Embroiderer says lack of support for self employed is 'heartbreaking'

Embroiderer of Kate Middleton and Meghan Markles’ wedding gowns says lack of support for self employed during Covid crisis is ‘heartbreaking’ and still fears losing her home after being forced to close her workshop

  • Chloe Savage worked on dresses for the Duchess of Cambridge and Sussex 
  • She says she fears losing her home as she has been excluded from support 
  • Rishi Sunak today extended self-employed support to include more Britons

An embroiderer who worked on royal wedding gowns said she still fears losing her home as she has been excluded from Government support throughout the pandemic.  

Chloe Savage, 43, said she only received a £1,000 grant in November which barely covered her running costs for two weeks, and she has been forced to give up her workshop.

The mother-of-two, from Warmley, near Bristol, was enlisted to help create the dresses of both the Duchess of Cambridge, 38, in 2011 and the Duchess of Sussex, 39, in 2018.    

But despite her high-profile past successes, the expert needleworker has described the last year as ‘absolutely heartbreaking’. 

Ms Savage, who supports both the Excluded UK and ForgottenLtd campaigns, which are asking the Government for more support for self-employed and small business owners, said she was not expecting good news from today’s Budget announcement. 

Chloe Savage (pictured), 43, said she only received a £1,000 grant in November which barely covered her running costs for two weeks, and she has been forced to give up her workshop

But in a barrage of big spending commitments worth a total of £65billion, Rishi Sunak confirmed self-employed income support will be extended to include 600,000 workers who previously did not qualify.

These ‘excluded’ Britons were previously not eligible because they did not begin trading until 2019.

However, the latest instalment of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will cover 80 per cent of trading profits for those who have filed a 2019/20 tax return, capped at £7,500.

The fourth grant will open in April and cover February, March and April, with a fifth and final self-employed grant also confirmed for May until September.

Ahead of the announcement, Ms Savage stressed that an estimated three million people have been left without support throughout the pandemic.      

‘Rishi [Sunak] still refuses to admit the numbers are even correct,’ she said. ‘There are three million people out there, myself included, who will never vote Tory again.

The mother-of-two, from Warmley village, near Bristol, was enlisted to help create the dresses of both the Duchess of Cambridge , 38, in 2011 and the Duchess of Sussex , 39, in 2018

The embroiderer helped to create Meghan’s veil made from silk tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers in silk threads and organza. Pictured: Meghan Markle on her wedding day

‘If I start hoping, I am going to be disappointed.’

The expert needleworker, who helped sew Meghan’s veil, added: ‘I did have a bit of support, mostly from outside individuals.

‘A lovely lady set up a crowdfunder which paid two months’ worth of rent, but we are still living on a hand-to-mouth, day-to-day basis.’

She is due to begin repaying a £25,000 bounce back loan from the Government in April, but currently has no work to be able to do so.

‘Writing off bounce back loans would be really good because it takes a lot of pressure off with trying to work out how we are going to repay it when we still can’t work,’ she said.

Fears of fresh lockdown as furlough is extended 

Rishi Sunak today sparked fears of a future return to lockdown after he extended the furlough scheme to the end of September and announced grants for the self-employed will also continue.

The Chancellor used the Budget to confirm that furloughed workers will continue to receive 80 per cent of their wages for the next seven months.

However, businesses will be asked to contribute more to the scheme, starting with a 10 per cent contribution from July and a 20 per cent contribution from August.

Meanwhile, the Treasury will run two further rounds of its grants for the self-employed scheme, with the fourth round covering February to April and a fifth and final round covering from May onwards.

The fourth grant will provide three months of support at 80 per cent of average trading profits while the fifth grant will be more targeted, with the worst affected still getting 80 per cent while others will get 30 per cent.

Mr Sunak has opted to extend the handouts long beyond Boris Johnson’s target date for a return to something close to normal life in England of June 21.

The moves will therefore inevitably prompt concerns that the PM’s coronavirus roadmap for reopening could be delayed or that there could be another national shutdown in the future. 

Ms Savage comes from a family of dressmakers, and described the industry as a ‘dying’ profession and said even when theatres reopen, she fears she may not have enough work.

She said: ‘Theatres can reopen at a certain point, but we suspect they are going to do a lot of recycling of costumes because their budgets are shot. They have lost a year’s worth of income.

‘The people we work with are equally as broke and we are not sure how we are going to move forward.’

She added: ‘I have paid my taxes since the day I started working at 16 when I had my first Saturday job. I have not failed to work and support my three children, ever.

‘It is a massive kick in the teeth, and when I actually need the help through no fault of my own. Why is it now we’re basically told we’re not worthy?’

Ms Savage, who trained at the prestigious Ecole Lesage in Paris and the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace, has worked on the Harry Potter franchise and on pieces for international catwalks and museums. 

Her needlework meant she had to sign the Official Secrets Act before working on the royal dresses.  

After being contacted by the Royal School of Needlework in 2011, Ms Savage became part of a team of 20 who to made Kate’s stunning Alexander McQueen gown, designed by Sarah Burton, featuring intricate lace appliqué bodice and sleeves. 

The workmanship saw individual flowers cut from lace and hand-engineered onto ivory silk tulle to create a unique and organic design – which incorporated the rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock. 

In 2018, when Meghan donned a pure white silk Givenchy gown and 15ft veil by Givenchy’s Clare Waight Keller, Ms Savage was once again on hand to help. 

The embroiderer helped to create Meghan’s veil made from silk tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers in silk threads and organza.

The veil was embellished with the distinctive flora of each Commonwealth country united in a single spectacular floral composition. 

But when the pandemic struck and work became scarce, the mother-of-two was forced to pack up her Bristol workshop and run the business from her mother’s garage.

She previously told The Sunday Times that her daughter, 14, has stopped eating lunch and dinner to try and help save money on food. 

Ms Savage said: ‘I’m heartbroken… She’s not communicating because she’s worried. I can’t cope with any more stress.’ 

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