For our annual Glossed & Gowned issue, we’re saying ‘We Do!’ to five designers that have us head over heels with their bridal collections. Each budding talent brings to life their idea of femininity with thoughtful details that allow the bride to be her best beautiful. They all prove that aisle style is so much more than sparkle and voluminous fabrics, but creating pieces that can embody each bride’s unique style and express the limitless love on the big day. Follow along as we talk with these designers on all things romantic, from inspirations to the design process. We guarantee that you’re going to fall in love all over again.
This season, SAMANTHA SLEEPER is inspired by modern women, flowers in bloom and images of the transition from night to morning, when light begins to illuminate the edges of all forms. The Chicago-born, NYC-based designer and alum-turned-faculty member at the Parsons School of Design has appeared on the covers of WWD, German Vogue and more. We love this seasoned designer’s quirks—often setting the mood in her studio with candles burning, Frank Ocean playing through the speakers and always a ton of blooming flowers. Her overfilled mood board is described as an ode to all things that fill the heart, like snapshots of family, torn pages capturing calligraphy and drawings with particularly touching line qualities and swatches in blushes, ivories and pops of greens and blues.
Samantha on the Raphael gown, pictured above: “In a field at dawn with the fog rising and the light illuminating: I pictured hosting a glamour filled, down-to-earth outdoor fete.”
Raphael gown, $4,000, by Samantha Sleeper Bridal, available at Samantha-Sleeper.com.
After leaving the world of accounting, this CPA found her calling in the bridal world—providing the modern day bride balance with thoughtfully designed gowns. ALYSSA KAHLE credits her lack of a bridal or design background to allow her to bring a fresh perspective to the ALYSSA KRISTIN collections. She says, the best part of not knowing all ‘the rules’ is that you don’t have to worry about breaking them, allowing her to create with unconventional fabrics, silhouettes and necklines that aren’t typical of other bridal designers. And this season Alyssa is all about textures. From sequins to feathers to chiffon petals, there is a strong tactile element evident in her line-up of gowns right now.
Alyssa on the Estelle gown, pictured above: “The fabric catches the light and has the weight. I was picturing someone fashion forward who is comfy in their own skin. With the plunging neckline and the wrap skirt that shows just a peek of leg when you walk, it definitely lets the bride shine.”
Estelle gown, $3,195, by Alyssa Kristin at AlyssaKristin.com.
KATE PANKOKE started designing at the age of 14, and has seen her passion evolve from reality show appearances all the way to her ready-to-wear collection debut last year at New York Fashion Week. This Project Runway veteran describes her design aesthetic as artful femininity, believing all women are princesses at heart. Her most recent collection for ELAYA VAUGHN BY KATE PANKOKE? Inspired by growing vines and gold, Kate incorporated asymmetrical elements to ensure each gown was interesting from every angle. Always inspired by the ‘50s, she has an undeniable love for Hitchcock’s leading ladies. She says, there is something so powerful about a woman dressed impeccably who acts like it is effortless.
Kate on the Gail gown, pictured above: “The Gail gown is inspired by nature; a wedding held outside. It’s for someone who wants a Boho feel but still wants to be glam because it’s their wedding day. It’s Boho Glam.”
Originally from the Ukraine, TATYANA MERENYUK moved to the United States in her early teens. After falling in love with the design process, she launched her bridal line of flattering and feminine designs that have a classic flow with clean lines. Inspired by nature and the movement of a scenic ocean landscape, Tatyana’s collections often have an organic and natural feel to them. Her style reflects a sexy bohemian vibe that allows a bride to look effortlessly beautiful with her natural beauty. Tatyana often finds herself recreating silhouettes from past eras with unexpected fabrics to give it a modern twist.
Tatyana on the Kaitlin gown: “The bride who wears this is her own person. She understands her own style. She is strong. She is not afraid to stand out.”
After working under CFDA award-winning designers such as 3.1 Phillip Lim and Robert Geller, GRACE LEE-LIM launched her eponymous bridal line in Chicago last year. LEE-LIM is at once structured and dreamy. She credits her continuous love of moody and ethereal colors from the Romanticism period as her main source of inspiration. Her gowns often feature minimal cuts with exceptional details and draping inspired by designers like Ricardo Tisci, and the nostalgia we feel for the 20’s. From afar Grace’s gowns may look simple, but up close intricate layers of different silks, laces, and tulle are pieced together to give each piece movement and life. For Grace’s upcoming collection, she looked to rocker babe PJ Harvey as inspiration and her album “Is This Desire?” Rock on, indeed.
Grace on the Sheila gown, pictured above: “The Sheila was inspired by the woman who balances both worlds of delicate softness and strong feminine sensuality.”
Sheila gown, $4,725, by Lee-Lim, available upon request at Lee-Lim.com.
Photography: Tim Musho
Film: Emily Hard
Creative: D. Graham Kostic
Makeup: Lia Rivette, Ford Artists
Hair: Lyneé Ruiz, Ford Artists
Model: Colleen, Factor Women
Additional filming for Tatyana Merenyuk + Samantha Sleeper: Keren Aronoff Masser
ALL FLORALS BY DILLY LILY
Dress pictured in opening shot:
Bella, $2,600, by by Elaya Vaughn by Kate Pankoke, available at Elaya Vaughn Chicago Showroom. Or email email@example.com to request a sample to be sent to a nearby boutique.