The latest store to ride to the rescue of time-poor shoppers stressing over summer “occasion” outfits is Fortnum & Mason. However wonderful a day at Ascot or an idyllic summer wedding, the pre-event sartorial angst can be considerable, especially as fashion has veered away from traditional formality. Fortnum aims to soothe away the anxiety with its Celebrate the Season event on Wednesday May 18 (4.30pm to 8.30pm), involving its fashion, accessories and beauty departments all helping customers to find the best individual look for whatever exciting invitation they have.
The jewel in the crown will be dress fittings and styling advice with Suzannah, already a go-to label for women seeking modern yet individual outfits for more formal events – this service will continue from 2pm to 6pm on May 19 to 20. Suzannah Crabb started her own label nine years ago after a career working for top Italian silk mills and several British brands known for good cutting. “I love the wonderful scope and quality of Italian fabrics, especially prints, but felt there wasn’t much on the British market except at a very formal, high designer level,” she says. So she started making made-to-measure “modern event wear”, with collections based on her personal style preferences – a little bit vintage, a little bit classic elegance – that could be altered in length, neckline or sleeve to flatter a client’s shape, or be remade in a different print or colourway. As Crabb’s business expanded, she added more relaxed ready-to-wear dresses and opened a new Marble Arch salon with made-to-measure offerings and a few full bespoke clients who put their wardrobes in her hands.
Her latest ready-to-wear silk print tea dresses (from £550) at Fortnum & Mason, plus her more structured made-to-measure collection for the pop-up, will see her work with two assistants but oversee each customer’s choice herself. Minor alterations can be completed in time for Ascot, with complete remakes such as considerably lengthening a dress ready for later summer events. Dresses start from£995, with a remake adding about £200. The service – at Fortnum or the Suzannah salon – goes much further. “The idea is to help the client create a head-to-heel look that will make her confident and happy, maybe suggesting the right overlayer for the dress in case of bad weather, or contrasting styles of hat or bag that she might not have considered, to create a modern, chic and unique look,” she says. “I work with a number of milliners and accessory designers whose collections I know really well, so I can suggest styles and any alterations in trim and so on.”
At Fortnum, Crabb is working with milliners including William Chambers and Juliette Botterill, and shoe brand Emmy London. Appointments can be made via either Fortnum or Crabb’s salon. A personal edit of her collection is also available at Fenwick as part of the Royal Ascot Millinery Collective.