Veilgirls: Hannah and Alice, the brains and beauty behind Belle and Bunty

Good afternoon lovelies, and welcome to the first in a new Under the Vintage Veil instalment – Veilgirls. Veilgirls is all about getting in touch with your favourite suppliers and designers and finding the ladies whose ethos, drive and imagination make them true Under the Vintage Veil icons. Not only will we see lots of wedding pretty, but we go behind the scenes to give brides an insight into the ladies behind their favourite brands.

Today we have the magnificent Hannah Coniam-Thompson and Alice Shreeve, designers at Belle and Bunty, on the blog for a Veilgirls Q&A, so grab a cuppa and get reading!

For those of you who don’t know, Belle and Bunty is a cult London based womenswear label, loved by celebrities including Victoria Beckham, Lindsay Lohan, Fearne Cotton, Lauren Laverne and many more fashion-forward females!  Their astronomical success has seen them star in their own fly-on-the wall Channel 4 documentary, not to mention featuring in every fashion bible imaginable, including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Their bridal line is the epitome of Under the Vintage Veil lushness, and featured on our own Veilbash catwalk in 2012. Inspired by vintage silhouettes with a contemporary twist, Belle and Bunty gowns are popular choices with our readers and featured brides. With a list of credentials like theirs, we were dying to know where Hannah and Alice get their inspiration, and how such a successful partnership was born. 

Veilgirls: a cosy Q&A with Belle and Bunty

All images in this post © Belle and Bunty

Hannah and Alice, your story is about a fabulous fusion of friendship and fashion. Belle and Bunty fans will know that you met on your first day at London College of Fashion. At which point did you begin designing together and how was Belle and Bunty born? 

We discussed working together while at college as we both liked and appreciated each other’s work but when we graduated we both got jobs designing for other brands. We had both been pretty proactive while studying with gaining industry experience so had a good insight into the fashion industry through Internships and freelance work. About a year after we graduated we started properly considering how we could start a label and it just went from there. Belle & Bunty was born and we both continued to work full time while working on the label in the evenings and at weekends, even using work holiday to visit overseas factories!

The Pearly – from Belle and Bunty

I heard a rumour that Belle and Bunty were your childhood nicknames. Can you tell us more?

Deciding on a brand name is extremely important and also very hard! We wanted something easy to pronounce and read, and something quintessentially British. Belle & Bunty started off as a bit of a joke initially but it ticked all those boxes and we liked that we could play on both characters in the label, Belle being the pretty side and Bunty something a bit more quirky. Alice was called Lulu Belle as her full name is Alice~ Louise, Hannah was Bunty after the character in the girls annuals.

The Ariel – by Belle and Bunty

How are your design styles similar to one another and in which ways are you different?

We both have very similar taste levels in most things. Our handwriting is feminine with a slight twist and for both of us this probably translates across all aspects of design from clothing to interiors to art. A big consideration while designing is “would we wear it” and “how would we feel in the design” As women we appreciate that there are parts we want to accentuate and others we’d like to conceal so we try to have this at the forefront while designing. Alice’s style is more ladylike and simple, Hannah is more trend lead and feminine.

The Darcey – by Belle and Bunty

Who are your biggest fashion influences?

Both our mums have had a huge influence on us! We both wear original vintage pieces from their wardrobes in the late 70s and early 80s. We have pretty cool mums! Luxury house Chloe is also a big influence, we love their aesthetic, its so wearable and desirable.

The Hattie (with and without a veil) – by Belle and Bunty

Who are your biggest business influences?

We are lucky enough to have renowned fashion designer Caroline Charles as a friend and mentor. She has been in the fashion industry for 40 years so we really value her advice and opinion. She has taught us that you have to evolve with the times, and also how important the retail side of the business is. Also to take control and do things the way you want to do them rather than following the pack.

The Mae, with and without sleeves – by Belle and Bunty

Where do you find your design inspiration? 

We find inspiration from anything and everything! If you are creative you are constantly on the look out for interesting things in your day-to-day life and think about how that translates into work. So some street art may influence a colour palette or seeing someone opposite you on the tube with something interesting on. We both have a habit of collecting things we find inspiring, our studio walls are covered with images, prints, fabric swatches and photos that we like and find interesting. Social media channels such as Instagram have had a surprising influence too. There is constant feed of exciting things on there and its great as its worldwide so it gives you a large range of peoples views on what is going on around the globe. Also living in London is great as there is constantly an interesting exhibition to see, a new pop-up shop or just street fashion that inspires.

The Elsie – by Belle and Bunty

What inspired you to launch your first bridal collection?

We had been making a dress called The Willow in our ready-to-wear collection for a few seasons in a bright emerald green and after it got quite a bit of press and celebrities wearing it we had brides asking if we could make it in ivory and cream. This combined with us both getting married within six months of each and designing our own wedding dresses together sort of triggered the bridal side of the business.

The Belle, available in chiffon and satin – by Belle and Bunty

You’ve been featured in every fashion bible imaginable and have gained a prestigious celebrity following – but what would you say is the success you’re most proud of?

There have been many moments over the years, such as opening our boutique, being followed by a Channel 4 film crew for six months for our own show and winning awards, but I think being able to change and adapt the business in really tricky economic times and keep going has to be the biggest achievement. There definitely have been ups and downs but when you look at what we have overcome and achieved over the years we can’t help but be a little proud!

The Willow – by Belle and Bunty

How would you describe the typical Belle and Bunty bride?

Our brides are all looking for something a bit different and non-traditional, they are also fashion conscious and appreciate lovely fabrics and how great they feel to wear. All obviously want to look amazing but also want to feel comfortable and able to have a fun, good time on their big day!!

The Bunty – by Belle and Bunty

Can you describe your latest collection in five words?

We try to stick to the same adjectives for all our collections – feminine, elegant, classic, playful and wearable.

The Petal, with and without a sash – by Belle and Bunty

Belle and Bunty is an incredibly successful brand – do you have any words of advice for aspiring businesswomen looking to create a strong brand of their own?

You have to know what your core brand values are and make sure you stick to them, even when it is tempting to sway! Find something that is your niche and something people can associate with you and your brand that is distinctive and synonymous to it.

The Willow (with and without lace) by Belle and Bunty

Belle and Bunty’s latest collection is out now, for more info, visit their website and find out where you can try on your Belle and Bunty gown.

Is there a designer or supplier you idolise? Would you love to go behind the scenes with anyone in particular? Email and let us know which Veilgirls you’d love to hear from next! 

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