an illustration of the gown and start with the pattern and sewing.


On average, how long does one wedding dress take?

Generally we work on a wedding gown for 4 – 8 months. This process includes design, fabric shopping, a mock up; which is a simplified version of the gown in that we use to check fit and silhouette on our brides, sewing, handwork and finishing. The final details often take the longest as we use couture finishes, many of which are very handwork intensive. A bridal gown often takes hundreds of hours to complete, and a lot of the work is done by hand.


Do you wear your own designs? What has been your favorite garment?

I try wear my own designs as much as possible, but I often don’t have time to make everything that I would like! One of my all-time favourites is a black velvet kimono dress that I made to wear to a friend’s wedding.

How has your work evolved since you started?

Hugely! I think I have refined my aesthetic a bit more, but that is always a work in progress. I have definitely learnt a massive amount since I started; you find better ways of doing things, learn new techniques and learn about the business side of creating every day which is both exciting and sometimes terrifying!


When it came to finding a studio space, what were you looking for?

When I started looking for studio space I was working from home, and tended to never stop as my work was always in my living space. It also got quite lonely being on my own all the time! Finding a studio was a way to partition work from my personal life, and working in a building with a lot of other freelancers has also meant I gained a sense of community which has been great.

What sold The Design Factory to you? Why Durban?

My fiancé actually started working in the Design Factory a few months before me and after going there a few times I just loved the open industrial space as well as the fact that it was rented out to other freelancers (yay friends!).

I ended up in Durban as I wanted to study at DUT, which I had only heard good things about. My plan was to move once I had finished but I was involved in the Durban Fashion Fair and a few other fashion programmes here so I ended up staying and loving it. The network I made through DUT, DFF and being involved in the Vodacom Durban July were quite instrumental in the starting of my business.


Although your website is quite new, your name has already become well known. What would you say has stood out to you as the key success at this point in your journey?

I took part in a lot of competitions and post graduate programmes which have been helpful in getting my name out there. I won the Vodacom Durban July in my 3rd year which was the start, then I took part in the Durban Fashion Fair in 2015 and 2016 and created a collection each year that was showcased as a part of the fashion week held here in Durban. I have also been lucky to work with some very talented photographers which has provided beautiful imagery to use as marketing.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the creating and making process – it is so exciting to see a gown take shape from flat pieces of fabric. It is even better to see the finished product on the bride on her wedding day and know that they feel really beautiful. It is amazing how transformative a dress can be.


A new collaboration store has appeared on social media, tell me more about the concept and how this side venture came about?

Fate and Love is the bridal and evening wear boutique Chanelle Cindy and I started at the beginning of the year. Chanelle and I bumped into each other in Cape Town last year and met each other properly and started chatting. We were both getting lots of enquiries for hiring, we both wanted to make more gowns where we had creative  freedom, and I wanted to start getting my brand out in Cape Town.

It was quite fortuitous as a space came up in The Old Castle Brewery at the right time and we just decided to go for it. The space is beautiful and is run by our consultant who runs all the fittings. We offer ready-made gowns to hire and purchase which gives creative license to make what we want and not feel so bad when we keep buying extra fabric that we just couldn’t leave the store without!


What has been the biggest lesson you have learned since starting your label?

Other people may look like they have the answers but they are also learning on the go!

What can we expect from Sadie Bosworth Atelier in the future?

I am working on quite a few new dresses that you will hopefully see on my instagram and website in the next month or so which is exciting! I want to start designing and creating my own embroidery and beadwork designs so that the gowns from my Atelier are completely bespoke.


In an ever growing industry, working a job that is also your love, how do you balance the dream with life’s needs?
This is one of the most challenging aspects of having your passion be your work. It is very hard to stop working! Moving my studio out of the house has made it easier, and we have started prioritising taking time off. I think it will always be a difficult balance to achieve, but like everything it is a work in progress!