Laura Briggs talks to award-winning wedding dress designer Sassi Holford

Sassi Holford, winner of the industry award Best British Bridal Designer 2013, and for Best British Bridal Designer for Brides Magazine, voted by the readers, has just launched her 2014 collection. Here she speaks to Laura Briggs at her Taunton shop.

Having just finished launching her 2014 bridal collection at the shows in New York, Paris, and London, an award-winning designer of bespoke bridal dresses, and splitting time between Taunton and her store in Chelsea, Sassi Holford is a busy woman.

Despite the launch being over, there is still the making of the dresses – around 2,000 a year, and of course the summer season brings with it an influx of brides all wanting to look just perfect for their special day.

I can see why they come to Sassi. Not only are her dresses exquisite, and with a bespoke service on offer, but Sassi herself is totally refreshing.

Relaxed, and down to earth – far from the designer diva I expected – she apologises for not having a scrap of make-up on (despite still looking the epitome of glamour), and she really knows how to make a dress.

“I’ve been doing this for 32 years now. I started making a wedding dress for a friend whose mother had died in tragic circumstances, and the business just built up from there. At 19 I got in the car and drove around to shops with probably no more than eight dresses.”

Looking at the glamorous facade of the Taunton shop, and of course the one in Chelsea, it’s hard for people to see what goes on behind the scenes. Like a serene swan paddling furiously under the surface, Sassi is a grafter who has worked hard to receive the top industry accolade, and even design a dress for the Royal family’s Autumn Philips.

“I’m a hands on designer and I see what goes on and I make sure I can be at a brides fittings. I like to see my brides at least once. I still pinch myself four years after designing the dress for Autumn Philips, and remembering the fitting at Windsor Castle!”

Sassi has also designed the wedding dress for Somerset’s cricketing royalty, Marcus and Hayley Trescothick.

One of Sassi’s dresses can set you back anything from £1,800 for her Signature Collection in the Taunton store, to those ranging from £5,000 right up to £17,000 in her Chelsea boutique. “I think my style really is the quintessential English Rose, so it’s funny how the most expensive dresses tend to be bought by Arab and Russian women – that’s really where the money is at the moment!”

According to Sassi, the silhouette is the most important thing when buying a wedding dress. “You find the perfect silhouette first and detailing on the dress is more about the client’s personality. The one dress that I would say really encapsulates the ethos of Sassi Holford is the Jessica dress. It’s just a perfectly straight silk column dress. It’s beautiful and if you get it, it’s perfect!”

The business is a bit of a family affair with Sassi’s husband Martin Jenkins looking after the finance side of the business. “He does the bits that don’t interest me so much!” And lately, Sassi’s daughter 12-year-old Missie designed the second most popular dress in her esprit collection “So Sassi”.

As for her two sons, Charles, 17, and Hugo – Missie’s twin, they aren’t quite so interested. “To be honest, I’ll be glad if they don’t come into the family business and spend time getting to know what they really like to do”.

When Sassi has a spare moment to herself, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking hearty food, and eating – although her personal trainer, David Wood of The Studio, ensures that no-one would ever know that to look at her!