Veilgirls – Abby Gadd of Cherished shares her authentic antique and vintage inspirations

Veilgirls

Good afternoon lovely ladies and welcome to the second instalment of one of our new regular features, Veilgirls. Today on the blog, we have a woman I find particularly inspirational. Abby runs the incredibly popular vintage bridal jewellery and accessories brand, Cherished, home of beautiful vintage bridal accessories and headpieces. With gorgeous ready-to-wear collections, and a to-die-for bespoke service that sees Abby tracking down authentic vintage pieces and upcycling old family heirlooms to include them in her designs, we love the story behind this brilliant business and wanted to find out more!

We caught up with Abby to find out all about the inspiration behind her business, and how a Cambridge-educated historian applies her knowledge of different periods and eras to her beautiful designs.

Abby Gadd Cherished bw portrait

Abby on her wedding day – portrait by Jason Hartley

Your background is different to most designers, how did you go from being a Cambridge-educated historian to designing bridal accessories?

Yes, that’s right, I started my career as an academic research and lecturer. Going to Cambridge University was an incredible opportunity and I thoroughly enjoyed studying history, choosing to go on to study for a PhD in Modern British History in London. But, I have always been a designer-maker at heart; as a child I was constantly creating things – mainly with textiles. As I child I loved making dolls and all their clothes; as a teenager I made a lot of costumes for my drama club and so on. Also, by the time I was in my late teens I had become a keen collector of mid-twentieth century jewellery and accessories; antiques fairs were my weekend playground; my Saturday-job wages were spent on Art Deco jewellery and handbags; 1930s homewares and ceramics; 1950s sunglasses and so on.

Having achieved my PhD, I continued to work as a lecturer and researcher until the birth of my second daughter, when I decided to take some time out of the workplace. I found myself with more time for crafting, and rekindled my passion for vintage. The collection of jewellery and textiles languishing in my attic became the focus of a new business idea.

If there was one catalyst, it was suddenly remembering how difficult my search for bridal accessories to suit my gorgeous Jenny Packham ‘Pandora’ wedding dress had been {For JP aficionados, ‘Pandora’  is a lovely strapless soft tulle dress with an incredible bodice embellished with tiny mother of pearl buttons} Some of my first designs for Cherished were an homage to this wonderful dress – a collection of accessories ‘Pearly Queen’ created from beautiful vintage buttons. Tiny vintage mother of pearl buttons still feature widely across the collection.

All collection images by Robert Lawler Photography – dresses and styling by Heavenly Vintage Brides

Cherished Nature's Diadem collection 2013-14 Cow Parsley #2

From the 2013-14 Cherished Nature’s Diadem collection – Cow Parsley

You draw a lot of inspiration from antiques and early 20th century culture and design. Which eras inspire you the most and how do you bring your knowledge of them into your collections?

That is undoubtedly true. I have a long love-affair with Art Deco which began in my teens – I have always loved the stylised glamour of the period; a wonderful ‘raciness’ combined with pared down design and clean lines. I also love the fun and frivolity and femininity of the 1950s. But I am increasingly fascinated by the Edwardian period and art nouveau design with its soft sinuous lines, natural references and its evocation of abundance and sensuality which I think translates wonderfully well into bridal fashion. One of my latest obsessions is the wedding adornments popular in early twentieth century northern European countries and Scandinavia – lots of soft, almost matte silverware, created into beautiful naturalistic forms. Elements of this can be seen in Cherished’s new 2013 ‘Nature’s Diadem’ collection which draws inspiration from art nouveau and natural forms.

I have definitely not lost my academic inclination. I have a bookshelf full of books on antique costume jewellery and adornment and regularly schedule ‘research’ time at museums such as the V+A. I am also inspired by my reading about social customs and the symbolism surrounding marriage and bridal adornment.

Cherished Sunray vintage collection 2013-14 Mother of Pearl Leaf Diadem #2 smaller file

From the 2013-14 Cherished Sunray Vintage collection, Mother of Pearl Leaf Diadem 

Where else do you find inspiration? 

Most definitely nature – the latest collection for Cherished has nature very much at its forefront. The ‘Cow Parsley’ designs in the Cherished “Nature’s Diadem” collection, for instance, were inspired by the wintry seed heads that I see in my garden and surrounding fields.

But I find inspiration in the most unlikely places – I guess I am always absorbing influences – lovely colour combinations; the play of different patterns; the mix of textures. I try and keep a ‘scrapbook’ of things that appeal.

Cherished Nature's Diadem collection 2013-14 Laurel side hairband #1

Laurel Slide Headband, from the Nature’s Diadem collection

How do you use original antique pieces in your work?

I hope I use original antique and vintage pieces with sensitivity and imagination. I am very particular in my sourcing of original pieces – they need to have something quite unique and special about them; be it an exquisite design, incredible workmanship, or beautiful tones and textures. For me, using old materials is about celebrating treasures from the past, and giving them a new phase in their decorative history. For many of my clients, this means incorporating inherited pieces into designs. Some of my most memorable designs have been made using jewellery brought by the bride – a brooch or a broken string of pearls that belonged to a much-loved Nana, a rhinestone necklace found in a mother’s collection of jewellery. This is about creating an heirloom piece – the original materials might not have much intrinsic value, but they have family history and they can be made into something of beauty that can be treasured.

Cherished Sunray vintage collection 2013-14 Sunflower headpiece #1 smaller file

Sunflower Headpiece from the Cherished Sunray Vintage collection

When you’re not at work, how do you spend most of your time?

I have three daughters between the ages of 13 and 4, so I am extremely busy being a mum. They are all very active girls, and my husband and I enjoy supporting them in all interests. We are lucky to live in a wonderful, and very sociable village in West Sussex. So non-working time is very much about our family, our lovely garden and our incredible friends.

Cherished Nature's Diadem collection 2013-14 Myrtle full headband #1

Cherished Nature’s Diadem collection’s Myrtle full headband

Who are your biggest fashion influences?

Vintage fashion always inspires – the innovative techniques used by fashion houses of the early twentieth century such as Vionnet; the incredible detail and finish of the couture houses of the 1950s {I just adore looking at the collections of the Costume Institute at the Met Museum of Art!}

In terms of contemporary fashion, I am always inspired by Temperley. I love the ‘1950s film star’ appeal feel of her S/S13 collection; and her bridal collection always inspires.

Cherished Sunray vintage collection 2013-14 Gold Beaded Lace headpiece #3

From the Cherished Sunray Vintage collection, Gold Beaded Lace headpiece

Who are your biggest business influences?

This is quite a difficult one for me to answer – business has been quite an alien environment for me.

I probably should approach business as another subject to be researched; and increasingly that is what I am doing. But I am very inspired by people who have built a niche, luxury brand from scratch; Jo Malone, for instance. I am also very lucky to have worked with Clare Yarwood White, the founder and former owner of bridal jewellery brand Yarwood White, over the last year or so. Her business advice has been very valuable.

Cherished Nature's Diadem collection 2013-14 Petworth Gold Acorn tiara #1

Cherished Nature’s Diadem collection’s Petworth Gold Acorn tiara

Can you describe a Cherished vintage bride?

A Cherished bride has a strong sense of what she wants. And what she doesn’t want is to be the same as every other bride. She appreciates quality; moreover she appreciates the unique. While she wants her wedding to be an expression of the things she and her partner enjoy and appreciates, I think she also harbours a sense that her journey as a bride is somehow connected the past and the future experiences of women, both in her family and more generally, as well as her own.Cherished Nature's Diadem collection 2013-14 Floribunda Silver Rose hairband #1 
Cherished Nature’s Diadem collection’s Floribunda Silver Rose hairband

Can you describe your pieces in five words?

Delicate, whimsical and unashamedly pretty

What words of advice do you have for a soon-to-be bride?

Oh definitely to enjoy the process of planning and sourcing for your wedding. It is such a special time – you get to explore lots of different sides of yourself. Take all of it in; be true to yourself and your partner’s wishes and above all, savour the moment.

Cherished Sunray vintage collection 2013-14  Dove Grey beaded fan hair comb

Cherished Sunray vintage collection – Dove Grey beaded fan hair comb

What business advice would you give someone starting out in the wedding industry?

I suppose it would vary a little depending on whether it were a retail or a service-based business. But in general, my advice would be to spend time cultivating your brand identity and values. It is a crowded marketplace and you need to offer products or services that stand out from the crowd. You need to be acutely aware of what you can bring to the party; find your niche and stick to this core; don’t try to follow the crowd.

You can find more of Abby’s fantastic work over on the Cherished website. We will be featuring a different inspiration wedding industry woman every week. If you’d like to see us interview someone in particular, email sara@underthevintageveil.com with your suggestions – and feel free to leave your comments and questions for Abby below!

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