Princess Eugenie’s Wedding Dress Designer On What It Takes to Make a Dress Fit For a Royal

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Photography via REX/Shutterstock

“We’re so known for our prints, people think it’s all about that, but I guess her dress showed that since the beginning it was always about the silhouette,” says Peter Pilotto.

Known for their deft use of colour, print and feminine silhouettes, London-based design house Peter Pilotto has gained a legion of fans over the 11 years it’s been in business. Helmed by the brand’s namesake, Peter Pilotto, and his design partner Christopher de Vos, the brand counts Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Emily Blunt and Princess Eugenie as fans. But even those who’ve followed the brand for a long time may not have predicted seeing them scale back their love of colour and print in favour of a sleek white gown for the Princess of York’s wedding.

We sat down with Pilotto during his brief visit to Toronto to meet with VIP clients and customers at The Room at Hudson’s Bay and chatted about the royal wedding dress, his career milestones and more.

What was it like working with Princess Eugenie on her wedding gown?

“It was so amazing because she’s such a great and beautiful woman, such a modern woman. We met her the year before and became friends and she chose us because she always felt so good wearing our pieces, it felt so right to her and that’s exactly the feeling she wanted to have on her wedding day. She said that her mom had advised her that the designers who do the dress—because it will be an intensive experience—need to be people you’re comfortable with and are your best friends at the end of the process. We had obviously such an incredible experience together and it was important that the dress told the right story, so we all worked together on that and I think we’re so pleased that on the day of the wedding, every angle shows the kind of beautiful woman she is.”

Per the palace’s official statement, you “undertook archive research into previous dresses worn by Members of the Royal Family and identified a silhouette.” Can you talk a bit about that?

“It was an immense archive as we wanted to explore the different dresses that different family members wore over the last 150 years or so. We realized how modern the dress was that the Queen wore to her wedding. So we were inspired by the movement of the motif on her dress but obviously did our motif, a motif that had elements that were all very personal to Eugenie. Such as the shamrock for Ireland, the thistle for Scotland, the York Rose of England and then the ivy for the Ivy Cottage, the place Princess Eugenie and Jack live inside Kensington Palace. So it’s all elements that were personal to her and them and we applied these motifs in our signature way of illustrating things and then arranged them in this garland on the dress that progressed from a smaller scale to a bigger scale at the hem of the dress.”

After seeing the incredible response the dress received globally, have you given any thought to getting into wedding wear or doing bridal?

“We’re not really doing bridal yet as such, we’re having a few requests from some people but it’s something that slowly on the side is starting. But obviously since we’re so known for our prints, people think it’s all about that, but I guess the dress showed that since the beginning it was always about the silhouette. That’s the collaboration between Christopher and I that brings these points of view together and I guess that’s one significant point of our brand. The dress showcases how much dedication goes into the fit. Of course in a custom dress it’s exciting because you can really make it to measure and we made sure it really, really fitted right up until the wedding.”

Besides Princess Eugenie’s dress, what are some of the other milestones of your career over the past decade?

“Last year was really exciting because dressing Beyoncé was also incredible. So that was nice after 11 years to have such an incredible year and to see that these incredible women know the brand and are going to the brand for different things. It’s exciting that these two women couldn’t be more different but went for the diversity that our range has, which we’ve always been excited by… It shows how women respond to our clothes now, in different places and different age groups. To us it was always inspiring to see women just wearing what suits them, what makes sense to them and expressing their confidence or being uplifted by it.”

How much does what’s happening in the outside world affect the kind of work that you do creatively?

“Obviously it’s what’s always there and is always present and I think you always react consciously or subconsciously to what’s around you and what’s happening. At the same time I feel like fashion is such a great tool of uplifting yourself, of expressing yourself and I think that’s what we always want to do with our clothes, we want to give that excitement to your day.”

What do you love about events like this where you get to meet and interact with the customers and people who are wearing your clothes? Are you ever surprised by the people you meet?

“Always surprised but in a good way. I feel like I’m always inspired and excited to meet the women and to hear their stories of when they wore what, how they felt and so on. They are the people who are most knowledgeable about the brand and it’s so exciting to be travelling to different countries around the world and to already have a connection with people who know what it feels like to wear our pieces. I really love it because we inspire people but they also inspire us back.”