Starting your own company is always a daunting prospect but when you’re following in the footsteps of your mum - who happens to be one of the biggest names in the industry - it piles on the pressure.
However, for wedding dress designer Charlotte Balbier her family ties to the world of design only help to inspire her ever growing collection of stunning gowns.
Charlotte’s grandparents created wedding dresses back in the 60s while her mum Amanda Wyatt just celebrated 20 years in the business – meaning there were lots of frills and lace around when Charlotte was growing up.
‘Having wedding dresses around was always very normal for me,’ Charlotte explains.
‘I did have a great dressing up box – full of veils and tiaras, it was every little girl’s dream!’
Coming from such a strong lineage of designers, one would expect that wedding dresses were in Charlotte’s blood but it wasn’t always the case.
‘It was never a dead certainty that I would join the “family business”,’ admits the 35-year-old.
‘I went travelling when I was 21 and it wasn’t until I came back that I realised what I wanted to do.’
‘I got a job with my mum but there was no special treatment – she made me start out at the bottom like anyone else but I’m so glad she did. I got to see every part of the design process – from the concept to material selection to distribution.’
‘She gave me such a great grounding.’
Charlotte did the hard yards and, at the age of 25, branched out to design her first range of wedding dresses under her own name.
‘When I created my first dresses, I was rather pleased with myself. But my mum just said, “Right get in your car, get out there, show people your stuff and sell your dresses.”’
Most twenty-somethings would be a little apprehensive about starting their own business but Charlotte used her naivety to her advantage.
‘I didn’t worry too much about my first line – I just went for it. It was the second and third line that made me nervous because I had set a high standard with my first and people had certain expectations.’
‘When you’re younger you don’t worry about what people think. But now I’m in my thirties I’m really seeing the bigger picture more and there’s more pressure to consistently produce.’
One of the challenges Charlotte has faced in her 10 years in the industry has been stepping out of her mother’s shadow.
‘In the first few years, people in the industry would say ‘Oh you’re Amanda Wyatt’s daughter aren’t you?” That was the norm.’
‘Someone turned round to my mum one day and said, “Oh you're Charlotte Balbier's mum aren't you?” That was definitely a big moment – I finally felt like my own person.’
Having just released her 10th anniversary collection, Charlotte immerses herself in every aspect of her business meaning no two days at work are the same.
‘Every day is different so a Monday could be spent photographing in our little studio, picking out materials for the new collection or helping to deliver dresses.’
‘I’m always very one to one with my clients so I’m often found responding to emails from prospective or satisfied brides about their dream dress.’
Inspiration, Charlotte claims, can come from anywhere – from high fashion runways to a piece of material – and like the rest of us, she has her favourite celebrity wedding dresses.
‘Princess Grace’s wedding dress, even now 50 years later, is such an iconic, beautiful, timeless dress.’
‘Kate Moss’ Galliano dress was so perfect for her – it just fit her style so well.’
‘So many brides think that their dress should be thing amazing, extravagant, once in a lifetime thing but it actually looks better when they stay true to who they are.’
Its advice she’s following now that she’s designing her own wedding dress, which she describes as “quite traditional”.
‘I’m not going to change everything about myself - how I dress, how I look - for one day.’
‘It’s going to be a one off but if people see it and like it maybe I’ll do a version in a future collection. I’m not precious about it, I don’t mind someone else having it!’
Of course, having your name above the door brings its own set of pressures so Charlotte has her ways of relaxing and de-stressing after a long day.
‘Catching up with my friends at the weekend is important to me,’ the Cheshire native explains.
‘To have a glass of wine and not think about work for a couple of hours really helps me to unwind.’
If she’s not in the office or out at a sales call, you’ll likely find Charlotte out with Buster, her chocolate Labrador or getting a facial.
‘Every few weeks I go to the spa and that is my time – no phone, no iPad, no emails, no calls, just relaxing and being pampered.’
As a seasoned business woman, Charlotte’s picked up some hints and tips over her the years but the best piece of advice she’s ever been given is pretty simple.
‘Always believe in yourself. Whatever you’re selling – whether it’s a dress or your own skills – if you’re passionate about the product it will come across.’