In the world of wedding fashion, your name is your trademark. From couture one-of-a-kind dresses to breezy ready-to-wear styles, these five up-and-coming designers represent the next class of high-style designer names to remember. Move over Ms. Wang …
The Island Fashionista – Tamara Catz
Peering from the panoramic window of her ocean-side studio on the island of Maui, it's easy for Tamara Catz to understand that a sweaty, satin-and-tulle-encased bride is not a great look for a beach wedding. Instead, she envisions the kind of dress that can "make a girl want to walk barefoot in the sand with the man of her dreams – flowy, feminine, simple." Catz, 36, modeled her line of romantic, bohemian-style wedding dresses after her breezy sensibility.
The Buenos Aires native spent seven years creating contemporary resort wear before she felt the artistic urge to foray into the world of bridal wear in 2007. "A wedding dress is probably the most special garment a woman will ever put on, so I knew that my bridal designs could be a little more dreamy and unique than those for my every day clothes, "says the 36-year-old. The Hawaiian-inspired designs feature relaxed feminine shapes, simple cuts, and organic accents like shells. Rather than overpowering the bride, Catz's simple silhouettes and light, flowing fabrics "make a women feel like herself," something she believes, "the traditional Cinderella-like wedding dress does not always do." Naturally, they're most at home as alternative-style gowns for beach weddings, and many are even versatile enough to wear after the wedding. The best part for that special day, though, is that a Catz design can feel just as refreshing as sand between their toes.
The Custom Duo – Miosa Bride
"Miosa" combines two names: Michael and Sanea Sommerfield. Miosa Bride combines two visions: that of a husband and a wife to craft couture of the highest quality in a surprising location. Based in Sacramento, California, Sanea, 42, brings her business expertise and insight into the female psyche, while Michael, 46, draws from experience gained sewing outdoor wear at his father's store and running a Sacramento tailor shop. "Sewing is like breathing to him," Sanea gushes. "I am still amazed most of the time at his understanding and knowledge."
The decision to stay in Sacramento despite a zip code that lacks an obvious couture culture was in part an effort to bring high style to the capital city, but it was also a personal one. "We had four children and did not want to move the family," Sanea explains. "Family comes first, so we had to build a business that could function here." Their exquisite fabrics and design techniques have earned them a local following, and now that the kids are grown, the duo plans to begin branding nationally this year.
The consultation phase is an integral component in the process of creating their gowns. The team takes detailed measurements to draft an initial pattern that accurately mimics the bride's body with respect to her level of comfort. They then gather information about her and her wedding so they can weave her personality into the dress, whether soft fabrics for a romantic or a daring silhouette for a sophisticate. Pieces of the gown are then individually cut and sewn in-house, often using 100 percent silk fabrics imported from Europe. The result is a couture gown inspired by the natural aesthetic of the woman wearing it.
The Green Pioneer – Deborah Lindquist
Deborah Lindquist raised a few eyebrows when she launched a daywear line made exclusively from recycled fabrics in 1983, long before the terms "eco" and "green" had been coined. Raised on a farm in Willmar Minnesota, surrounded by gardens, orchards and corn fields, Lindquist was 5 years old when her grandmother taught her to sew. "Life on the farm sparked my respect for the earth, and I knew that if I was to make an impact in the fashion world, I would have to do so in a manner that remained true to my love for the environment," says the 52-year-old.
Lindquist highlighted a 2005 fashion show with a wedding dress made of hemp that drew national interest – from brides who read about it in blogs to a USA Today article on help farming that featured it. So in 2007, Deborah launched a green wedding collection made entirely of recycled materials, hemp blends, and soy silks.
If the idea of wearing hemp conjures up thoughts of scratchy ill-fitted clothing, brides can rest assured that these luxurious, highly-stylized gowns are more suitable for a walk down the red carpet than a stroll up Haight-Ashbury. Lindquist's dresses have a romantic, feminine feel with a bit of an edge. Detailed lace, beadwork, and ribbons embellish her creations with an air of elegance, while flirtatious bustiers and corsets lend a cutting-edge aesthetic. In an era in which greening your wedding is oh-so-stylish, her designs allow you to wear that environmental commitment – and look good every step of the way.
The Southern Belle – Suzanne Perron
A fashion designer rooted in a culture of debutantes, oversized weddings, and Mardi Gras queens seems somehow destined to create magnificent white ball gowns steeped in timeless elegance. For New Orleans-native Suzanne Perron, that ambition took root when she received her first sewing machine from the Easter Bunny when she was 5 years old. "I dreamed of making beautiful romantic wedding gowns that mirrored the traditional aesthetic of this beautiful historic city," she remembers.
First though, she had to learn her craft by studying under Carolina Herrera, Ana Sui, and Vera Wang in New York City. Thirteen years later, a homesick Perron returned to New Orleans to set up her bridal boutique.
Suzanne's designs are clearly inspired by the city's distinct culture and celebrated architecture. On her gowns, you will find pintucking that mimics a fluted column on a St. Charles mansion or beadwork inspired by the intricate filigree and plaster work that finishes door frames and ceilings throughout the city.
She admits that she's "not looking to be fashion-forward" and instead describes her designs as "once in a lifetime gowns in white and ivory," despite the many stylists and editors who insist color is en vogue. It's a natural union for a designer who continues to make a name for herself in a city where traditions are preserved and celebrated.
The Embellishment Artiste – Mariana Leung
For Mariana Leung, it's a wedding dress's smallest detail that affords the greatest self expression. "I love that my imagination can run wild with embroidery, since I can adapt an embellishment for a woman of any shape, size, taste and budget," she explains, "no other aspect of a wedding gown grants such freedom." Leung has channeled that creative streak since childhood when her father convinced her she was talented enough to make her own clothes. "Every time I asked for an outfit in a store window, he responded that I could make a better version of it myself," she remembers.
Leung honed those skills designing couture embroidery for the bridal industry's top houses – Monique Lhullier, Vera Wang, and Giorgio Armani. "Bridal was the perfect fit because it's the one outfit that is purchased on emotion instead of practicality, granting more room for creativity," says the 34-year-old. Now, she's parlaying that experience into her own gowns, conceptualized and built around an intricate embroidery pattern. Most of her brides bring a motif to incorporate, such as the detailing of an heirloom piece of jewelry or a pattern from a grandmother's wedding dress. Others peruse Leung's "look book" of embroidery designs for inspiration.
For such a personal, hands-on experience, Leung has a surprising number of out-of-town clients. For one project, a bride e-mailed a picture of flowers from her family's backyard, and Mariana designed a bolero jacket with fabric appliques inspired by the flowers for the bride to wear over the very basic gown she had already purchased. "The project proved that customization and luxury can be affordable," she says, "you just need to get a little creative."