What is it about a royal wedding that gets everyone so riled up and antsy? It seems that every time the announcement that someone within the British royal family has been engaged, it creates a media frenzy and a deep interest in the Windsor’s once again. However, of all the fancy things, the dress seem to pique the public’s interest most. Just like with Duchess Kate Middleton’s gown, everyone seems to be going crazy over which designer the future princess may wear. Typically, English brides within the royal family are expected to wear English designers to their wedding. However, Princess Meghan may be the first to break from tradition and wear an atypical designer for her big day.
Like the rest of us, designer Caroline Castigliano is eager to see what the future princess will wear on her wedding day. And what better way to predict Meghan’s gown then to design it oneself? Having just released her sketch of Meghan’s dress, Caroline has become the first designer to releases a sketch for a gown designed specifically for the future princess. Like all of Caroline’s designs, Meghan’s dress has contemporary simplicity. It perfectly showcases everything a modern princess would want in her royal wedding dress. The delicate lace back provides the coverage a princess is expected to wear on her wedding day, without looking dated or matronly. While the elegance of a beautiful full silk skirt completes the look, adding the perfect balance of modern stylish flare to the more traditional sleeve. It seems to be exactly who Meghan is style wise, classically elegant with a fresh and modern twist.
Suzanne Neville is renowned as one of England’s best dressmakers when it comes designing bridal gowns. So it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the future princess decided to wear a gown made by the designer on her wedding day. Since the gowns are handmade in the traditional styles found in major European couture houses, it would be lovely to see Meghan in something a far more ornate than just a traditional lace gown. This stunning embroidered ball gown encompasses exactly what royalty should look like — regal, ornate, and luxurious.
Temperley London has become a quintessentially British brand that encompasses the elegance, refinement, and grace that goes hand in hand with a British lady. Temperley’s designs fit in the with the Anglican expectation of modesty. Many of the gowns presented during Temperley’s latest Bridal Fashion Week presentation showcased classic gowns wrapped in lace, offering the coverage and modesty expected within the walls of Westminster Abbey.
Needle & Thread
Needle & Thread has become synonymous with modern fairytale glamour. Their affordable demi-couture gowns are created with the utmost intricacy and care, allowing any bride to experience what it’s like to have a gown handmade for their wedding day. However, Needle & Thread’s designs are often far more revealing than expected of a royal princess. But Meghan Markle doesn’t seem like she’ll be the spitting image of royal tradition. Rather, she may usher the royal family into a new era, where the image of what many feel a British princess should look is completely reworked.
Israeli designer Idan Cohen has already dressed big names like Jennifer Lopez and Nicki Minaj. So it is no wonder that he is a rising star in the fashion world. The young, ambitious designer, who is just 28 years-old, has even presented his Spring/Summer collection at Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week. His high-end evening wear collection is highly desirable among brides and fashion-forward women looking for that unforgettable dress will make them look and feel like a real goddess.
Cohen began his career studying at London’s Istituto Marangoni. After graduating, he traveled to Hong Kong to do research in fabric technics. After learning how to develop and manufacture fabrics, he then decided to return back to Israel and launch his own collection in 2011. His own studio, which is located in the heart of Tel Aviv’s fashion district, has made him a big name among the local fashion scene. Along with hislife partner, Elad Borenstein (the couple got married shortly before his show in NYFW), who handles all the business issues, they managed to bring the label to major success.
His attention to the little details, especially how the dress should sit on the body, are really impressive. Each gown is meticulously hand-sewn at the brand’s workshop and prestigious factories around the world.
How did you find your way into fashion design at such a young age? I was born to a family who lives and breathes fashion, so it was meant to be. As a child, I spent my time in a jeans factory owned by my family and I was always dreaming that one day I will open a fashion house by myself, which will carry my name.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? I would describe my design aesthetic as feminine, sexy and daring. My collection features bold and edgy details for the fashion forward woman.
Can you tell us about your current collection and which materials are you using? My current collection is inspired by the period of European Golden Age, followed by the way women dressed for the night life at that time. The materials I used for the current collection are Swarovski stones, lace, pearls, beads, satin, chiffon, and also silk crepe.
Who is your target audience? My target audience is strong women who have confidence and courage. They are not afraid to express themselves and embrace their femininity through fashion.
What was the most important thing you have learned from your first NYFW show collection? I learned that there are no rules. If you are good in what you are doing and fully believe in yourself and your ability, even your first runway show can lead you to high places and high achievements.
What is your best New York Fashion Week memory? I really like the moment when the first model walked out from backstage to the runway stage. I can’t forget these moments. My heart beating, the adrenaline going high and giving me a rush of excitement.
What advice can you give to young designers looking to break into the fashion industry ? The best advice I can give is to put a lot of passion in all the things you do, never give up on something that you really believe in, also to stay strong and persevere on the right path, until yousee the light at the end of the tunnel.
What is your future plan? Are you planning to expand into the North American market?
My future plan is expanding my business by opening new stores in the major cities around the globe and, of course, in big cities in North America.
Growing up in Aurora, there was this place on Yonge St. called Elmwood Brides. Every day on the bus ride to school, most of the kids (mainly the girls) would make sure to scoot over to press their noses against the window just in time to catch a glimpse of whatever princess-like gown was on display that morning. In some capacity, that tradition continued for me for years — and when I moved to Toronto, I was beyond pleased to find a similar (if not *gasp* better) treasure nestled at the corner of Broadview and Dundas: Lea-Ann Belter Bridal.
If you live in the city, you’ve probably passed Belter’s stunning corner studio a few times and, if you’re like me, nearly ran a red light at the sight of its large windows, each of which house a bewilderingly beautiful white dress. It’s a the kind of view that would turn even the most bitter of hearts into a hopeless romantic, even if only for that fleeting moment.
Inside, things get even better: the sunny, baby-blue showroom looks like Cinderella’s walk-in closet, each wall adorned with tulle, lace and silk. Downstairs is the studio, where the magic happens.
What makes Belter’s work so utterly enchanting isn’t only the beauty of her designs. It’s also the fact that, despite churning out an impressive 3,000-plus gowns every year to stores across North America, each gown is still handmade by her and her small team, on-site in her flagship shop. She’s even responsible for the beautiful gown worn by Rachel McAdams in The Time Traveler’s Wife, and the frock adorned by Sarah Polley in her real-life wedding, and yet Belter continues her passionate affair with old-fashion craftsmanship. And we’re so happy she does.
Like the Elmwood Brides of my growing-up years, Lea-Ann Belter Bridal evokes something uniquely beautiful in everyone who steps inside, or even simply rides by: the nostalgia of the romantic wishes of our youth, twinned with a sophisticated confidence in love. So really, her designs capture what romance is really all about: past meeting future; childlike charm meeting mature passion.
I sat down with Belter in the middle of her sunlit showroom to chat about her renowned designs, her own thoughts on romance, her new brand Astrid and Mercedes and, of course, how she makes it all happen.
NOVELLA MAGAZINE: Tell me the story of how you got into bridal design. I hear it was sort of by accident?
LEA-ANN BELTER: When I graduated from fashion school, the first job I got was to make the wedding gown for my brother’s fiancee. And it just grew from there. I really enjoyed it, even though I’d had no idea I was going to go into bridal when I was in fashion school. But I really liked making her gown, and everybody loved the gown, and people just started asking me. And that’s how I got into it.
And what did it look like?
Oh, it was a full ball gown with a strapless lace top. Very traditional. And it had a detachable train on it, too.
Yeah, it was really, really nice.
Lea-Ann Belter Bridal launched in 1990, and it seems like people fell smitten with your work almost immediately. You’ve been pretty successful from the get-go, and you’ve even designed the gown that Rachel McAdams wore in The Time Traveler’s Wife. How did that come about?
That’s an interesting story. They were filming the movie here in Toronto, and at the time we were on Queen Street. They saw the shop and came in and asked me if I would do it, and I said “sure!”
You’ve been running your regular line for 26 years now, and you recently launched your new secondary line, Astrid and Mercedes. Can you tell me a bit about this new project?
I started Astrid and Mercedes two years ago. It’s just another line — we still make it here, I still design it, but I wanted to do a line that was a little more modern. The Lea-Ann Belter line is a bit more traditional, but Astrid and Mercedes is just kind of funkier and fresher, and it’s at a slightly lower price point.
I definitely get a more playful vibe from it.
Yeah. Lea-Ann Belter gowns are more classic, and the Astrid and Mercedes are a definitely, like you said, more playful.
So right now we’re sitting in your flagship store, but your gowns are sold all across North America?
Yes, this boutique is the only one that I own, but I sell to about 50 stores across North America. We ship out about 20 gowns a week to the U.S. And then there’s all the brides that we do here.
How long does it usually take to make one gown?
The designing I’m doing months ahead. Like, I’m always working on the designs. But just to make it, it’s about five or six weeks from start to finish. But that’s a team — I’ve got 18 people working for me.
So, what’s in the works right now?
Right now we’re working on the sketches for the April market.
And the most cliche question of all: where do you get your inspiration for your designs?
Anywhere. I can see the way a piece of fabric is falling, or I can just think of a feeling I want to evoke in a gown. Anything. Or I look at laces — right now I have a big bag of all the lace samples in my office, so I’ll find one that I really like and I’ll be like, “Oh, I want to use that in everything.”
Each of your gowns is so unique from the rest, but at the same time I feel like there’s something connecting them all. What would you say that is? What do you try to incorporate into every design?
I think it’s just my own sensibility. I’ve always said you can give 10 different designers the same sketch and you’d get 10 different gowns. It’s just how I interpret it. That continuity is just my interpretation coming out. But I do try not to duplicate styles within a line. I try to, you know, come out with 10 styles that are all different so it gives people a variety to choose from.
You’re also known for being very eco-conscious, using special vegetable-dyed silks.
Yes, the mill in India that we buy our silks from, they use all vegetable-based dyes.
And you donate all your excess fabrics to local schools?
We donate to the Toronto District School Board, and there’s some various artists that come in and take all our scraps. We’ve done it for a long time, and they’re thrilled.
I also have to ask about this space. It’s got this antique-y feel to it, like it used to be an old post office or something.
Nope. It was a skanky old Coffee Time! *Laughs*
Ohhh! Wow, that’s hard to imagine. It’s so beautiful in here now.
Oh, it was awful. We gutted the space and refurbished the whole building. Even the basement, where everyone works, it was like something out of a horror movie.
One last question for you: society has changed so much in the past hundred years or so, and so have weddings, but the wedding gown has continued to be such a strong nuptial tradition. Why do you think it’s such an important symbol still, for brides?
I think a wedding is an opportunity for a couple to really show their style, so I’d say that’s why it’s continued on. I also think that as a tradition, getting married is a huge thing in someone’s life, so it’s really important for people to celebrate it somehow. As a bride, it’s your opportunity to wear the gown of your lifetime. It’s your chance to walk the red carpet.