bridal designers of color

Bridal Designers of Color to Know—and Support Forever

From virtual showrooms to Zoom weddings, these designers are making waves.

By: Sana F. Khan

Prior to starting her bridal label, Brides by Nona, Nneka Alexander had a successful career in finance and was comfortable with the way things were going. Yet she couldn’t shake off a feeling that something was missing—that she wasn’t utilizing all her talents, including fashion design. “I attended Barbizon after graduating college in Texas, where I grew up. My initial course was to do modeling, but I decided to take a few design courses to see how I’d do. I loved it. The experience was intense, and after a few internships, I was inspired to build something on my own. Then reality hits—I had a family and an established career in finance that moved me from Texas to New York and then finally to Atlanta. My fashion career was put on pause.”

Then something magical happened in 2014. Alexander’s sister got engaged and requested that she design the bridal gowns for her wedding. “I was hesitant, but she persuaded me by saying, ‘Design is a skill that doesn’t leave you; you were born with it.’” Alexander designed the dresses for the entire bridal party, including the bride, the bridesmaids, the flower girls, and herself. “A few weeks later, my sister called me with exciting news. Her wedding photos were trending on Instagram, and people were commenting and asking who the bridal designer was!” Alexander created an Instagram account that day, and within 48 hours she had over 100 inquiries from brides all over the country. Brides by Nona was born, and the rest is history.

Alexander isn’t the only designer with a story like this, but in the competitive bridal industry, it’s been challenging for designers of color to find representation and have their voices heard. What’s missing is not only inclusive spaces, but accessibility to diverse bridal designers and the stories they have to share. “I want to know what the bridal industry is like in South Africa. What are designers doing in India? I’d like to see more collaboration with creatives of color, and they definitely exist,” says Alexander. And she is rightthere is a growing number of small labels who are inspiring brides-to-be with their knowledge of design and craftsmanship. In addition to Brides by Nona, we spoke to eight bridal designers of color about their own labels, thoughts on Zoom weddings, and what trends to look out for as we adjust to postCOVID-19 life.

From Belgium to Lagos to Los Angeles, these female designers are master storytellers in conveying a bride’s vision through their intricate designs and impeccable attention to detail. Here is Coveteur’s curated list of bridal designers of color that have created brands made to capture the eyes of all audiences, especially brides-to-be.

 

Advertisement

Advertisement

The Designer

AMSALE’s late founder, Ethiopian-born Amsale Aberra, designed her own wedding gown in 1985, and in that process, turned the bridal industry upside-down. Her gown was a sleek break from the frilly frocks of the 1980s, and she quickly found that it was just what sophisticated, modern brides had been looking for. One year later, her namesake label was born.

 

AMSALE’s Mission

“At AMSALE, we are inspired by our bride and strive to design pieces that fit her mood and vision—no matter what that looks like. Our bride has an elevated and timeless aesthetic; she is sophisticated and statement-making. While we introduce new fabrics and silhouettes with each season, our designs are meant to transcend time—to look as stunning today as they will years from now. As Amsale once said, ‘True style knows no place or time—more than an aesthetic, style is a way of living.’”

 

AMSALE on COVID-19

“Amsale Aberra was the inventor of the modern wedding dress, and now we as a brand strive to invent the modern wedding experience. We’ve developed tools and services to help brides shop and plan remotely, from a virtual try-on tool that allows brides to upload their own photo and see what different styles look like on, to our Amsale x You design-your-dress platform, to in-depth, one-on-one virtual styling appointments. It is our mission to design refined wedding wear for the modern bride—and her modern wedding experience.”

 

AMSALE on Diversity and Representation in the Bridal Industry

“Representation matters. By not showcasing BIPOC brides and models, brands send a message that their product is not for them. It is imperative that the industry acknowledge where it has failed to be inclusive and make a change.”

 

AMSALE on Bridal Trends for 2020/2021

“We craft wedding designs for the refined, confident bride who wants to be true to herself on her wedding day, whether that’s with a dramatic couture gown or a casual crepe sheath from our Little White Dress collection. Weddings themselves may look different in 2021, but the AMSALE bride will always shine, no matter her vision.”

 

Atelier Valentine Avoh

Advertisement

Photo: Courtesy of Atelier Valentine Avoh... Read More

bridal designers of color

The Designer

Valentine Avoh is a Belgian bridal designer and is originally from the Ivory Coast. After graduating in fashion design and pattern making from the London College of Fashion, she went on to work for designers such as Alexander McQueen and Alexis Mabille. “Working at McQueen was really life-changing for me, as I was fascinated by his creative process and the patience put into each of his pieces, but more importantly, how he worked each fabric and transformed it to make it its own. As having my own business was something I’ve always wanted since childhood, the idea kept flourishing in my head until 2015, when I finally decided to launch the brand and opened my atelier in Brussels.”

 

Valentine Avoh’s Mission:

“The Atelier Valentine Avoh came as a desire to revive my love for haute couture in Belgium, and design refined, fluid, and delicately detailed wedding dresses. My label is inspired by the golden age of cinéma, jazz, and iconic women, yet my designs are for all those who wish to highlight their femininity without compromising ease. I want to create showstopping pieces which could easily be worn for a wedding or on the red carpet.”

 

Valentine Avoh on COVID-19:

“[The] majority of my brides have pushed back their wedding for 2021, so the first two weeks of the lockdown [were] spent managing brides and accessing their requests. It also forced me to evaluate how I spend my time and which projects I need to spend more energy on. I worked on my website, social media, marketing strategies, and started working on the next collection.”

 

Valentine Avoh on Diversity and Representation in the Bridal Industry:

“Most catalogs and look books portray the same type of brides; therefore, it’s difficult for women of color to feel represented and inspired. My advice would apply for other industries as well, which is that leading brands need to be more inclusive to welcome new and diverse clientele. If you have customers that include Black people and people of color, then you need to invest into marketing that caters to them.”

 

Valentine Avoh on Bridal Trends for 2020/2021:

“I definitely think weddings in 2021 will be epic. People will want to party and celebrate more than ever before. People are paying more attention to how and where their clothes are made. Embroidered tulle is still going strong, as well as lace. Many of my brides are tired of the boho-chic and romantic trends and looking for more glamorous and couture dresses. Short dresses and separates are becoming more popular each year, as well. Brands that offer bespoke services will do well because brides-to-be are looking for something unique and different from what’s featured on wedding blogs and Instagram.”

 

The Designer

Sahroo was founded by designer and creative director Sarah Abbasi in New York City. Its bridal collection includes an assortment of handcrafted pieces made from biodegradable pure silk, hand-embellished with silk ribbons, silk threads, and recyclable glass crystals. “I originally didn’t intend to go into bridal at all, admittedly! Growing up in Chicago, I would spend my summers in Lahore, Pakistan. I would often visit my family’s workshop, in which my aunt worked with incredible artisans, most of whom have worked with our family for generations, to create the most beautiful clothing. We’ve partnered with these same artisans to create a luxury women’s-wear line in 2018 that spoke to women around the world, and after a year, [it] evolved into Sahroo!”

 

Sahroo’s Mission

“We are deeply devoted to ensuring our brides feel that their outer appearance reflects their inner beauty. Sustainability should be woven with our craft. We are devoted to giving back to our planet and making our craft have the smallest footprint possible through carbon neutrality, forgoing the use of machinery in favor of handcrafting, and planting trees for every order placed. We hope to change the face of the bridal industry by steering it towards a world in which bridal is synonymous with sustainability, diversity, and empowerment.”

 

Sahroo on COVID-19

“COVID-19 has changed our process fairly dramatically in that it has made one of our most important steps impossible—hosting brides in our showroom so that they may try on the garments in person. However, it has opened up a whole new realm to us—that of video appointments! We have been thrilled at how well brides took to the switch, and now our international clients who may not have been able to travel to New York for their fittings are getting to experience an appointment, as well. I’ve also found that brides being able to conduct the appointment from the comfort of their own homes, often in their bedrooms, makes it such a relaxed and intimate atmosphere. While we look forward to opening back up for in-person consultations, we’ll definitely continue offering these video calls to anyone who desires them.”

 

Sahroo on Diversity and Representation in the Bridal Industry

“Diversity and representation are key; we know that young girls feel included and confident when they see other girls that look like them portrayed in the media, and the same goes for adult brides. Modern bridal brands also need to be inclusive and diverse in their hiring process—this lends itself to a wider variety of insight and viewpoints in the company, which in turn allows for cultural growth and understanding. The more different voices at the table, the stronger and more beautiful work we can create together!”

 

Sahroo on Bridal Trends for 2020/2021

“Sustainability and versatility. Brides are moving towards garments that can be worn in many settings and that have life beyond walking down the aisle. They will be looking for pieces that they can pull out and feel beautiful in time and time again, not just to wear once and put in the back of the closet. With the growing number of at-home and Zoom ceremonies we’re seeing, they’ll want even more pared-back pieces, something like our Bianca matching sets, which are lovingly handcrafted from raw silk.”

 

The Designer

Imad Eduso is a Lagos-based women’s-wear brand in Nigeria that was founded in 2015. The brand focuses on creating sophisticated, vibrant, and functional pieces for the modern woman. The subsidiary brand, Imad Eduso Bridals, was founded in 2017 for brides who want a minimalist but edgy design for their weddings.

 

Imad Eduso’s Mission

“Imad Eduso’s designs are created to make women feel empowered, to feel confident in their own bodies, and to feel stylish wherever they find themselves. We hope to create a community of women from various ethnic backgrounds who are inspired and venturing into new fields to make an impact and conquer the world in Imad Eduso pieces.”

 

Imad Eduso on COVID-19

“In light of COVID-19, we launched a new digital series using illustrations. We created a bridal campaign using digital illustration to show how to wear and style the bridal collection in a variety of ways. Our stay-at-home campaign illustrated how to wear Imad Eduso designs while working from home; whether you’re a new bride [or not]. We had fun sharing new stories and perspectives in a tasteful and digital way.”

 

Imad Eduso on Diversity and Representation in the Bridal Industry

“I would like to see more efforts to exhibit or display the wedding culture, and that are practiced by Africans of different countries and ethnic backgrounds. It would be great to see the diversity of African wedding cultures being covered in mainstream magazines, digital platforms, and wedding blogs. The core of our business is our Black and African clients, so our designs are inspired and created to cater to that customer base. To be more inclusive, we’ve worked on expanding our size ranges and also having skin-tone tulle options available at the bridal boutique.”

 

Imad Eduso on Bridal Trends for 2020/2021

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, most brides would want a big ball dress, a long train, or a long veil for their weddings. Now our brides want a more understated look with an edge. Our current bride is more interested in a dress that shows her personality. She’s looking for an edgy design that is well detailed, without the extravagance of a traditional dress.”

 

The Designer

Ogake was founded by Ogake Mosomi, a Kenyan designer and design academic who is changing the perception of locally made fashion. “I officially started my fashion design company in 2013 and soon realized there was a gap in the local bridal-wear market. Many brides couldn’t find dresses in their size or a variety of styles and shapes. It became our mission to make their bridal dreams come true in 2015.”

 

Ogake’s Mission

“To help brides discover their dream gowns, and to ensure that their experience throughout the process is magical, stress-free, and fulfilling. It’s a journey; we want it to be a memorable one for them. And we hope to grow into one of the most desirable bridal brands in Africa. I say in Africa, because we still don’t have many options, yet weddings are a big business here, so this is our main focus.”

 

Ogake on COVID-19

“We decided to start making reusable masks, including bridal ones. We wanted to contribute to the fight against COVID-19, but also to keep the business afloat. We have also started designing and sampling ideas for our ready-to-wear collection. Unfortunately, we have had to downsize the team, which was very difficult for us.”

 

Ogake on Diversity and Representation in the Bridal Industry

“The current market doesn’t cater for diversity in body shapes. It’s challenging for Black women to shop off the rack because our sizes and proportions are different; that’s why I started my brand. However, not everyone can afford a custom-made gown nor has time for that process. I honestly don’t know if designers can be entirely inclusive, because clients and their needs vary country to country. It may not be practical. We definitely need more bridal designers of color, because they will understand the desires of that market.”

 

Ogake on Bridal Trends for 2020/2021

“Personal touches will be important. This year has been difficult for everyone, so celebrations like weddings will become even more important. People will put more heart and soul into choosing a gown. It could go two wayseither utilitarian and simple gowns, which can be used again and again, or full-on opulence to compensate for the tough times. Zoom weddings can be viewed by even a larger audience, so that may influence brides to invest more. Local sourcing and locally made dresses will become a big consideration, so designers need to be on top of their game.”

 

The Designer

Stephanie White is the founder and designer of Odylyne the Ceremony, based in Los Angeles. “With my background in graphic design, I worked for several brands in developing all their collateral for their businesses. It was [while] learning from these designers that I decided I could build a brand and design on my own. I took the plunge into fashion in 2009 with a ready-to-wear line. Then, in 2014, I dived into bridal, after I had my two children and needed the flexibility to spend time with my family and still do what I love.”

 

Odylyne the Ceremony’s Mission

“We have a simple mission. To create a dreamlike state in reality of the strong expectations that you may have on one of the most special days of your life. The ceremony is curated for the bride that understands that the standards are meant to be pushed and the limits should feel endless. Nothing is more spiritual than the day you stand before everyone and [say] ‘I do.’ We want to share in that part of your world and bring out the ethereal moments that exist. In our ethereal sphere, there lies no reasoning, no typicality, no explanations, no realism, no comparisons, nothing ordinary, and no normalcy. Our mission is to help you leave all of those things behind.”

 

Odylyne the Ceremony on COVID-19

“Brides have been forced to postpone weddings, and those that can get married now are scaling back tremendously because of it. Gowns that were originally ordered are now being redesigned or being changed to accommodate a backyard or a private wedding situation with only family. We are now doing virtual appointments and fittings, and while that is harder, we would still like to keep the overall experience special. We have had to pivot within our business and are almost done with an overhaul on our website, where ordering direct will be available. We are also working on bridal boxes that can be shipped with current styles direct to your home for a home try-on.”

 

Odylyne the Ceremony on Diversity and Representation in the Bridal Industry

“The bridal industry has missed the mark in giving Black women and people of color a place to feel at home. It starts at the top of fashion and trickles down into bridal, where racism holds a heavy hand in representation, in appearance as well as behind the scenes in the workplace. This is not only a US problem, it is a global problem. Now that the tide is turning, I feel free more than ever to build a stronger platform for myself and the brand in being a home that feels safe for Black women. I am currently working on several outlets in design, as well as several shoots that will showcase that for the first time, and I am really excited about it. I can finally share my voice with everyone, and for once I do not feel I need to remain anonymous.”

 

Odylyne the Ceremony on Bridal Trends for 2020/2021

“Brides will be looking for simpler styles that fit the current situation we are in. We’ve been getting requests for mini styles and custom styles that wear more like evening wear instead of red carpet. I have a handful of current brides that are looking for versatility in their dresses so they can be re-worn, should they decide to do another wedding when things feel safer.”

 

The Designer

Sareh Nouri is a Persian designer in the luxury bridal industry. She went into bridal design after experiencing difficulty in finding a bridal gown for her own wedding in 2009. She also has a background in graphic design and worked as a buyer and manager for several years at a bridal salon. With her background and professional experience, Sareh launched her first bridal collection in 2012. It grew rapidly, and the label has a global presence despite its facilities and production being based in the United States.

 

Sareh Nouri’s Mission

“We definitely strive to create confidence in a bride and want her to feel strong and empowered. Our designs are timeless, with the intention that our brides feel beautiful and confident wearing them.”

 

Sareh Nouri’s Adjustment to COVID-19

“One of the biggest challenges we faced were trunk shows where we directly meet with brides at a number of stores across the country. Since trunk shows have been canceled, we’ve had to strategize and launch new ideas, including virtual events. Our partnering stores host virtual trunk shows, display our gowns, and have brides FaceTime with our team. This has been a great way to maintain our relationships with our clients and ensure they are being catered to.”

 

Sareh Nouri on Diversity and Representation in the Bridal Industry

“The marketing and advertisements in the bridal industry make it difficult to target diverse clientele. The campaigns need to change at bridal companies and retailers. Despite our entire team and staff consisting of minorities, we’re working to improve the representation in our campaigns to ensure Sareh Nouri’s designs are inclusive and accessible.”

 

Sareh Nouri on Bridal Trends for 2020/2021

“Brides still want that statement dress but are looking for more slim-fare designs rather than ball gowns. We’ll see more sleek and elegant dresses and a decreasing number of requests for long trains. Currently, our most popular dress is the Cosette, which is elegant yet versatile.”

 

The Designer

Violette Tannenbaum is a self-taught French bridal designer who opened her atelier in 2013. She draws inspiration from poetry, vintage clothes, and the women in her family. Like many other designers, she wasn’t interested in bridal design, but was inspired after making a bridal gown for her friend’s wedding. Violette likes to challenge and break the traditional rules of wedding garments by creating original dresses that make brides feel sexy, free, and fashionable. Violette Tannenbum is for the cool and confident bride.

 

Violette Tannenbaum’s Mission

“I want brides to be cool, unconventional, and modern. I love creating dresses for brides who want something new and fresh for their wedding day. The perfect wedding is the one you want, not your mother’s or your grandmother’s or your best friend’s. When I got married, my husband and I had a burger food truck, and we loved it!”

 

Violette Tannenbaum’s Adjustment to COVID-19

“It’s been very difficult because I just started working with brides based in the UK and US. Due to wedding cancellations, I shifted my focus on the Violette Tannenbaum 2021 collection. I’ve been creating images to share my vision on social media, and launched a ready-to-wear collection, as well.”

 

Violette Tannenbaum on Diversity and Representation in the Bridal Industry

“Visibility—we clearly are invisible. The leaders in the bridal industry need to have conversations with Black and brown designers. They need to actively advocate for designers like us and highlight more diversity in weddings. I’ve seen changes in the UK and US markets, but France still needs to catch up.”

 

Violette Tannenbaum on Bridal Trends for 2020/2021

“I’ve been a fan of puffed sleeves for a while, but trends shouldn’t dictate what you like! When I’m designing, I ask myself, ‘If you could get married again, what would you wear?’ If you are in love with something that is not trendy, you should still go for it. Recent events have really emphasized the importance to prioritize self-love and being present. Listen to yourself.”

 

Top photo: Courtesy of Atelier Valentine Avoh

 

Want more stories like this?

Put a Ring on These Black-Owned Jewelry Brands
31 Black Beauty and Wellness Influencers to Know—and Follow Now
5 Black Fashion Designers on What the Shift in the Industry Means to Them

×