The Art of Dressing Up - Emilia Wickstead

A fashion designer who is reinvigorating the traditions of dressmaking.
Reading time 5 minutes

She is known for her modern silhouettes and strong color use. The techniques she utilizes serve to create clothes that effortlessly combine traditional with contemporary with an insistence on quality and a clear point of distinction. A favorite of the Duchess of Cambridge,  who regularly wears her designs while she performs her royal duties, she’s known for her modern formalwear and has a knack for producing beautiful, wearable pieces that make high-profile dressing a breeze.

She is Emilia Wickstead - a fashion designer who is reinvigorating the traditions of dressmaking.

Born in New Zealand in 1983, Wickstead moved to Milan at 14 with her mother, also a fashion designer, who now runs a business selling Italian-made linens. It was in Italy that Wickstead developed an appreciation for a more formal way of dressing. “You never saw anyone in a pair of flip flops or shorts,” she recalls. “Everyone was so polished and put together, and I became immersed in it. My hair became long and that’s when my feminine side came about.” 

In 2014 she won the Red Carpet Designer of the Year Award at the Elle Style Awards. Before making her name as a made-to-measure atelier in 2009, Emilia Wickstead interned in the design houses of Milan, London and New York.

Central Saint Martins graduate, Wickstead started her business as a bespoke and made-to-measure service in 2008 and didn’t show her collections to the press or sell wholesale until few years ago. Instead, she opened a salon-style boutique in London’s Chelsea neighborhood in 2009. “I think that’s why, when I first started, I didn’t even think about London Fashion Week,” she explained to The New York Times. “I thought about shows for clients. Being in the store six days a week, fitting women and selling to women, it was really educating me on understanding what women really wanted.” 

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Emilia Wickstead RESORT 2020

When it came to establishing her own brand, she eschewed the madcap creativity of her classmates and sought to build something commercially viable, which she attributes to watching her mother set up a fashion business. “She taught me how to fit, about the quality of the inside of the garments and different techniques for designs and pattern-making — things that I hadn’t necessarily picked up at Central Saint Martins,” she says.

Wickstead had her first showing at London Fashion Week in 2012, and holds shows and consultations in New Zealand, New York and Milan. Her style has been described as "graceful", "understated elegance" and her choice of colors as "pretty but not saccharine”. 

The designer RTW label Emilia Wickstead has become the epitome of modern femininity. Femininity — the old-school, cinched-waist kind — is now a pillar of Wickstead’s aesthetic. Although she makes fitted denim and trousers, her business is built on flattering dresses, often with high necks and nipped-in silhouettes. Her stunningly simple dresses speak to our very modern longing for the old-fashioned. “We can be powerful while being feminine,” she says, and a well-cut dress can be just as commanding as a suit.


Wickstead is a very proper designer: her clothes are for sure made to appear ladylike, perhaps sometimes even tantamount to prim, but what the designer relays in her collections is that under even the most apparently put-together and fashion-minding exterior can beat the heart of an iconoclast. 

Over a decade after staring her brand, Wickstead and her team still make each garment in the designer’s London studio. In the last three years, Wickstead’s company has grown from five to 35 people. Every garment is made in her lively open-plan studio, and each pattern is designed digitally and printed here before becoming toiles that the designer then perfects herself. Bespoke garments are still a substantial part of her business, and so, in addition to flattering cocktail dresses and wide-leg jumpsuits, her collection also has grand showpieces that demonstrate her ability to create statement-making evening wear.

Emilia Wickstead collections are held in some of the most prestigious stockists in the world, including Net-A-Porter, Selfridges, Harrods, Matches, and Moda Operandi to name a few, alongside her high-end women's fashion exclusive flagship store offering ready-to-wear or made-to-measure items. 

Located at 162a Sloane Street in London’s Chelsea, the Emilia Wickstead flagship store is a true extension of the brand. Inspired by Richard Meier, Emilia worked with Fran Hickman in 2016 to create the perfect insight into the Emilia Wickstead world. The upstairs boasts Terrazzo floors and dusty pink walls, while downstairs encapsulated the true salon experience of an old world Atelier. With its plush pink carpets and fabric covered walls and sofas, the salon is an homage to a great American interior decorator Dorothy Draper.

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