Happy Ever After
Bridalwear shop The Fall caters to modern brides left lukewarm by mainstream styles. When it came to the design of its new Dalston shop, it found the perfect partner in Studio Jey
The pandemic was particularly unkind to certain industries, including the wedding sector. So it’s heartening to find a success story like The Fall: founded in east London in late 2019 by Annelise Sealy, it kept afloat partly because its more simple, pared-back dresses suited the mood of the smaller ceremonies that were sanctioned, and also because these more minimalist, un-meringue-like garments could be posted to would-be brides for an at-home try-on.
Three years later, and with a new space in Dalston that’s twice the size of its predecessor, it’s clear that The Fall is successful not just because of its ability to pivot around a pandemic. It has found a clear niche for modern brides for whom a mainstream look just doesn’t resonate, carrying both ready-to-wear and made-to-order pieces that earn their place with beautiful silhouettes, refined details and a touch of the unexpected.
Translating this fresh approach to bridalwear into a three-dimensional space has been the work of Jess Murphy and Josie de Guzman. The Fall is the first project completed under the umbrella of their interior design business, Studio Jey, although the pair, both originally from New Zealand, had been collaborating for a while. “We’d worked on projects together over the last three years, and it was always such a nice process,” says Murphy. “When this came up, it made sense to formalise it, so we launched our studio around the same time as The Fall opened.”
In fact, the shop’s first space, in a former factory Hackney Wick, was one of those previous projects. Working to a tight budget, they created an industrial look by using everyday building materials, such as laying I-joists on the floor to cradle large freestanding mirrors, and using scaffolding poles and key clamps to make the clothing rails – an antidote to the intimidating glitz that can characterise the traditional bridalwear shop. “Conventional bridal stores can be overwhelming, with thousands of dresses smushed into a very overwhelming environment,” continues Murphy. “We definitely wanted to do something that was less conventional.”
The new shop already had an industrial feel, with exposed ducts, suspended tubular lighting and concrete structural columns, so the aesthetic that Studio Jey had previously created carries across well. The challenge was to soften some of the strict angles and pristine finishes that were the result of this being a new-build: “There were a lot of hard junctions, so we were trying to introduce this idea of imperfection,” says Murphy. This has been achieved by introducing some tactility and patina – rough clay plaster on the walls, and furniture made from brushed aluminium that de Guzman describes as “almost velvety” thanks to it being finished with an orbital sander.
As for the layout, “we knew from the get-go that it needed dividing up, as there needed to be two lounge areas so that appointments could happen at the same time,” says Murphy. “That was our starting point, and we tried so many different layouts, all of them working around these three concrete pillars.” The two try-on areas are different in size, with semi-sheer curtains can close each one off, pulled across in “a moment of theatre,” says de Guzman, to create a space that feels suitably safe and intimate.
Murphy and de Guzman shadowed some bridal appointments to get to know how a typical visitor’s journey might play out. It starts from the door, where you step inside from the urban fabric of Dalston; a wall bearing the shop’s name blocks the view, so you cannot immediately see the whole space. “It’s highly textured and warm; a more subtle transition,” says de Guzman. There are a pair of brushed-aluminium chairs on which to wait, all crisp right-angles but with a seat pad made from a stack of sheets of industrial felt; the amorphous stoneware vase here, and similar vessels throughout the shop, were made by Murphy.
With a bigger budget to play with, Murphy and de Guzman have taken the original shop’s use of metalwork and refined the look: instead of off-the-shelf scaffolding poles, this time they commissioned a gently wavy stainless-steel rail that runs down one length of the shop, where the dresses hang. They also designed fixed valet stations for each changing area, to house the half-dozen or so dresses that a bride might shortlist, with stoneware finials to hang a veil or other accessory.
Most of the furniture is bespoke, including a daybed on a brushed-aluminium plinth complete with integrated planter, and a coffee table with fat cylindrical aluminium legs, topped with a bubble-filled slab of cast glass. Aluminium consoles display accessories on the same industrial felt used for the chair seating, and there are also sections of hard corrugated felt that can either be used in the display cases or lifted out and put on the shelves, giving some flexibility as to what’s on show where.
Studio Jey focused a lot of attention on making sure that surfaces and silhouettes were just imperfect enough, visiting their Kent-based metalworker to show him exactly how much they wanted the steel rail to undulate, and instructing the plasterer to work against his natural instincts and make the wall finishes rougher than he would have liked.
Even with the natural warmth of the clay walls and the softly draping curtains, The Fall’s interior might still feel too industrial for a bridal shop – but only if you were to discount the merchandise. The row of bridal gowns that runs next to the long shop window, in every shade of white, off-white and cream, is its own soft, sculptural centrepiece, jewellery and accessories glint invitingly from their contrastingly matte felt background, and diaphanous veils hang from totem-like floor-to-ceiling display stands.
Murphy and de Guzman say how nice it has been to work with Annelise Sealy as her business (and theirs) has become established, and there’s a sense that they will keep evolving the space in the future, too: they’ve both just popped in to deliver a much-needed umbrella stand they found at a vintage market. “It definitely feels like an ongoing relationship now,” says Murphy.