Inspirational Woman: Terry Fox | Bridal Wear & Fashion Designer

Terry FoxTerry Fox is a couture fashion and wedding dress designer, author and sewing expert with a successful career spanning over 45 years.

Terry served a demanding apprenticeship with both Zandra Rhodes and the Emmanuels, designers of Princess Diana’s wedding gown. Soon her unique style developed into the launch of her first collection of exquisite bridal and special occasion wear and it was an instant sell out at prestigious outlets, which included Harrods. Her enthusiastic approach to fashion led to a fantastic opportunity for her to head up the Liberty Sewing School, during which time she also presented the 18-part television series entitled Wear it Well.

An impressive client list, regular appearances on television, videos, books and magazine articles were soon to follow. Terry also took her seminars ‘The Inside Secrets of how to make the Outsides Work’ seminars to audiences all over the world, teaching specialist tips and advanced workroom techniques to thousands of students.

Today Terry offers a range of intriguing workshops here in the UK for inspired sewers and enthusiastic creatives. She also regularly visits the USA as a guest tutor.

Her sewing techniques are forever evolving as she works on her couture designs for her private clients, and whenever there is a spare moment Terry creates one-off pieces of fashion inspired art.

Terry has won numerous awards during her career, including The Wedding Industry Award for Best British Bridal Designer.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and current role

I am a bridal wear and fashion designer, couture techniques’ consultant and passionate maker. Basically all things to do with fashion, trends, style and textiles. Choosing it! Wearing it! Making it!

I have been in the trade for 46 years, making every type of garment imaginable. Working with designers such as Zandra Rhodes and The Emmanuel’s to starting The Terry Fox label and selling wedding dresses around the world. Running a sewing school for Liberties of London has been one of the highlights of my career giving me fantastic opportunities in TV, video and publishing.

I continue to create gowns for my private clientele and to share my knowledge gleaned over these years. I talk to women every day about fashion, bridal design, figure shape, lifestyle, personal style and design from being a fairy godmother to young, nervous brides getting married for the first time to tackling daily trends for ladies like me who are over 50.

I do this in the form of workshops, consultancy work and training sessions.

Did you sit down and plan your career?

No not until now! I have literally sewn my whole life – easily from the age of 5 or 6. I actually had my first business aged 11… Really! I would take clothes I had made and arrange them into outfits and pack them up. Then take them to school to sell. I had an accounts book and the girls got ticked off when their 2 shillings had been paid.

Somehow over the years I have always come back to sewing. Wherever I went in the world I took my sewing machine with me.

I have always been hands on. I love the actual making up. It taught me so much about every aspect of fashion, from design, fit, shape, technology in fabrics, people…The list is long.

I have some great friends who are designers who have come to me for help before now. I think I am one of the few ‘old school‘ left who have actually experienced starting at ground level. That has its pros and cons. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

During the early 1990s I discovered another passion – sharing what I know. Liberties of London asked me to run the first ever sewing school of its type. I brought in one-off masterclasses, taught by tradesmen. We were spilling the beans on what really goes on behind the scenes – up until then they were the trade’s best-kept secrets! I couldn’t believe I knew stuff that other people wanted to know. I would talk for hours about the industry and as the years went on, the more I had to say.

I have always been driven by my love of fabric. I find its touch, handle and of course patterns and colours inspirational. It sparks a new design, technique or method pushing the boundaries more and more. You will never find a fashion student bored, with time on their hands and spare cash. There’s always more fabrics to buy, another design idea to execute and a million ‘what if’s’ to play with. That’s the cross we have to bear.

So this is the first time ever in my life I have stopped to make a plan. I asked myself how can I earn a living by doing all my favourite things. Well you can’t unless you have something people want.

So I wrote a list of what I thought I felt I had to offer and here I am with my wonderful new business The Academy of Couture Sewing and Creative Textiles. It literally is what it says on the tin.

It is something I think is missing in the market today. It is aimed at those who, like me, who want to know all the true life ‘highlights’ of the industry in one hit. I am here, now tell me what I don’t know!

I have taken the key pieces from today’s collections. The new, the experimental, the future and brought them together to explain to those who want a career in fashion, bridal, design and making.

There is no question too big or too small. If the question is being is being asked then the answer may not be so obvious as some might think. But by understanding how, why and where many other questions may simply disappear!

That’s my plan

Terry FoxHave you faced any challenges along the way?

I face challenges every day. I thrive on challenges. The list is long.

Originally it was self doubt, lack of confidence, lack of knowledge. As you get older you learn so much about yourself, other people, the world and where we sit in it. The big one for me was to understand not everyone is born a Mozart. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work hard and be good at what you choose to do.

I am never afraid to say I don’t know or understand something. That’s how you learn. And in turn I know something’s that I don’t expect others to know! I spent years being challenged by my chosen subject. I just kept going. When you get it wrong, do it again. But hold onto the wrong stuff. That might be just right in different circumstances!

That is called Having Experience. Mozart might of been gifted, but there was a time he had NO experience.

My current challenges are huge. Or at least they feel like they are today. They seem like my greatest challenges to date! Modern technology, computers and social media.

When did I close my eyes and that all happened? The last I knew I had learned how to send a text message. 10 years on an explosion has happened. I can’t even pay my tax bill without going through what seems like some supersonic porthole to register with HMRC.

I have so many passwords I could compile a directory. It terrifies me. But little by little I learn something new most days or sometimes the same thing twice, which is just fine with me.

So with that in mind I am already planning my next challenges, but I won’t address those until later next year.

Question 4. How do you feel about mentoring. Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentor?

I love the thought of mentoring. It is in my blood!

I have mentored before and I feel like a proud mother watching every little step they make. And when you see them shine it is literally the best feeling in the world!!

What do you want to happen with the next 5 years in regards to diversity?

I know this is a cliché but I just want the world to work as a better place. Most industries, groups, councils etc are closed shops. There is a missing link there in bringing these communities together.

I would like to see more open arms to everything and everyone. Such as older women in business, working mums and lack of training in the conventional sense. So it takes a little extra planning, thinking outside the stereo typical box. But diversity is a wonderful natural occurrence.

We can learn so much by bringing new into the mix. Instead of perpetuating the same formulas over and over again. Each person brings a whole lifetime of unique variations with their own experiences.

We have moved on so much to be fair. But just sometimes you still see a little bit of Victorian philosophy creep in, especially when it comes to women.

So in summary – I would like to see more generosity of spirit inviting new people into your world giving them a chance to prove their ability whatever their circumstances.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Ooooo that’s hard, because achievement can be seen on many levels and mean different things at various times in your life.

I had always thought my biggest achievement was presenting a series called ‘Wear it well‘ on the BBC – big because people are impressed – but now I have to say I have replaced this with something that most people might see as not that big a deal. But it impresses me more!

Just over a year ago I found myself in, let’s say, a bit of a crisis! To cut a long story short I ended up on my own. I closed my business down and I left my long term partner. I gave away most of my belongings, packed up the rest and moved from one side of the country to the other, to a town where I knew nobody. That happens sometimes!

Within a few weeks I had an order confirmed for one of my couture dresses and we met in London to discuss. In true Lebanese style, the dress changed from what would be my usual big elaborate wedding dress to what I now know as the biggest dress, most time consuming, the most detailed and heaviest dress I have ever made to date.

The time was January and the dress is to be worn in three months, leaving for Beirut at the beginning of April. This dress should really take a year to make. It actually became two dresses. A beautiful slimline dress with a huge detachable overskirt. There was over a hundred meters of plain silk involved that had to be completely embellished with hand cut lace work and diamanté appliqués.

I had no staff, no help and no work room.

I worked night and day, everyday to complete this dress. I saw no one. Every bone in my body ached and as the deadline got closer the shorter my nights were. I even cancelled my fully paid for holiday to Dubai to stay at home and finish the dress.

But of course I did it. There was no question it wouldn’t be ready, it just had to be!!

So this was a personal achievement on many levels. A perfectly timed test. Note to self… I can do anything I put my mind to.

Isn’t life strange how it deals out those cards?

Terry FoxWhat is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My first challenge is to take The Academy of Couture Sewing and Creative Textiles around the world. Making it a well-known first stop for those wishing to get an insider view into the world of the fashion and bridal Industry.

I am so excited to start meeting new people. All of which want to share their passion for beautiful textiles, fine construction and stylish dressing in one of the most competitive, but exciting industries there is.

My plan is to grow our businesses together. I know I can help them reach their goals quickly, directly and bring out in them creativity beyond their expectations.

Mastering technology and social media is going to be an enormous part of my next challenge. But I am ready and waiting – I can’t wait to work with opportunities this will bring.

And finally, the great big challenge that I am keeping under wraps for now. This is already a new venture after all, so I do need to keep a few little secrets up my sleeve for later. Ready to be revealed later in the year – watch this space !

You will all be the first to know, I promise!

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