Brooke Harward, the creative producer of one of the most loved Australian couture design houses takes a look back on her mother’s reign at the top of the industry over the last 40 years and talks about making her own mark on the label.
As a little girl growing up Brooke Harward was imbued with the magical world of haute couture, watching wide eyed as her mother designed bespoke gowns from the finest French laces, Italian embellished tulle and wool crepe with hand beaded delicate adornment.
Three decades later and with a raft of experience behind her, Brooke is still in awe of her mother’s deft touch and intuitive eye for crafting exquisite silhouettes with luxurious textiles and breathtaking finishes that pays homage to the beauty of the female form.
“It’s a very intuitive process with Suzanne,” said Brooke. “She doesn’t sketch, she stands at the mannequin form and lets the fabrics speak to her; it’s incredible to watch her work.”
A self-taught prodigy and true pioneer of the couture industry in Australia, Harward launched her eponymous label in 1975, making her the longest standing couture designer in the Australian fashion industry.
With the launch of the 40th Anniversary couture bridal collection and Capsule Collection, to mark the milestone, it’s clear why Harward has remained at the forefront of bridal couture for so long.
“Everything that she creates is about beauty and form, whether it’s the beauty of the fabric or the beauty of the women that’s wearing it,” said Brooke.
“I think she stays true to herself and doesn’t get caught up in trends or the hype of the fashion industry. She keeps her look really current and evolves with each generation.
We’ve made gowns for several generations of women in the same family because I think they know quality and appreciate originality and authenticity.”
Harward’s commitment to quality craftsmanship and producing gowns locally and sustainably has also cemented the couture house in the hearts of many brides.
“It means everything to us, it’s something we’ll never compromise on,” said Brooke. “We couldn’t call ourselves a couture house if we didn’t make everything by hand, under our own roof and our clients really appreciate the quality and craftsmanship that we can guarantee. Ethically, they’re not cheap gowns to purchase but at least we know our costings are ethical and that the people making our gowns are being paid well, in incredible conditions.”
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Interestingly after Brooke finished her studies she resisted numerous requests to join the family business, instead choosing to forge ahead with a career in film production, photo shoots and public relations.
“It was something I really fought for a long time,” she said. “It just kind of evolved a few years ago when I started producing some shoots for them.”
Now Creative Producer, Brooke’s role varies from developing creative content, public relations and marketing campaigns through to producing film and photo shoots for their latest collections, including the beautifully shot 40th Anniversary Collection, captured by the talented Lilli Waters from I Got You Babe Weddings.
Brooke chose the historic artist colony Montsalvat in Eltham, Victoria for the shoot, the very same location where Harward held her first ever photo shoot in 1975.
The hauntingly beautiful venue combined with the raw beauty of the gowns creates a breathtaking combination of dreamy and sublime images that perfectly capture every delicate detail of the intricate hand embellishments, luxurious, floaty fabrics and lace appliqué.
A shoot that was distinctly opposed to the aesthetic of the latest Capsule Collection, which was free-spirited with an urban edge to encapsulate the range of unstructured and whimsical silhouettes featuring crops with floor sweeping skirts, dramatic long sleeve gowns with deep illusion backs, high necks, all over lace and one gorgeous jumpsuit.
So what has Brooke learned from working with Harward, someone with four decades in the wedding industry? “She’s taught me not to be too concerned with what other people think, to trust myself, remember who I am and not to let temporary thoughts and opinions that come from other places sway me on my path.”
As for what’s in store for the remainder of their 40th anniversary year; Brooke reveals they will soon be unveiling limited edition pieces, creative collaborations, an exciting new haute couture range and of course more exquisite photo shoots with Brooke at the helm.
The Capsule Collection is available worldwide through their online store and for those lucky enough to be in Melbourne or Sydney they can book an appointment with a couture stylist to try the latest collections. However, with sold out trunk shows across in the eastern states we recommend brides get in quick to avoid disappointment.
“During peak wedding season our schedule gets completely booked out so it’s about securing your fitting time so you’re able to have your fitting as close to the wedding date as possible,” said Brooke. “So typically we need 9-12 months but we do have the ability to be flexible.”
“Once they become a client we help them find hair and make-up artists and amazing photographers, so we really take them in as our friends and family and take an interest in their whole journey. We’re not just there to sell them a dress, we’re there to be part of the whole experience.”
View more Suzanne Harward couture in the White Edit Directory.