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  • Ru Pearson

Gloria Jane Royer: “Putting an outfit together is all about dressing up and feeling something. It’s escapism.”

© Picture by Pete Edlin

With the likes of Princess Julia, Jessica Winter, and London’s hottest new band, The Last Dinner Party, among her doting supporters, this Kent-based designer is captivating the underground fashion scene with her bespoke pieces made from unwanted, unloved materials.

“I’ve never really been interested in fashion week or what other designers are doing. I just make what I want to see. Most of my influence comes from people who dress up.”

When I met with Gloria Jane Royer to learn more about her experience as a small business owner and designer, it quickly became clear that she has always stayed steadfast in her own stream: “Yes, I do fashion… but I’m not a fashion person. I mean look at what I’m wearing right now – I look like a security guard!” We both giggle as she gestures towards her oversized anorak and walking-boot ensemble. Cosied up in a café by the seaside, with chai lattes warming our hands, we sat down to discuss the origins of her brand, her approach to sustainability, and how sentimentality impacts her design process.


Gloria Jane Royer “never wanted a proper job.” Instead, at the age of 15, she taught herself how to sew and started buying, upcycling, and reselling vintage clothing. “It was all about finding unloved clothes and giving them a new life” she tells me; “making beauty from the unwanted is my thing. That’s my little tagline.” She went on to study textiles at Chelsea College of Art, where she began using waste material to create her designs. Initially working with surplus sailing gear to make conceptual pieces that juxtaposed feminine silhouettes with rigid fabric, Gloria has now turned her focus to cast-off wedding dresses and office wear. Breathing new life into old materials, Gloria designs and hand makes unique, ready-to-wear garments and custom pieces from her studio in Margate.

© Picture by Pete Edlin

As a committed self-starter, Gloria worked in bars and cafés to cover her business expenses and studio rent. “It’s been a slow process getting to where I am now,” she tells me, “but it’s just how I had to do it.” There is something to be said for this slow personal process, however, since it reflects Gloria’s dedication to the slow fashion model. “When people are spending a larger amount of money on individual items, they need to be properly crafted. I don’t want anyone to ever feel like a garment I’ve made isn’t worth every penny,” she tells me. Employing the rigorous (but perfectly sensical) formulations of so-called “girl maths,” Gloria’s pieces work out as an absolute steal: 


“You can buy a £10 top from somewhere like SHEIN and it will look like shit after one wash. It will probably go in the bin or to a charity shop shortly after. That would cost you a tenner for one wear. One of my tops is £220, but you’ll be able to wear it for years. It’s way more cost effective and sustainable.”


An environmentalist to the core, Gloria’s design practices have always been as sustainable as possible: “I collect discarded materials and really try to use up every little bit when I make a new piece. It’s like a backwards, waste-free design process.” Nevertheless, the wedding dress stood out to Gloria as a particularly wasteful garment and perhaps the ultimate unrecyclable:


“You wear it once and then just keep it in a box in the loft somewhere or throw it away if the marriage goes to shit. People have literally given me dresses for free because they got divorced and they didn't want to see them ever again. I became interested in using old suits because they represent the opposite of the wedding dress; mashing them together was exciting to me.”

After homing in on the dynamic between these harmonious opposites, which, in turn, inspires her distinct monochrome palette, Gloria established her brand’s fundamental and recognisable “look”. But the feeling that underpins Gloria’s inimitable designs, is a thread that pulls at a much larger and more personal tapestry. “I’ve always been emotionally attached to my clothes,” she tells me, “it stems from a time in my childhood when I would put on my mum’s clothes and high heels and dress up. I’ve always been fascinated by that as a concept. I feel like, deep down, all adults want to revert back to that feeling of being a child.” This sentiment is evident in the theatrics of Gloria’s designs - in the playful mishmash of “grown up” garments, the romantic ribbon adornments, and the dramatic silhouettes. So, whether it’s a ready-to-wear laced blazer, a “sexretary” corset and thong set, or a custom-made gown, Gloria’s clothes feel exclusive, elevated, and positively transformative.

Utilising a combination of careful pattern cutting and a collage-like approach to construction, even the design process incorporates a tangible sense of play:

“I have a big box of parts of wedding dresses and parts of suits. I get it all out and make a total mess on the floor. I pull bits out and drape them on a mannequin and just kind of muddle them together. The final product really depends on what material I have at that point. It’s fun to see where it goes.”

Gloria’s designs, which have been worn by people of all genders, also feel powerfully, divinely feminine. Recalling her time at university, when she first began collecting unwanted wedding dresses, Gloria tells me that she and her housemates would lounge decadently in their student living room, drinking wine in enormous vintage gowns. “It was fun, and it made us feel really good and really feminine. When the boys came over, they would try them on, too. They felt great in them as well. It’s such an amazing, powerful garment. It’s super high-femme and carries a bunch of intense sentimental attachments. Wearing a wedding dress unlocks a feeling in you, regardless of who you are.” 

The showcase for Gloria’s latest collection, Roses are Dead, was a testament to this memory. Rather than conforming to the typical runway show format, Gloria instead invited her friends and the local community to try on her latest creations in the dressing up booth, take photos, and be free to experiment and play. “This is not about the models, the editorial, the runway, or the glamour of fashion” she wrote on her Instagram, it was a campaign that put “the golden friends around [her]” at its heart. 

Although her designs have recently graced the stage of The Roundhouse and even the red carpet of the Brit awards’ afterparty when she dressed the House of Revlon, Gloria Jane Royer does not clamour for the alluring mystique of the fashion world. “The fashion industry can be really clique-y and there’s so much elitism; it’s just not my thing,” she admits. Instead, Gloria finds her inspiration from the creative community around her in Margate:

“I did get sucked into the fashion world at one point, but I would always come home and remember that my people are here; this bunch of absolute nutters. I would rather spend my time with genuine people who don’t care about being something than people who are going to look me up and down and judge me for what I’m wearing. It was so grounding to realise that and I’m so grateful that I did.”

When it comes to her clothes, Gloria proudly showcases her ethos of experimentation and whimsy, and her pieces are sure to embolden any wearer. But it is her personality, sentimentality, and unwavering love for the people around her that infuses the brand with an altogether rare feeling of authenticity. As this sentiment closes our conversation, I am left aglow with Gloria’s infectious sense of gratitude: “I enjoy my craft. I just love doing it. The fact that people want to buy my clothes is amazing to me. I can’t really believe it.” So, ask yourself, why should we grow up and out of playing with the way we look? Have fun. Dress up. You might just like it.

Follow Gloria on Instagram and check out her website here.


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