Field Notes

People in Production: Embroidery with Grace Sutherland

10 August 2017

Posted in: Good to Know, Industry, H&F Presents, Fashion Thinking, Opinion

Hawes & Freer presents ‘People in Production’. An insight into the people, brands and roles in the production side of the New Zealand fashion industry. 
This week we have looked at the more tedious side of production – hand sewing and embroidery. Grace Sutherland spent years abroad, where she learnt skills at couture houses that she would not have learnt in New Zealand. When she came back she launched her own couture label, Grace Millicent Couture. She gives an honest overview of the industry and why her product fills a gap in the market. Her techniques are bound to inspire all who look at her gorgeous garments.
Grace Sutherland - Grace Millicent Couture
Grace Sutherland - Grace Millicent Couture

How long have you been in the industry for and what role did you start in?

I started in 2012, so around 5 years. I went to Melbourne and worked at a bridal couture business called Connie Simonetti, where I was there for 2 years.

You worked at Ralph & Russo in London, tell us a bit about that. 

I was at Ralph & Russo for 10 months, I did 5 months embroidery and 5 months dressmaking/client travel. This would include finishing a dress for a customer and sometimes even helping with the dress at an event, such as a wedding. 

I learnt the basics and was taught how to become a perfectionist with the many skills I learnt, like 3mm French seams, 1.5mm pin hems and hand stitching skills. I got to work on different fabrics on the bias too. It was all about practice, practice, practice. 

You won’t learn these skills at uni.

What gives your business the edge in comparison to other people in the market?

Having an European techniques/couture approach. I am willing to do things that are extraordinary, that is completely made to measure, which you won’t find anywhere else in New Zealand.

Where did you learn your skills?

Basic skills I learnt at uni, but the couture/embroidery skills initially in Melbourne, then technical skills in haute couture at Ralph & Russo in London. 

What sparked your interest in fashion?

I was 14 years old and loved the fashion in fashion magazines. To start with it was ready to wear, then at 18 years old I saw a Valentino exhibition in Rome, so it was couture from this point.

What skills & qualities do you think are important for sewing/hand sewing and why?

Patience! More than anything. The ability to adapt/learn different ways of achieving the same result and finding what is best for you.

GM Proto
Grace Sutherland's prototypes


What advice would you give to people starting out in fashion?

Stay inspired, learn the proper technical skills. Those are the skills that will get you a great job. 

Best advice you have been given? 

Numerous times, to never give up. Things slow down, but you just go day to day and they will pick up again.

Would you recommend people to get experience before starting their own brand and why? 

Absolutely. To learn different ways of applying technical skills and finding the best approach. Same as the business side, observe why the business is successful or why it is not. 

What would you say is the biggest challenge you face? 

People who are addicted to fast fashion. Competing with an overseas market and assuming you can do something quick and cheaper than they can find online. Quality takes hundreds of hours, people don’t recognize this and they tend to snob it off. But it is an art that few can appreciate. 



Grace Millicent Couture 

Grace Millicent is an exclusive couture house exuding European elegance and tradition, under the creative direction of Grace Sutherland. 

At 26 years old, she has vast experience working for the only British haute couture house on the official haute couture schedule, Ralph & Russo. This saw her travelling the globe fitting private clientele and royalty, working on gowns for celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie and Cheryl Cole, as well as showing at Paris Haute Couture week – a dream come true. Grace offers a very exclusive and unique service, with an impeccable eye to detail.

The Grace Millicent woman encompasses classic elegance with an imitable style, whilst being the centre of attention. Our gowns and tailoring highlight her figure perfectly, using only the highest quality fabrics from Europe. She is seen in luxurious floaty silks, show-stopping ball gowns and crisp tailoring, often featuring intricate embroideries.


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