A North Somerset bride travelled all the way to New York to buy her bespoke wedding dress at the world-famous Kleinfeld bridal boutique, star store on TV show Say Yes to the Dress.
However, when the bride-to-be got home to Portishead it was to Abigail Westrup and her team of seamstresses, she turned to have the necessary alterations to her special tulle gown with fitted bodice.
Since 2010 Abi’s business has gone from working from a spare bedroom in her parent’s Nailsea home to employing a staff of 12 at two Portishead premises and she hasn’t stopped there.
Now she is following her downstairs neighbour and valued client The White Collection bridal boutique – AWB exclusively do alterations for them - to open a new branch more than 300 miles away in Scotland!
Abi took A-level textiles at Backwell School and followed this with a foundation course at Weston College before studying for a fashion design degree at De Montfort University in Leicestershire.
But after a brief spell as an evening wear designer for River Island in London she knew she wanted to come home to the West Country and a chance encounter while job hunting, she found her niche as a freelance working on wedding dress alternations.
Abi said: “I actually had a lightbulb moment while accompany by sister-in-law to be Louise to a wedding dress alteration fitting and I thought I could do that.”
From small beginnings at a Kingshill dressmaking shop, to a Nailsea High Street loft room above SP Hair then another move and a sewing workshop and fitting room in Portishead all came before the latest expansion to Glasgow.
What's behind the pink door?
She said: “We opened AWB Atelier in Portishead early in 2022, it is a beautiful sewing workshop where all the technical side of the business happens, situated just along from the fittings suite with its pink front door.”
AWB already caters for clients from all over the West Country and beyond so going north wasn’t as silly as it sounds, said Abi.
With her delivery driver partner Andy, 40, and their children Hugo, two and Ralph, six months, the family moved just a week before Christmas and days before the birth of her second son from Rock Avenue into a new Taylor Wimpey home at Netherton Grange.
With Abi’s mum Bev and dad David and Andy’s mum Jane and dad Terry sharing childcare duties it has enabled Abi to go back to work after a few months maternity leave.
Abi and her team weathered the pandemic by making medical scrubs and commercially twisted top knots but they had to ask everyone forced to postponed wedding to pay a small deposit to guarantee a new date when restrictions lifted, she said.
The business has grown over the years into one of the most recommended bridal alterations/ dressmaking businesses across the south west, winning numerous industry awards.
Abi’s sewing passions lie with bespoke changes such as adding sleeves and altering hems.
Currently big statement, 80s-style puffy sleeves (but not the bows and frilly bits) are trending as are skirts with long splits.
Classic Mikado material with an organza finish, satins rather than lace and beads, are the favourite choices now, Abi said.
And a recent dress really did do the ‘something old’ and ‘something borrowed’ theme when a modern bride-to-be had her mum’s millennium style white wedding dress ‘recycled’ into a fun short steampunk style.
These days most brides chose ivory dresses and blush pink is popular too but Abigail hasn’t picked out her own wedding dress – yet.
In fact, she said she would pick THREE, one for the rehearsal supper, one for the ceremony and the third for the reception – one is by Made By Love Bridal.
But she joked: “He hasn’t asked yet.”
At Portishead they see in the region of 1,000 brides a year from as far away as Holland, Germany and Dublin and later in 2023 some will be featuring in the next series of Say Yes to the Dress UK.
This airs on Friday, August 18, on TLC the American cable television channel owned by Warner Bros although heavily pregnant while filming took place it is Abi’s seamstress Dee Cannock who is front of camera.
Style star Tan France is the new host who found fame as the fashion expert on Netflix’s massively popular makeover show Queer Eye.
And AWB needlework will also feature on bespoke bridal gowns worn by contestants taking part in Channel Four’s Married at First Sight programme due to be broadcast this September.
The recruitment process in Glasgow is complete and this shop went ‘live’ this month.
Find out more by using the contact details below.
Abigail Westrup Bridal
8 High Street
Portishead BS20 6EW
Tel: 01275 814444