by Camilla Ridley
This week we're celebrating Ridley London's fifth anniversary. Designer and founder Camilla Ridley picks out her five most important dress designs and explains what makes them so special, appealing and uniquely flattering
Designer and founder Camilla Ridley (pictured here in Ridley London's Barnes store) has set out to champion individually made dresses. (Right) Ridley London's popular Milly shirt dress pictured as part of this season's collection in the midnight blue Eastern Patchwork Liberty print silk
I hope you have had a good September? With the Queen’s passing and endless news and speculation, it certainly feels like a momentous time. For everyone here at Ridley, September 30th is a particularly auspicious date. Unbelievably it marks five years since we first opened the door of our Ridley store here in Barnes, and what a five years it’s been! Like so many anniversaries and events, it's given me time to reflect on all of the incredible and varied experiences the last five years have brought. All of the ups: designing collections, the wonderful customers we’ve helped and friends we’ve made, and of course all of the positive feedback we’ve received. The challenges of running a small business through Covid, lockdowns and so much uncertainty. And the sad times, like loosing my wonderful and irreplaceable friend Dame Deborah James, who helped our little label so much. Above all it’s given me a chance to appreciate just how lucky I am, to have spent the last five years living out my dreams, growing a small independent fashion label with my wonderful team, that does something really different that we're all really proud of.
When I started Ridley, I wanted to create clothing for women like me. Easy, wearable items for real women with real bodies, and busy lives. Unique, beautiful pieces that you could throw on, confident you would always look and feel your best. Clever, versatile styles that would work for a variety of occasions, that wouldn't compromise the environment or cost the earth. I believed then as I do now that dresses are the most flattering, solution for feminine physiques, as they enable fabric to be draped to skim specific areas of our bodies, highlighting our best features and hiding a multitude of sins. And because everybody is unique, at Ridley we individually make every dress to order, so customers can have any of our styles customised to flatter in any of our prints. There’s no wastage and a hugely reduced environmental footprint for every garment. Over the last five years we’ve designed around 20 collections and have individually made hundreds of unique dresses, skirts and tops for all sorts of people, with a variety of unique requirements. During this time several styles have really stood out for their popularity and perfectly embodying the Ridley approach. For our five year anniversary, I have distilled this into the five most important dresses which have helped build our little label.
1. Alissya Maxi - the ultimate holiday dress
Ridley London's best selling Alissya maxi is the perfect holiday dress and has proven popular with a number of influencers including Kat Farmer @doesmybumlook40 (top centre) and Becky @bricksandstitches (bottom centre)
Designed in 2015, our first sleeveless maxi dress became an instant classic, and seven years later is still selling well every summer. The secret of this dresses success lies in is it’s magical elongating style and easy wearability. This really is a dress you can simply throw on over a bikini for a day on the beach or with the right heels and accessories can be equally glamorous. The elasticated waist is both comfortable while helping to emphasise a feminine hourglass silhouette. Above all this dress was engineered for travel, enabling it to be rolled up into a case and then simply hung out in a steamy bathroom to magically remove any the creases from the beautiful silk. What could be easier! The Margot Maxi is a direct development for cooler winter temperatures, or for those that like sleeves.
2. Octavia Maxi - the glamorous winter dress
Ridley London's glamorous Octavia Maxi is the perfect winter statement dress and looks fabulous in both velvets and printed metallic silks. Fans include columnist and broadcaster Miranda Holder (top middle) and broadcaster Kate Garraway (bottom middle)
Designed in winter 2018, the Octavia maxi dress is uncompromisingly glamorous, universally flattering and the perfect dress for winter occasions parties and Christmas - especially in a statement metallic silk or sumptuous velvet. Full length sleeves, puff shoulders, a full length split skirt and nipped in middle help to elongate the wearers legs and visually slim their waist, creating a classically elegant hourglass silhouette. The V neck softens and reduces larger busts and the simple feminine style makes the Octavia maxi dress a classic investment dress that you’ll feel love wearing for seasons to come.
3. Milly Shirt dress - the versatile wardrobe staple
Ridley London's best selling Milly shirt dress comes in a spectrum of printed silks including this season's Eastern Patchwork satin from Liberty. The Milly shirt dress has proven particular popular with the fashion set as shown here on fashion writer and stylist Virginia Chadwyck-Healey (top middle) and The Telegraph's head of fashion Lisa Armstrong (bottom middle) who selected it as her favourite dress last summer
We all need a 'go to’ everyday dress in our wardrobes that we can completely rely on. A dress that’s incredibly comfortable, universally flattering, and can be dressed up or down whatever the occasion. Our classic Milly shirtdress is a real workhorse of a dress, that offers incredible mileage. I know this as I have quite a few myself, and literally live in them. The relaxed style, easy wearability, flattering A-line skirt and belted waist have made it a best seller across multiple season’s and collections. Testament to this is the number of customers who come back every year to buy another customised Milly shirt dress in an updated print like this season's incredible midnight blue eastern patchwork satin. In my mind the Milly shirt dress really is the ultimate investment piece, you can wear it to literally everything, its cool in summer, warm in winter, great with trainers or heals. You won’t find a more useful and wearable dress. So much so, The Telegraphs Head of Fashion Lisa Armstrong picked it out as her dress of the season for summer 2021.
4. Isla dress - the new summer classic
Ridley London's Isla dress comes in a spectrum of summer solids and broderie anglaise cotton and was undoubtedly the label's most popular style for summer 2022. Worn here to the 2022 Chelsea Flower Show by fashion influencer Laura-Ann Barr @all.thats.pretty and model Ella May Van Der Gaag
Designed for summer 2022 in on-trend solids and broderie anglaise cotton, the Isla dress made an immediate impact with influencers and the press and became an instant best seller. Combining the most wearable elements of some of our most popular Ridley dresses with new feminine detailing, the ruffled front and deep V neck soften larger bust lines, the delicate sleeves conceal upper arms, and the midaxi length skirt, higher waist and belt elongate, creating a visibly slimmer silhouette. While the relaxed cut makes it an incredibly easy and comfortable dress to wear in the heat, the ruffles and detailing make it smarter than a conventional sundress, so it’s incredibly versatile and perfect for all sorts of summer occasions. Due to popular demand, we’ve adapted the Isla dress for winter with extended sleeve lengths and warmer statement printed silks.
5. Virginia dress - the iconically feminine dress
Ridley London's best selling floral print silk chiffon Virginia dress, as worn by HRH Catherine Princess of Wales, is based on an iconic British tea dress and is a popular choice for weddings and summer occasions.
When the Duchess of Cambridge (now HRH Catherine Princess of Wales) wore our Virginia dress in 2019, it became an instant hit, with a rush of orders from around the globe. Her Royal Highness really is the ultimate ambassador for British fashion, and we were incredibly honoured that she chose our boutique, British made label and the Virginia dress in particular. I love dresses that are uncompromisingly feminine, comfortable, with pretty floral prints that evoke long summer days. In my mind this is perfectly embodied by the iconic British tea dresses which first became popular in the mid 19th century for informal entertaining at home, and were directly inspired by the Japanese Kimono. I wanted to create a contemporary interpretation of a classic tea dress, with all the light, floaty femininity and elegance but in a more contemporary wearable style that would also flatter curvier physiques. In terms of fabric, floral print silk chiffon was the obvious answer for its diaphanous qualities that help give the Virginia dress its beautifully light floaty feel. The body of the dress is lined and fitted to create a slimming hourglass silhouette, with a belt tie to emphasise and draw in the waist, and a simple v neck to reduce and smooth out the bust line. The dress is balanced with floaty diaphanous sleeves to conceal the upper arms and a gathered hem detail. The balance of formal tailoring with the lightness of the silk and detailing make the Virginia dress perfect for smarter summer events, and unsurprisingly it’s still an incredibly popular choice to wear to weddings. The lighter informal elements also enable it to be dressed down with trainers or wedges for a more informal look. For me the Virginia dress is a real wardrobe investment piece, that you'll be able to wear every summer, and know you'll turn heads as it's customised to flatter.
Ridley London's new Autumn collection of made to measure statement dresses, skirts, tops, jackets and knitwear is available to purchase online and in Ridley's Barnes store. Celebrate your individuality this season with a unique piece that's individually crafted to flatter from your choice of any of our stunning new printed floral or solid silks or cottons. Or call us to arrange a virtual fitting:
Ridley London, 82 Church Road, Barnes, London SW13 0DQ T: 01730 823097