2022 is a very special year for this successful business women Anne Bertossi, it marks 30 years of her bridal label ‘Bertossi Brides’ wedding dresses which are created in her Paddington Weddings studio in Brisbane. I managed to sit down with Anne to chat about the last 3 decades and find out about the past, present and future of her award winning business.
Have you always designed Wedding dresses?
No. I first started a little business with a friend designing daywear then later evening wear while studying fashion in the UK, selling our designs at a local markets and fashion shows. We used to travel to Nottingham and buy ends of rolls from the fabric mills and so my love for fabrics began. My mum and dad had a clothing manufacturers making garments for large department stores. I worked in the business from an early age, I had my first industrial sewing machine at 10 years old so I guess you can say that this industry is in my blood! I knew early on that I didn’t want to work in mass production and soon started created one off designs. I opened my first studio in 1986 at 19 years old and have had my own business ever since.
Tell us a bit about Bertossi Brides
At 23 I decided I needed to see more of the world and arrived in Australia in 1991. I soon landed a job doing alterations at a Bridal shop in Paddington (a suburb I fell immediately in love with.) Customers started to ask for variations and I soon started creating gowns for them from scratch. The early 90’s was not a kind era for wedding dresses the fabrics being used were predominantly thick and heavy, totally unsuitable for our Queensland climate. I soon saw a niche in the bridal market and started designing simple, classic dresses using lightweight, breathable fabrics. Word quickly spread after my first few commissions, my label ‘Bertossi Brides’ was born in 1992 out of my spare bedroom! I soon needed more space and leased a small studio in Ashgrove before purchasing my beautiful Paddington cottage in 1995 where my business remains today. We always laugh and say that happiness has absorbed into the walls at Paddington Weddings after so many decades of happy brides, it has a magical feel that everyone feels when they walk through that pink door!
What keeps your designs fresh and current after 30 years?
I keep all of my designs as limited editions and being able to change my fabrics regularly so that I never get bored with making the same thing. I’m lucky enough now to be able to travel to Italy, France and the UK to handpick fabric myself, I love to work with small, family owned mills where the fabric is ethically made to order. I meet with their design teams and my favourite part is to tour the mills and see the 200 year old looms working on the silks and laces, it is heaven to me and this also gives my wedding dress designs exclusivity within Australia. Every bride that visits our studio always comments on how unique the fabrics are and how soft and lightweight they feel.
What inspires you when you design?
Fabric is my main inspiration. I’m at my most creative when I can touch, drape and fold lace and silks onto my mannequin, it practically tells me what I should do with it! I don’t tend to follow fashion as such but have always been inspired by the fashion houses Dior and Chanel. I love their use of exquisite fabrics, their attention to detail is breathtaking and silhouettes are timeless. When I design a gown, I want to think that in 30 years each of my brides still love it and that it can still be worn today, but you be the judge of that!
My team and I also love to work with each individual bride to enhance their body shape. I try not to make gowns that will only suit a model figure, I like to create gowns for ‘Real Women’ be that tall, short, curvy or petite. I am happy to mix and match around within my collection, changing up necklines, adding sleeves and changing fabrics till we come up with the perfect gown for each person. I want to create a gown that makes each bride feel their most beautiful, I am all about empowering a women to feel their most confident on such a big day in their life.
What has been your biggest challenge over the last 30 years?
Seeing my gorgeous brides having to cancel their weddings time and time again over the Covid period was truely heartbreaking. We did everything possible to accommodate any changes, including complimentary storing of gowns and alterations when needed. I truly think I took on every brides stress over those 2 years. I have to say though that my brides were so positive throughout and many carried on with their plans with only 5 people allowed at their wedding. It just goes to show that love conquers all!!
Tell us about your team.
Paddington Weddings is a family business and I’m lucky enough to work with my gorgeous mum and beautiful sister. Mum arrived in Australia in 1998 as my husband and I were having our first child. A seamstress by trade, she was a godsend, helping with my production and finishing (and more importantly helping us with our son, Joe) Maternity leave isn’t an option when running a small business! My sister Gill moved from the UK and joined the team in 2006 while I was juggling work, two busy boys and renovating a house. She took over the management side of the business and she keeps Paddington Weddings running like clockwork. It has enabled me to have more time designing and doing what I love. I believe I have the best seamstresses in Australia, the amount of talent and experience between them is simply amazing and I couldn’t survive without their loyalty and support. We really are ‘Team Paddington’, without these amazing talented, beautiful ladies there would not be Bertossi Brides.
Do you have a favourite design of all time?
So many favourites over the last 3 decades…….. I still adore the very first design I made in 1992, a simple french corded lace gown with scalloped cap sleeves. Timeless, elegant and still wearable today…
Do you have a bride that stands out in your memory?
Probably lovely Bindi Irwin, not because she is famous, but she was the last wedding we completed before covid locked us down. Such a beautiful girl and a gorgeous family, I remember Gill and I hanging out with the Irwin family at the Zoo the morning of the wedding doing her final alterations due to her wedding being brought forward at the last minute! By the time we were driving back to Brisbane the news that weddings had gone down to 5 people from midnight was announced on the radio, thank goodness they pushed through with changing the date and plans. They were all so calm and just happy to be actually having a wedding, there was no drama or stress, just a family happy to be together. It was such a happy memory followed by such a stressful time in the world and the bridal industry afterwards.
You married an Aussie (Peter) in 1992 and have 2 sons (Joe and Alex) How did you juggle a business with a family?
I can’t lie, there were some years in the early days where I almost gave it all up, any working mum knows those early years are tough! I met Peter in 1991 while working in Paddington and we married in 1992 shortly before I officially started my business. My visa was running out and it was go home to the UK or get married so it was a gamble but after 30 years together I think you can say it has paid off! Without the love and support of Pete I could never have followed my dreams and had my own business. Being my own boss I could arrange my hours around school drop offs and pick ups, I even managed to be a tuck shop mum from time to time! We lived behind the studio for a number of years when the kids were young so that made life easier (until they were up and running through the business, then it was time to move!) My secret weapon was my mum, Josie. One minute she was grandma and the next the crystal fairy, embellishing dresses with crystals and pearls. I come from a long line of strong women in my family and of that I am so grateful, we were brought up to know that as a woman you can do anything if you put your mind to it.
What is important to your business moving forward?
Something I will always be passionate about is that my designs will always be made in Australia, I love employing wonderful women and collaborating with other Australian businesses. We have seen ‘Ethical Fashion’ and supporting Australian business become important to younger generations which I feel is a silver lining to the Covid years. We need to support each other now, strengthen the Australian economy by keeping this amazing talent of creating garments within Australia and not lose it to offshore mass production.
We have a huge 2023 ahead of us at Paddington Weddings and I will never take for granted working in this wonderful industry. I cherish being part of such a special time in my brides lives and will keep making dreams come true, one dress at a time.