‘The paparazzi outside were all fast asleep’
Surrounded by shamanic drums and an earth gong, Lindka Cierach may seem an unlikely candidate to be a clothes designer to the stars. Her client list includes royalty and actresses, including the Princess Royal and Helen Mirren. But she is most famous for designing a single item: Sarah, Duchess of York’s wedding dress. When millions of viewers tuned in to watch the Duchess walk down the aisle in her ivory silk gown and 17½ft-long train in July 1986, Cierach’s place in fashion history was cemented.
Yesterday, it was the turn of her younger daughter, Princess Eugenie of York, to tie the knot. Cierach, with a mug of hemp milk tea in hand, is keen to reminisce about the famous dress, and her home that she has put on the market. Born in Lesotho, Cierach spent her early years in Africa before moving to a convent school in London. She later entered ntered the prestigious London College e of Fashion, from which she graduated ted top of her class.
Her first bridal commission, for a Bahraini princess, rincess, brought her to the attention of f the richest families in the Middle East, t, and then the royal families of Europe. pe. One day, the call from the Duchess ss came. “I was completely gobsmacked. smacked. I couldn’t believe it,” she e recalls. “The day we were due to o confirm, I accidentally locked d myself out of my house and nearly missed the call. I ended up having to climb over my own fence.” nce.”
Cierach lists the security measures she had to take to keep the Duchess’s wedding dress a secret cret until the big day. “The press ress bought up windows all ll around my house to spy in; I had to put film over the windows, change the locks and check every dustbin for stray sketches.
“Once I was working through the night and a bit of the veil flew out of the window; I ran out frantically thinking that pictures would appear all over the front pages the next day. Luckily all the paparazzi outside were fast asleep.”
Cierach explains that she wanted the Duchess’s sense of fun to come out in the dress. “Although I did have to turn down her request to have teddy bears and helicopters embroidered onto it,” she laughs. “We agreed on thistles and bees for her, and anchors for the Duke.”
The Duchess sung Cierach’s praises for the huge white dress. “Lindka was a genius; I knew she could make the most flattering gown ever, and she had,” she wrote in her memoir. “It was amazingly boned, like a corset. We’d chosen duchess satin because it is the creamiest material in the world. It never creases. It is smooth as glass and hangs beautifully, without a single bulge; it made my reduced figure look even better.” As well as being a fashion designer, she has also taken part in reality television, including tutoring foulmouthed young women on ITV’s Ladette to Lady. “Teaching those young women how to sew gave them incredible self-confidence; it transformed them,” she says.
Cierach has put her South Kensington property on the market for £3.5million. The home-cum-studio has three bedrooms, and is currently flooded with light, thanks to big windows and skylights.
Zen and Zafie, her two sand-coloured whippets, run around and tables are overspilling with crystals. It looks right into the Royal Society of Sculptors next door. “My house used to be a sculptors’ studio for the blind, so it had a creative history even before I moved in,” Cierach adds.
Next to the Chinese gongs in the sitting room stand racks of fabulously embroidered velvet cloaks and beaded red carpet dresses, also on sale alongside Cierach’s house. One of the most outlandish creations from the designer’s portfolio is a £3,500 dress made from 1,000 Lindor chocolate balls – much more appetising-sounding than the “meat dress” sported by Lady Gaga at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, although, at 79,000 calories, perhaps worse for the waistline. “Strangely enough, the chocolates kept ‘disappearing’ as I was working,” Cierach adds. “Luckily, Lindt kept sending more boxes.”
The couturier’s love of exquisite detail and vibrant colour shines through in the interiors of her studio, from the intricately pebbled bathroom with its huge basin carved from Indonesian rock, to the powder blue chaise longue in the living room offering a view through the panoramic skylight to a garden roof terrace.
Kitschy items from Portobello Road junk shops sit next to modern art pieces, and fossilised squids adorn the walls. “Growing up in Africa had a huge influence on my style, both in my home and my work. From there I got my love of beading, colour and light,” she says.
One of her favourite aspects of her home is the sense of being far removed from the noise and bustle of the city. “It’s so quiet here,” she says. “Within the walls it’s like you’re in your own private world. I often host large parties where we play the gongs and drum. My neighbours never hear a thing. I also love the house’s energy and want to pass that on to someone else.” Cierach’s home is on the market with Strutt & Parker and Harding Green for £3.5million
Lindka Cierach’s home, £3.5m with Strutt & Parker and Harding Green
The Duke and Duchess of York’s wedding in 1986