Kimberley Giles spends countless hours crafting amazing bespoke veils and wedding gowns. Embellished with pearls and gemstones, her creations are a celebration of skills and an attention to detail that is sadly disappearing in today’s society. FOCUS sat down with the young creative dynamo to find out more about her work.
Hi Kimberley. Can you briefly tell us what you do?
I work at Melanie Jayne and specialise in designing exclusive bridal gowns for clientele across the country. As a couturier, it all starts from the sketch I create to suit each individual’s dreams in search of the perfect dress. I make beaded hairpieces, veils and bridal belts to complement each bride and help style her look for the day. Using only the finest of materials and laces sourced internationally, I delicately hand embellish all the garments using genuine pearls and signature 24 ct gold beading alongside a private and highly exclusive range of beadwork only known to my clients.
Is sewing something that you have always had an interest in?
All my life I’ve lived and breathed bridal. Moving to Australia from New Zealand with my parents and sisters, my mother opened up her studio, where she was creating gorgeous gowns for countless brides. As a little girl I was in heaven, playing under her desk in all the pretty laces and picking up the beautiful beads that fell to the floor. She taught me hand sewing, and I made garters, ring cushions and other bridal accessories.
By the age of seven, I would piece outfits together from scrap material raided from Mum’s fabric bin, spending most of the day carefully hand sewing on lace and safety pining up shoulders. My younger sister, Emma, and I pranced around the house proudly in our new dresses, and Mum would often come home from work and just laugh at what we were wearing while we showed off our clothes with grins from ear to ear.
I have always been inspired and encouraged by my parents to sew and when I turned 16, I got my own sewing machine so I could sew to my heart’s content. I would often be up late at night making myself a dress to wear for the next day.
You recently completed a course in pattern making at TAFE. Can you tell us a bit about what you learnt and how it will be of benefit to you and your clients?
In the year just gone, I completed a Diploma in Pattern Making in Coffs Harbour, where I designed complex patterns for garments and built on my existing skills from previous courses. Advanced pattern making involves drafting designs from an idea and a few measurements and knowing how to test the limits of fabric manipulation to achieve interesting textures and creating depth in garments. For my final assignment at TAFE, they had us make Baroque Evening wear. Being in the bridal industry, I was so excited and designed a range of exquisite bridal gowns using champagne silks and thousands of pearl and rich gold beads. With all the skills I have obtained over the years, I am able to create exclusive bespoke garments for my clients, who desire an original gown of the finest quality.
Can you describe the approach you take to designing and making a wedding dress?
I start with a pencil to paper and draw numerous sketches. After selecting the favourite design, I decide on the best fabrics and laces to make the gown from. Then I draft the patterns and ensure the perfect fit, always carefully checking each stage of design. There are many hours and much toil involved in this process before the fabric even sees the cutting table. Once all the pieces are cut out, the gown is then sewn and fitted onto a tailor’s mannequin. Lastly, I add the hand embellishments with laces and breathtaking beads for the final touch.
You must be a perfectionist, as everything must need to be 100% when you fit the dress on a wedding day. How much work goes into a dress?
A lot of work in a gown is unseen, such as custom built in corsetry and boning, which is hidden between many layers of fabrics. Wedding gown skirts can contain multiple layers, using rolls of fabrics and laces. The beadwork is all done by hand, and is very time consuming; imagine sewing on over 15,000 beads individually on a single gown by hand. The amount of hours from the original sketch to the finished product is in excess of hundreds of hours. Each gown needs to fit perfectly, and most require precise fittings only days before the wedding.
What are some of the materials that you use?
I only use the best, from French laces and pure silk satin to sheer silk organza. All gowns are lined with a soft silk cotton blend, which is beautiful to wear and flows with the silk. I use silk thread for hand sewing and stunning 24 ct gold beads and genuine pearls.
Where do you source these materials?
The French laces are made on old French looms in France. And I source my silks and beads internationally from many exotic locations around the world.
You also make amazing veils to complement the dresses. What makes them unique?
Veils have adorned the heads of brides for thousands of year and are still a tradition among modern brides today. “Kimberley Susan” veils are exclusive only to Melanie Jayne. I hand bead and sew all the veils to suit each gown, matching the colour, beadwork and length perfectly for each bride. Using pearls, gold, silver and crystal beads, these veils are exquisite heirlooms to pass down through the generations.
Each dress is one of a kind; how does getting to know the bride help you shape the gown?
Choosing a bridal gown can be very stressful, and for some brides a daunting experience. I ensure that my brides feel comfortable, and understand that each bride wants to look and feel beautiful on her wedding day. Her dress must be the reflection of her personality, and help tell her story. After listening and talking with each other, we work on achieving the perfect silhouette. I then design the finer details, right down to the very last ruffle and ivory pearl. She can have everything she desires… sweeping low backs to French lace sleeves, classical ball gown skirts and trains. She is not just a bride for the day. She is a bride for a lifetime, as the moment is captured and photographed forever.
What has been your favourite creation so far?
One of the gowns I made was in my last assignment at TAFE. “ Aurora” from the Baroque Collection has been my favourite creation.
How many hours went into it, and what were the aspects of the dress that you liked the most?
Designing “Aurora” took uncountable hours and was made using 35 metres of pure silk organza, hemmed with a wide braid forming these amazing waves in the skirt. The bodice was a stunning corset embellished with rich gold and pearls. She was fun to make, and I cannot wait to make another one, as this dress was sold before I could have it professionally photographed.
Your creations must be seen as heirlooms and could be handed down from generation to generation; do you also see them this way?
My creations are heirloom keepsakes, and each is beautifully boxed with certificates of authenticity, so a record can be kept of the brides who wear it. As each piece is passed down it collects history, becoming more priceless and holding precious memories.
If you could create a dress for a celebrity, who would it be and why?
With my love for archery and fashion combined, who could inspire me more than Jennifer Lawrence from The Hunger Games! Oh, how I would love to make her a stunning gown for the red carpet!
What are your plans for the future?
I love working in bridal as a couturier and feel honoured being a part of something so special and beautiful with my brides. I plan on continuing work here at Melanie Jayne and will keep designing gowns where the only limit to my creations is my imagination.
Where can people find out more about your work?
All my work can be viewed in store at Melanie Jayne. I post my recent works in progress on our Facebook page and am available for appointed bridal consultations.