“Once upon a time there was a girl obsessed with shopping” ….. a common story I know – but seriously, I don’t know about you, sometimes I get fed up of seeing the same style of clothes all over the high street and one way of finding something a little different is to have pieces made for you.
If you can find the right person to do so, it isn’t as expensive as you may think – plus to have something tailor made to fit your shape and style is a huge benefit of sourcing an independent Designer:
Antonia Widdowson is a well known face on Portobello Market, London with an established and respected label, Sestra Moja.
Selling her vintage inspired designs internationally and in London stores such as Selfridges, Antonia has dressed hip Londoners including Model Lizzie Jagger, Singer Katie Melua and Actress/Fashion Designer Sadie Frost.
A Slovakian born, warm and talented lady – Antonia has quite a story behind her journey as a Designer so far …
A Fairytale of Fashion
by Tiffany Bailey
– Contents –
Antonias designs range from full skirted maxi dresses with intricate lace and crochet detail to tunics, tops and dresses in lightweight fabrics perfect for everyday wear and travel.
A photo fairytale follows….
Please see the end of this tale for more information on the Designer and her work.
– Chapter 1 –
The cut of this dress is insanely flattering! I didn’t realise how beautifully the panelling across the chest and hip area skims the body until my model tried it on, it is draped to perfection and creates a wonderful hourglass silhouette:
If you have a curvy figure, this dress will showcase your body beautifully and if you have a leaner shape it will create the illusion of more curves.
I would wear this dress with a biker jacket and boots for contrast on more casual days and accessorise it with a beautiful wrap and heels for special occasions.
– Chapter 2 –
This ethereal, floaty and lightweight tunic dress is very flattering with the addition of a belt to tie in your waist at the back, but it is loose enough to be layered over a roll neck and leggings, or jeans in the winter months – so you really could wear it all year round:
I styled this piece with a knitted headband and faux fur wrap for the British winter, which gave a feminine 1920s vibe – but it is the type of item that you could also throw over denim shorts and head off to the beach in the summer!
– Chapter 3 –
An unusual piece, this maxi waistcoat looks great layered over jeans in the daytime, or leather trousers for a sexier evening outfit.
Super versatile, you could also wear this with shorts to a festival or over a floaty, white summer dress – the fabric has a natural crinkle to it so it would be perfect for travel:
– Chapter 4 –
The bodice of this dress is cut with similar shaped panelling to the blue tie-dye dress so is beautifully flattering, but the addition of metallic thread and heart shaped panels on the front and back make it look really special – you could actually wear this for a beach wedding and it would be a beautiful piece to take away on holiday:
– Chapter 5 –
This dress is so unusual with its statement sleeves and the silver metallic thread details add glamour and femininity:
I layered this over a grey knitted dress which worked really well with its cool tones – add a faux fur scarf and metallic bag and you have daytime, whimsical glamour – but again, it’s the kind of piece you could dress up or down for special occasions or just exploring on holiday in flip-flops!
– Chapter 6 –
Ok so you probably wouldn’t go out shopping or to dinner in the way I have styled this piece, with a feather crown on your head – but this maxi jacket/coat with its wizard sleeves struck me as being the perfect cover-up for festival attire!
With its metallic panelling and details, this is a very flattering piece despite its looser style as it is cut in a very nice shape. A slightly heavier weight fabric, it would also be a very stylish lounge wear piece to relax in at home.
– Chapter 7 –
For a casual daytime look this top is perfect and its loose enough to layer up in the colder months.
Made from a cool, light fabric that is perfect for the summer too, it’s a really flexible piece that can be worn in many ways.
You can really style this up with a gilet and floppy hat for a 70s feel and because of the details on the front, you only need to keep your jewellery simple with a slim choker or statement earrings.
– Chapter 8 –
If you’re going travelling this year, this waterfall maxi cardigan would be the perfect, multipurpose piece to roll up and pop in your case.
Wear it to the pool over a bikini, over a dress or denim shorts to go to the beach, or in the evening with white jeans and heels – the fabric is super lightweight and cool, it packs down to a really small size and the major bonus is that it doesn’t crease!
– Epilogue –
Antonia also makes scarves, which are a staple in my wardrobe – I pretty much always have one with me.
Whether it’s for extra warmth or to add texture and layers to an outfit, I also find them particularly handy when I’m travelling in hot countries and need protection from the sun.
They are made from a lovely cool, cotton fabric which would be hard wearing and practical, so perfect for popping in your hand luggage or suitcase:
These oversized tasselled scarves with metallic details were lovely to wrap up in on my cold, winter shoot in the woods!
The beauty of working directly with a Designer is being able to request specific design elements and colours – if you would like to find out more about Antonia and her process as a Designer, please keep reading below….
I had great fun styling one of Antonia’s collections in a beautiful woodland setting to reflect their floaty, ethereal vibe – but equally I could have shot them in a chic, urban setting which demonstrates the versatility of her creations.
Her whimsical designs are described as being “ultra-feminine, vintage inspired clothes with a distinctive and current edge…..quirky timelessness, with era-defying designs that feature futuristic hoods and Elizabethan pockets”.
Antonia was born in Kezmarok, Slovakia. Her artistic parents nurtured this streak in Antonia who spent ten years in art school, before coming to the UK to study Psychology in London at the age of eighteen. Here she met her husband and moved with him to Oxford, where she began to design her first pieces.
Using simple materials like muslin and cotton cloth, she works with vintage lace details to create unique garments….
I asked Antonia about her work and what inspires her designs:
It all started about 10 years ago at Portobello market in London. I was selling vintage clothing and soon I moved onto customising the garments. It didn’t take very long before I was making my first boho dresses from muslin and lace.
It was a happy accident really…within a couple of years I had 3 agents – USA, Japan and UK!
For 4 years, it felt like being on a roller coaster – designing 4 collections per year wasn’t easy, but it was all worth it! Sestra Moja (meaning my sister in Slovakian), was selling all over the world in major high street and online stores.
Then the unexpected happened and my life turned upside down – my younger brother passed away just after the birth of my daughter and I was in a void for a long, long time.
Only three years ago, I managed to go back to my studio and turn the sewing machine on again…but this time on a much smaller scale – no more agents! Back to Portobello Market again and I take private commissions.
What sort of people do you tend to design for?
Sestra Moja has a niche market, but a wide and varied clientele. It could be people going to summer festivals or celebrities heading for an afternoon coffee in the Kings Road.
How does your design process work – do you have a specific idea for the style and fabrics, or start working and see what evolves naturally?
I always work with a prototype initially and usually start working with a piece of lace and it evolves from there.
What is your process for producing a piece and how long does it usually take? (How do you make the crochet details? What sort of fabrics do you like to use? etc)
When I am happy with the prototype I reproduce the garment – but it will always look slightly different as the lace is always unique…this means that no-one has exactly the same dress!
Most of the time I use a draping technique and only work with 3 materials – muslin, stretchy cotton and antique lace.
The lace and crochet come from all over the world and I love sourcing it.
The last and my favourite step is dyeing the garment – I mix the colours myself and there is always a nice surprise seeing the final outcome.
Your designs are very distinctive – do you feel your style has evolved much since you first started designing?
Definitely, especially the quality of the finished article and the intricacies of the design.
What inspires your work?
Everything around me! Mostly art, nature and people I meet on my travels. Any kind of feedback is also the best tool for inspiration.
How would you describe your own personal style?
My personal style couldn’t be any different from my work! I like wearing baggy jeans and simple T-shirts.
If I wear a dress its usually vintage, combined with a biker jacket and converse trainers.
If a client has an event they would like an item designed for, how much notice to you usually require to produce the item?
Usually 7-10 days turnaround.
And finally, do you have any advice for people who have trained in fashion and are contemplating selling their designs?
When I started in Portobello market in London, I met amazing individuals from top Designers and celebrities to lovely customers passing by and giving me lots of feedback – I believe that is the best way to get better and better… and it wasn’t only positive feedback, trust me….
So my honest advice would be to get yourself out there, be patient and believe in yourself and YOURSELF only!
Tops and tunics from £60 to £150.
Dresses and coats from £90 to £350.
Most orders are placed online but one-to-one design consultations are available:
– The End –