Over the years Jenni had dozens of interns and in the later ‘Corset Paradise’ years, worked closely with her assistant Holly Swinburne. Many of these people now have their own brands, and their time with Sparklewren left on an indelible mark on their approach to design and craft.
Chapter Eleven: Influence
'Flights Of Fancy' Silk Corset, Skirt & Cage Crinoline By Rosie Red Corsetry & Couture
Origin: United Kingdom
Fabric: Silk satin, silk organza, silk chiffon, leavers lace
Brand: Rosie Red Corsetry & Couture
This ensemble was created as part of designer Rosie Dennigton’s final project, as part of her Costume Design degree at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design. As part of the course module, students were required to collaborate with an industry professional. For this outfit, that collaboration was with Birmingham-based corset brand Sparklewren.
Rosie had already interned with Sparklewren for the past year, and was given a loose brief of an on-brand colour palette, and the instructions to create something ‘fantastical’. The resulting ensemble incorporates a corset, under-slip, cage crinoline and overskirt. The outfit is full of intricate details, incorporating both Sparklewren inspired techniques, such as muted tone lace appliqué and scattered Swarovski crystals, and elements that would later become Rosie Red brand signatures, such as embroidered literature quotes and creeping textile vines and roses.
This ensemble helped to essentially launch the Rosie Red brand, with it being used in excess of 30 photoshoots and worn by numerous renowned public figures. It was famously donned by Helena Bonham Carter for a feature in Vanity Fair, and has also been worn by Billie Piper and modelled at Oxford and London Fashion Weeks.
Rosie Red Corsetry & Couture was founded in 2015, specialising in bespoke bridal and couture wear. All garments are handmade in Oxfordshire by designer Rosie Dennington, who champions an ethos of creating for all body types. Brand design signatures include embroidering text into garments, opulently textured silk roses, and contrasting red satin linings to corsets.
The thing Jenni taught me most was about colour, and I guess specifically how to create a dreamy colour palette. This is something I’ve carried through my work always. She would often reel off numerous names of colours/tones/shades, and I always said her perfect job would be whoever it is that names nail varnishes. She knew them all. Better than anyone I had ever met. The piece I created for my final project in collaboration with Sparklewren used ‘Oyster’, ‘Taupe’, and ‘Mink’. Although we still never decided what colour ‘Elephant’s Tears’ would be…
– Rosie Dennington
'Thea' Draped Silk Corset By Emiah
Origin: United Kingdom
Fabric: Silk duchesse, silk georgette, leavers lace
Alycia Hirani, designer of Emiah, was deeply influenced by the Sparklewren aesthetic following internships in 2014-2015. This overbust corset, in a shades cranberry and plum and covered in layers of decadent embellishments, features many techniques that Alycia learnt whilst under Jenni Hampshire’s tutelage. Swathes of ombré silk chiffon and georgette are draped across the bustline, with hand-painted lace appliqué and silk chiffon and tulle ‘blossoms’ adding further textural interest. The ombré effect of the fabric is mirrored in the back as well, with the metal eyelets graduating in-tone from silver to black. The corset is structured with a mix of spiral and flat steel bones across its multiple panels, and laces shut with thick satin ribbon.
Emiah is the brand of Welsh designer Alycia Hirani and specialises in bespoke corsetry, lingerie and couture. She graduated with first class honours in Design For Performance from Birmingham Institute of Art & Design. Alycia’s work centres around opulent and lush details, with many pieces featuring hours of intricate hand embellishment.
Jenni has had such a huge influence on me and my work. I feel like I had an amazing crash course into corsetry by being able to intern with her, studying her beautiful embellishment techniques and observing how she sculpts her creations had a massive impact on the way I like to work and helped me realise my deep love for beautiful corsetry, couture and texture. She’s had me hooked from the start and I’m so glad.
– Alycia Hirani
Silk Duchesse And Chiffon Corsetted Wedding Gown By Karolina Laskowska
Fabric: Silk duchesse, silk chiffon, French leavers lace
Brand: Karolina Laskowska
An elaborate corset based wedding gown, created by designer Karolina Laskowska for her own nuptial celebrations. The making of this ensemble took in excess of 100 hours.
The overbust corset base is made from a single layer of silk duchesse satin, with the high neckline and rounded bust inspired by early 20th c. ‘bust improver’ style corsetry. The garment is heavily structured, with each lapped seam forming a bone channel that encases a mix of synthetic baleen and flat steel bones. The corset fastens in the rear with metal eyelets and cotton lacing. The gown’s outer skirt and inner petticoat are made with in excess of 10m of silk chiffon. The outer skirt is entirely gathered and stitched in place by hand, with the selvedge used decoratively for textural interest.
The gown is profusely embellished, with the base satin corset embellished with hand stitched French lace appliqué. Two varieties are used: an ivory chantilly style, and an ecru/metallic silver style, with the two layered over one another with symmetrical placement. Silk chiffon and organza textural ‘blossoms’ are clustered at the neckline and across the body of the corset, further decorated with pale pink ostrich plumes.
Small opal beads and freshwater pearls in ivory and silver tones are stitched to the garment to highlight the lace patterns. Finally, in excess of 800 freshwater pearls have been hand strung and knotted on silk thread, forming detachable draped beading.
The ensemble was finished with an asymmetrically draped lace capelet in French chantilly lace, with a hand clipped him following the organic pattern of the lace.
Karolina Laskowska founded her eponymous, ready-to-wear lingerie brand in 2012, temporarily closing in 2017 to move to Norway. After achieving a First Class Honours degree in Contour Fashion at De Montfort University and showing at Graduate Fashion Week, Karolina’s brand won multiple awards, including Best New Designer at the 2014 UK Lingerie Awards. Karolina now specialises in bespoke couture lingerie and corsetry.
My time spent with Jenni, both as an intern between 2012-2014, and my subsequent friendship with her, has left a huge mark on my designs and general approach to corsetry. I’m incredibly grateful for the technical skills and industry connections she shared with me; for her inspirational approach to design, and for teaching me about the beauty of imperfection. All human craft will inevitably be somewhat imperfect, and that’s something to be celebrated.
Sparklewren corsets remain the pinnacle of contemporary corset making in my eyes: Jenni’s designs continue to inspire me even to this day. I feel incredibly fortunate to have met and worked with Jenni, and to be lucky enough to hold so many Sparklewren corsets within my personal collection.
– Karolina Laskowska
Jenni has had a profound influence on me as a designer. She taught me the value of working with high quality materials and experimenting with new mediums and techniques. She always found new ways to push herself and that has given me the confidence to do the same; it is easy to become stale and fall into the habit of using the materials and techniques which you are familiar and comfortable with, but Jenni was always exploring new ideas and I have tried to do the same.
– Lucy Emke, corsetiere behind Waisted Creations
I first met Jenni fresh from university very unsure of myself and she gave me such confidence and reassurance within myself as a designer. I was fortunate that she gave me the chance to work for her, I learnt a lot during my time at Sparklewren, working at a boutique, studio and finally on Jenni’s houseboat, she always made me feel welcome.
Jenni taught me that the sky’s the limit when it came to embellishment and boy did I embrace that. If there’s one thing I learnt from her it was that to have fun with corsetry.
– Holly Swinburne, corsetiere behind Holly Rafaela