Each month we like to
get to know a supplier even better and bring you snippets you won't know about
them from their page. This month our supplier of the month is Victoria Wolf,
owner of Willoughby & Wolf; a luxury bridal boutique offering elegant and contemporary wedding dresses from the bustling market town of
Marlborough in Wiltshire.
Willoughby & Wolf is not your typical bridal shop and just like your wedding, they are something rather special! With an enviable combination of designer dresses, product knowledge, first class service and exclusive-use appointments; Willoughby & Wolf offer an unforgettable luxe shopping experience that every bride-to-be deserves to have.
Read on to hear what Victoria Wolf had to say when we asked her about her favourite dresses, changing room faux pas, upcoming trends and the story behind the beginning of Willoughby & Wolf ...
*Floral display provided by Blooming Chic
Who runs Willoughby & Wolf and how did you start out in business?
Me - Victoria Wolf, I am owner, fashion director, cleaner, secretary, bookkeeper and accountant! I started out like many other bridal owners, whereby I found the experience of shopping for my own dress in 2016 a mixture of tedious, uninspiring, unhelpful and not special enough. I really appreciate good customer service and attention to detail and believe that buying your wedding dress should be a real pleasure. I felt that I could not only do it better, but also offer something a little bit different from the mainstream for brides-to-be.
What’s the best bit about your job?
Meeting so many lovely people and being part of their journey. I have met so many people that I think in another life we would be friends. I love hearing all about the plans for the weddings and how the engagement happened. It is such a happy time - who couldn’t love doing what I do!
What would people be surprised to learn about you and/or your work?
Most people are really surprised to learn that I was a prison governor before bridal! People are also often surprised to hear that I get upset when brides collect their dresses for their wedding. Having been a part of something so special, to not see it through to the end really feels like we are breaking up! After the wedding though, when a lovely email with photographs pings into my inbox, I get myself worked up again and this time cry happy tears…. I am far too emotional!!
When was the last time you laughed out loud with one of your brides? What happened?
I try to make each appointment as fun as possible, so there is always lots of laughter. Trying on wedding dresses is not the glamorous experience that is often portrayed in the media, dresses are usually too small or too big. Therefore, I spend a lot of time making sure the bride to be feels comfortable and relaxed - however, there are times when all you can do is make light of the situation! Last week I had a lovely bride in who tried on my one and only fishtail dress. I absolutely knew that the zip would go up but had to enlist the help of the made of honour to pull the dress up, while the bride pulled it down and I wrestled with the zip! All 3 of us were giggling hard in the changing area! Once it was done up, she looked AMAZING, really showed off her figure but it wasn’t ‘The One’.
Photography credit: Antonia Grace Photography
Tell us about one of the most embarrassing things you have seen / happen during an appointment?
I usually don’t go in the changing room with brides, but I explain how to get into the dresses and am always right outside to help if they get stuck. However, on one appointment a bride was just about to get undressed when she informed me that she wasn’t wearing any underwear, nothing, not a stitch, because she didn’t own any nude or white ones! I had to delay the appointment whilst she went and brought some knickers! Underwear is a necessity; I don’t care what colour it is!!
What is your greatest fear when you are working with a bride?
I don’t really have any when it comes to brides, instead my greatest fear comes from large, mean or unruly bridal parties. This can ruin the whole experience for the bride and causes chaos; but thankfully it doesn’t happen often! Wedding dress shopping is not like ‘Say Yes to the Dress’, it’s not okay to ‘fat shame’, it’s not okay to run around the boutique pulling dresses out and trying them on yourself. I want every bride to have a special appointment with us, so it’s important that their special people are on the same page.
What is the hardest thing a bride has ever asked you to do for them?
Luckily nothing too difficult. I get the usual last-minute orders for handmade veils that take 4 weeks to make but to date (touch wood) I have always managed to get them in time.
The trickiest though was not putting my foot in it and letting slip that I had already met one of the bridal party members before the reveal appointment. A lovely bride of mine visited us with a friend who we shall call ‘D’, who lives in the area. They didn’t think they would find anything as she had a particular look that she was after, so when they found ‘The One’, it was amazing, especially as she had been to several shops before. The bride brought her mum back to purchase the gown and then made a ‘Reveal’ appointment for the rest of her party. I had to make out that I hadn't met ‘D’ and I spent the whole appointment trying not to mention anything, or comment on the things that I already knew!!
What is your favourite dress in your collection?
That’s not fair, it’s the same as asking me to name my favourite child…!
I love them all equally. I do have two that I really adore though. Katya Katya – Lille, from the 2019 Wanderlust collection is just so dreamy and delicate and Jesus Peiro 156 is from the new 2020 Cala collection and features gorgeous silk cigarette trousers a long coat with train which has to be top of my list too. It just shows brides can still wow and look like a bride without wearing a dress.
Photography Credit: Photography by Sally-Anne
How does the bride know if the dress is ‘The One’?
Every bride is different, most brides and their party don’t cry. I have had a bride faint, others go away and think about the dress and then email the next day, and I even had one bride look in the mirror, look at me and just go ‘this will do’. It is okay not to have an overwhelming emotional reaction, if you love a dress, can see yourself getting married in it then there is a good chance it’s the one for you.
Are you honest with brides if you think a dress isn’t right for them?
Now that depends. If the bride totally loves the dress, then it’s ‘The One’ whether I or their friends beg to differ. However, if I see a bride hesitating, or their friends love it and she doesn’t, I ask if I can give my opinion. There have been times when I have been zipping someone up, looked at them in the mirror and gone ‘just take it off now!’
When should a bride first visit your boutique?
I work with fabulous designers without incredibly long lead times, so we recommend 8 – 12 months before, too early and you risk ‘dress regrets’ when the latest designs land, too late and you may end up not being able to have your dream dress as you haven’t left enough time. Between 8 and 12 months will mean you have your venue and date sorted, and a clearer idea of how you want your wedding to look and feel.
Do you ever try on the new dresses as they arrive in store?
I certainly would if I didn’t work on my own, but I have no one to zip me up! My daughter comes to stay every few months when she can get away from her work as a carer, and she will spend the day as my assistant. She insists that she tries the new gowns on as ‘payment’! I have been known to wear one of the tiaras to do the cleaning in though!
Photography Credit: Antonia Grace Photography
What’s your top tips for brides searching for their dress?
Research, research, research the dress designers of the styles that you like. You’ll then want to narrow down your choice of boutiques to visit based on what designers they offer, and try to narrow it down to just 2 or 3 boutiques in total. That said, be open to trying on other dresses. If the consultant recommends something, then try it on! Most boutiques carry designers and styles that complement one another, so if you like one particular dress or designer, then they may have other things that you’ll like too.
What is your greatest extravagance that helps you get through the day?
Caffeine!! I love coffee, I am a real coffee snob, I won’t deny it. At home we have a bean to cup machine and in the shop, I use a Nespresso (with recyclable aluminium caps). In fact, I haven’t brought instant coffee for 7 years.
What is the one thing you can’t live without in your job?
My PPL / PRS licence….it means I can play music all day. I love music, it’s a big part of my life and I couldn’t live without it.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your work?
Everywhere! I love reading (looking at the pictures) fashion magazines just as much as bridal, but my main inspiration are the fashion weeks and the red carpet. I love watching the Oscars, reading about the Met Gala and who wore what. The glamour is just something else. A lot of the outrageous outfits here will end up as watered down versions on the high street, but it’s good to see where things will be in two to three years from now.
Should a wedding dress be white!?
In my opinion no. Tradition aside white is the worst colour for a wedding dress and can look quite harsh, almost blue. Most designers don’t make pure white dresses anymore as is not very flattering and can make people look pale and insipid. However, there are some amazing off whites out there and 700 shades of Ivory, which everyone still refers to as ‘white'.
Do you stock anything other than bridal gowns?
We stock handmade veils and accessories such as hairpieces and earrings. One of my favourites is the lovely collection of heirloom pieces by Miss Clemmie. We also have custom made denim jackets available which are rather trend conscious.
What trends do you see coming in?
Going out in bridal is see through – no one wants to see your pants on your wedding day; however, this has been big on the regular fashion catwalks for Autumn / Winter.
Coming in are structured plain fabrics, the Meghan effect is still going strong so check out Jesus Peiro and Theia Couture. Separates are taking off with more brides wanting to be able to mix up there look between day and evening but can’t afford or don’t want two wedding dresses, and 3D effects on dresses and veils too.
There is also a strong 70’s vibe for 2020 with inspiration from Bianca Jagger and Studio 54. These are real classic shapes but with a modern touch. Just look at the trouser suits, long line coats and jumpsuits for both the bride and bridesmaids.
What bit of advice would you love to share with brides?
What moment are you most proud of in your profession?
The day we opened. It was a whirlwind from the beginning and opening the door for the first time was just unforgettable; which is lucky as we never officially captured the moment.
What are you dreams for Willoughby & Wolf?
To be super successful, but what does success look like...? Well for me success is to be known for our outstanding customer service and distinct designs. We really what to be recognised as one of the best luxe boutiques outside of London - the place to go!
In the future I would also like to expand our offering, whilst keeping our boutique feel. I’d love to be able to cater to other areas of the bridal market that go naturally with wedding dresses, but for now that is just a dream.
Loved finding out all about Victoria Wolf and her wonderful boutique?
Be sure to hit the pink ‘get in touch’ button on their Directory page to get in contact today and book in your exclusive-use appointment. We are rather confident that you won’t be disappointed!