The Big Interview with Mette Baillie of Freja Designer Dressmaking
From making dolls’ clothes in her native Denmark to heading up her own Edinburgh atelier, YSWA winner Mette has always put the individual at the heart of her designs.
Your Scottish Wedding: Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
Mette Baillie: Yes, for as long as I remember clothes and the “language of clothing” has been on my mind.
My mum says she can’t remember me ever playing with my dolls, I just made them clothes.
I also played with those cardboard dolls you made outfits that hooked on and even made a cardboard Mary Quant collection.
I made my first outfit for myself when I was nine; a Little House on the Prairie style grey pinstriped skirt and waistcoat.
I felt amazing in it. It was a bit ‘out there’ but this made me understand clothes can make you feel a certain way, can give you confidence and energy.
And it can make people perceive you completely differently to how they would in another outfit.
Part of my fascination was how garments move on the body and how you move in different clothing.
Your clothes should enhance how you move and not restrict you.
I always ask my clients to walk up and down our “aisle” to see how they move in the clothes.
Anyone fiddling with their clothes is not happy and there is something we need to fix.
YSW: Your designs take in everything from tweed jackets to mother of the bride outfits but when did you start in bridalwear?
MB: My first wedding dress was my own back in 1994.
I graduated as a designer in 1998 and did my dissertation on Scottish estate tweeds.
When I came to Scotland, I thought I was going to have a shop with ladies’ tweeds.
Then somebody asked me to make their wedding dress, and I loved it.
The rest is history!
YSW: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in bridalwear?
MB: I have been making wedding dresses commercially for 24 years, (actually a little before when I worked in a couture house in Copenhagen).
Weddings have changed so much.
When I started, most were organised by the parents and generally were very similar to what they had had.
Now, it’s completely different.
Weddings are so individual and couples plan a wedding which aligns with their values.
This is so wonderful. Perhaps they love the great outdoors so the wedding will be in a favourite outdoor location.
The wedding outfit then perhaps needs to accommodate some hiking.
All these couples are our favourite kind of people.
And for those people it would often not make sense to buy a dress from a wedding dress store, which has been produced in a manner that would not align with their values.
This is where we come in.
We source as sustainably as we can. We offer living wage and good work conditions to our all-female team, and we are producing everything in our city centre location.
YSW: How would you describe the Freja Designer Dressmaking bride?
MB: A Freja bride has an eye on her environmental impact, is super-far forward in terms of what is on trend and is a super-cool creature who is not intimidated by an industry which can come across as a bit superficial and shallow.
She has her own values and has grit and tenacity to get the wedding and the dress that suits her body type and shape.
Freja brides also do not always feel catered for in the more commercial wedding dress environments.
This can be because she is older, taller, bigger, smaller or has specific requirements for her dress.
Perhaps she sees herself as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
For years we have been shouting about our safe and supportive environment – there is no judgement.
YSW: Do you have a favourite gown you’ve designed over the years?
MB: I have so many. The dresses I love are the ones where the bride’s ideas of her wedding, her values, her partner’s values, their venue, their decorations, body-type and personality all align in the dress.
YSW: What is your best tip for brides searching for their wedding dress?
MB: Keep an open mind. You can make a Pinterest board, pinning flowers you love, decorations, hairstyles, and dresses obviously, and spend some time taking a lot in.
Also search for people with a similar body type and colouring to you.
Perhaps look at red carpet dresses which are often more on trend than a lot of bridalwear.
After a while you will start to see where your style ideas are going.
Take into consideration the venue and imagine yourself there.
YSW: What do you wish brides knew before they embark on having a bespoke dress designed?
MB: The one thing that frustrates me is when people say, “I could never get a dress made because I don’t know how it will turn out.”
We have lots of stages, where we can change and direct things, and we really welcome the dialogue through the fittings.
All of that is just part of the process.
YSW: You worked on a project recently to raise the profile of non binary weddings and awareness of how the wedding industry can provide a more inclusive service. How important was it to be part of that?
MB: This has been a wonderful learning experience.
I’ve had so many experiences with brides who just had slightly different requirements than the “normal” bride and feel they have not been taken seriously.
When civil partnerships, and later same-sex marriages, came into play we started getting a lot of requests.
Then a close friend transitioned to become a woman and I realised a whole new layer of issues that brought on the clothing front.
I felt really sad that these wonderful and usually really private people struggled so much to both get clothing that fitted their bodies and whichever gender identity they had, but also to get the “bridal experience”.
We got together with our wedding friends Fern Photography and made a documentary about non-binary bridalwear.
Everybody deserves to give and receive love and celebrate love with marriage, and to have a joyful and respectful time while planning their wedding.
YSW: Who is the one celebrity bride you wish you could have designed for?
MB: I am so classic in my style, I would have loved to be part of the three Danish royal weddings which I remember, and I would have loved designing for Meghan.
I adore her style and body shape.
I love old style icons, like Debbie Harry and Princess Diana.
I recently saw Dakota Fanning in Equalizer 3 and commented on how she wasn’t tiny and held herself really well and had a lot of charisma.
YSW: What’s next for Freja Designer Dressmaking?
MB: I would love to say we had massive plans to take over the bridal world but that is not the case!
We have been in business 24 years and have totally nailed what we love doing.
We love to dress the individual, to work with them and their brief.
This is what we do well and what we love.
We really want to focus on areas not currently represented in the wedding world.
We truly believe we have started this change in the industry, we are there now for the hard graft.
Missed our last Big Interview?
Catch up on our chat with Ellis Bridals’ James Ellis here