Jenny Packham

Jenny Packham has been making women look and feel fabulous for 26 years. When it comes to dresses – bridal or otherwise – she just knows. She spoke, we listened…

It’s no mean feat to have created a bridal empire almost by chance. After all, Jenny Packham’s entire wedding domain only began life a mere eight years ago, when Brides magazine in the UK approached the designer and asked to nominate her as newcomer of the year, based on a gown she’d made for an awards ceremony. “We won and I thought… maybe we really ought to start doing things like this. So we started a whole collection,” she told us on her recent trip to Dubai.

Until then, the Packham brand had been built on the sparkling foundations of eveningwear, an arm of the business that has only gone from strength to strength since. Angelina Jolie, Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez can all be counted as fans, as well as Kate Middleton flying the flag in possibly the most influential way. A huge celebrity following, a 26-year tenure, and an exceptional eye for what makes a knockout frock makes it almost impossible to decide between red carpet or bridal as her forte. All we know is, we’re happy the choice is there at all.

It’s always heart-warming to hear stories like the Brides one. A serendipitous twist of fate that sets someone on a path that completely changes things for both them and the world around them. Before bridal came along, Packham was illustriously devoted to eveningwear. “I’ve learned that in the fashion industry, every season is a new day. What’s wonderful is that the people involved – from the shop owners to the press – want something fresh all the time. You can evolve and change; if I said I was doing sportswear next season everyone would be receptive to it!”

Being malleable has clearly worked out. “We now sell to 35 different countries,” Jenny tells us. “When I approach designing now, I try to understand cultures. I love the Middle East because they embrace colour and dressing up – they’re very honest about it. Regions inform me a lot more now than when I first started. It’s fundamental to the collection – making sure there’s something for the diversity of women we sell to.”

Jenny Packham

Esme dress, POA, Jenny Packham bridal

With a philosophy like that –  a designer who appreciates the global nature of fashion, and the equally varied nature of women’s tastes – it’s little wonder the brand has had such longevity. It’s savvy to say the least, and a signifier of exactly how much the landscape has changed over two-and-a-half decades. “When we started our business we had a fax machine. Now we’re live streaming the show to 50,000 people,” she laughs. “But when it comes to actual design, I don’t think the criteria of bridalwear has changed particularly. The dress has to have that magic, that wow factor that makes someone fall in love with it. That’s always been the same.”

And what about the relationship between designing occasionwear and bridal? “They’re great friends!” she says, smiling. “It’s strange – sometimes we have a fabulous evening dress and everyone says, ‘Oh this would be such a good wedding gown,’ but you look at it and think, ‘It’s not though.’ Only very few make the leap from evening to bridal. In eveningwear you want to look sexy and glamorous but with bridal you also want the detail, the interesting fabrics and the beautiful motifs. It’s got to have that completed look.”

There must be a lot of pressure associated with making, arguably, what is the most important piece of clothing someone will ever wear. “You have to be completely committed to making a woman feel 100 per cent in her dress. You have to deliver quality and it’s really important that she has a great experience though the whole process. I’m very much about the journey, not the destination. For a lot of girls, they’ve never had a dress made or had fittings. You have to hold their hand throughout, as quite often they can’t imagine that you can fix it all and make it look right… if they want the train longer they can’t envisage how they’re going to move in it… there’s a lot of trust involved.”

Jenny Packham Bridal 2015

Jenny Packham Bridal 2015

Dedication to an amazing experience plus an aptitude for weaving the X factor into dresses? Count us in. But what impresses the most is her almost single-handed transformation of the bridal business. She’s taken her acumen as a pure fashion designer and infused her wedding dresses, her campaigns, and her shows with the same kind of fresh, contemporary spin that today’s modern woman craves.

“It used to be that when people got married they went into another, quite weird, world,” she adds. “You went into a shop and drew the curtains. Women knew since age six what they wanted their wedding dress to look like. The parents were also very involved because they were buying it. Now women are buying their own dresses and the whole thing seems much more fashion forward.” Not a moment too soon, either. “Bridalwear is now coming back to reflecting what’s going on in fashion generally and incorporating elements from the red carpet. We’ve been through a long period where it’s been quite historically-influenced, especially Victorian and Elizabethan touches… I’d say even since Lady Diana up until the past few years.”

Jenny Packham Bridal 2015

Jenny Packham Bridal 2015

And what does she think her part has been in all of this? “I love the bridal business because I feel we can – and have – really added something to the industry. We’ve shaped it and brought it on. It moves much slower (than fashion) and I think we’ve been able to accelerate that change in the style.” A pioneer, then. “I just try to create a beautiful dress,” she says. “Something someone feels passionate about. That’s all I try to do.”


Jenny Packham mainline is available at Bloomingdale’s Dubai. Visit or call (04) 350533 for information on bridal collections.

Model: Ava at MMG MODEL’S | hair and make-up: Jessie Tabla at MMG | Jenny Packham’s make-up: Sisi at Bloomingdale’s-Dubai | Jenny Packham’s hair: Jessie Tabla at MMG  | Styling: Alexandra Venison | Photography: Farooq Salik