“I remember always being outside, connected to nature and loving the pure freedom of life in Cyprus,” said Marguerite Hannah when we spoke recently about her childhood on the island and subsequent years in London. Marguerite’s story is one surely worth telling. Born in Cyprus and currently residing permanently in the UK, she has been designing bridal fashion for the Alan Hannah brand since 1990.
Marguerite‘s first steps in the world of fashion were taken almost entirely by chance. “I always had an interest in clothes and fashion,” she admitted, “but my first love was actually science. I intended to study Chemistry in the UK, but came back to Cyprus at 18 with my sister, and my adventures here changed my path.” Instead, she studied fashion in Cyprus and then began to work for a designer there, making couture gowns and gaining experience with proved invaluable upon her return to the UK. “When I went back to England I really wanted to work in theatre costume but started a job in bridal wear which I found to be equally challenging, and working with such beautiful silk fabrics spoilt me for anything else.”
Speaking about the source of her inspiration, Marguerite explained her design philosophy. “My designs are very classic, and understated. The cut is everything.” She was happy to single out her design idols, including Dior among her all-time favourites. “I really admired Alexander McQueen for his absolute genius and innate understanding of what to do with fabric.” Marguerite’s love of her natural surroundings comes through very clearly in her use of embellishments. “As a young child I still remember the excitement of springtime and the dazzling colours that it brought, so I guess this must have made an early impression given my obsession with putting beautiful flowers on my dresses,” she reminisced fondly. The influences of nature are apparent in her ‘English Romantics’ collection where most gowns have a floral theme. “The flowers on the Melita dress are stylised Gerbera daisies,” said Marguerite. “I was inspired by daisies from childhood memories of ‘he loves me, he loves me not’.” The dresses are elegant and spectacular, their uniqueness coming from the petals which are designed and hand crafted, and then sewn on piece by piece. Marguerite’s flower theme continues in the new High Society collection on gowns like Nice, Sorrento and Seville. Moving forward she says, “One of my favourite pastimes is strolling around markets like Portobello Rd and buying and admiring vintage pieces of jewellery and objects. This has had a big influence on dresses like Milano, Casablanca and Charleston from the new collection.
Marguerite has won a number of awards recognising her unmistakeable talent in bridal couture, including Bridal Buyer Designer of The Year, Retail Bridal Association Designer of The Year and British Bridal Association Designer of The Year. Passing on advice to aspiring designers, she emphasises tradition and perseverance. “You will find many Cypriots in the UK fashion industry and in fact my own daughter is doing work experience with me at the moment,” she said. “I think so many families were involved in the fashion industry when they came to England and the traditions and skills have often passed down to the next generation. My own mother was a seamstress and later a hand finisher. She worked with us until she was 84 and still does the odd bit of beading at home.” She puts forward her belief that perseverance is essential. “Graduates have to be prepared to work hard honing their pattern skills and use of fabrics before they can expect to design a good collection and be employable.” Marguerite elaborated. “Design must be based on what is going to work on the human form and this does take a long time to learn and appreciate. At the end of the day hard work and an ability to bounce back from adversity is the most important thing in any field.”
Interview with reporter Katerina Stephanides of the Cyprus Weekly.