Under the Spotlight – AriaDress

When it comes to looking for your perfect wedding dress, a lot of Rock n Roll Brides are now heading online to see if they can get their dream gown at a fraction of the price. My worry with this has always been that you might end up with a substandard ‘knock off’ dress that isn’t of the quality that you deserve for your big day. You know what they say, “pay cheap, pay twice…”

However I’m excited to say that I’ve found an exception to this rule! I was contacted by AriaDress a few weeks ago and I have not only been blown away but the quality of work and design that goes into every one of their bespoke gowns, but at prices significantly less than you’d expect! Can you believe you can get a dress as gorgeous as these for under $500!?

I got chatting to designer Tak Hau last week about his passion, his inspiration and his love of creating simply stunning gowns for brides and bridesmaids. I hope you enjoy reading all about it. He really is a wonderfully talented man and I’m so thrilled to be showcasing his brand new Spring 2011 collection on Rock n Roll Bride.

Who are you and what do you do?
I am Tak Hau, the designer and creative director of AriaDress, a company I started nine years ago to bring style and sophistication where it was really needed – in the bridesmaid dress category. Now, we also do wedding gowns. I started out designing cocktail dresses in the 1980s, under my own label and others, which were sold in boutiques and the top department stores in the USA.

What made you want to get into Bridal fashion?
Being a designer in the dress business for a long time, I began to think of a category that I could build into a new and viable business. I started to be more aware of bridal fashions, and noticed there was a lack of modern bridesmaid dresses that were affordable, or that didn’t look like the truly awful bridesmaid dress Melanie Griffith wore in the film, Working Girl. Remember that, with all the powder blue chiffon? It didn’t seem much had progressed since then.

Before I started AriaDress, you either had to pay a lot of money for bridesmaid dresses or they were that ugly! So I discovered this niche that needed modern, affordable, high quality dresses – there were none 10 years ago – and we took off almost as soon as we were on the web.

Someone who is asked to be a bridesmaid can dread the experience because of the dress. I decided to make AriaDress as close-to-custom as possible, so each bridesmaid could choose what fits her best and the dresses could be made all in one color. It’s really very easy to switch a bodice with a skirt, for all different sizes, and make a bridesmaid feel really great to appear in the dress.

That was my goal. We just introduced wedding gowns this year, for Spring 2010, and use the same concept of allowing our brides to choose any neckline to go with any skirt silhouette, using the same designs from the bridesmaid’s collection. In pure silk, fully lined, with the quality of made in the USA construction, a bride with more style than cash can have a really pretty gown for under $500 – and use the thousands of dollars that seem be the cost of a one-day wedding gown, towards a house, or a honeymoon, or sometimes, a baby.

I’m happy to make that possible!

What are your influences?
Audrey Hepburn is my muse – she’s a classic. I’ve never seen her in an outfit that looks bad or silly at any point in time. You can see her in the 70s, the 80s and she always looks right.

That’s what dresses from AriaDress are all about. I want my dresses to never look silly at any point in time.

I get a lot of ideas from watching old movies. Movies from the ‘20s and ‘30s give me many ideas, and put me in a world where I start conceptualizing a design. I was watching a movie about a woman that was a showgirl, and had this beautiful dress with a fishtail mermaid skirt, all ruffley, very girly and pretty. And it gave me the whole idea for my new designs for Spring.

Our dresses have been very structural, very linear – which was necessary to tone down the overdone styling in these kinds of dresses. But that movie, and the times, made me think of doing something more organic and more flowing for next season, Spring 2011.

For us, it’s new. I’m softening up the look to be more feminine, girly, and body conscious. I love using a single ruffle, never overdoing it, to jazz up the dress, and I’ve brought in a Short Trumpet skirt, which is very flirtatious and works beautifully at knee-length, or even a little longer.

Color, of course, is a big influence. I’m drawn to purples and blues, greens, and the cooler shades this season.

Whose work do you really admire?
Donna Karan. I like her aesthetics and point of view. She’s very modern. Her clothes are never trendy. I don’t like trendy things. She’s a true artist and her clothes reflect that – every piece of clothing she makes is a piece of art.

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Alice in Weddingland at The Designer Wedding Show, October 2010

A few weeks ago myself and the lovely Rock n Roll Bride intern, Alice, headed to The Designer Wedding show. I asked her if she’d like to write the report for me as I felt that her opinion on the show (as a bride-to-be) would be much more interesting for you..especially those of you who might be a little afraid of the whole ‘bridal show experience.

I’m not going to lie, the big shows can be hella scary – but this smaller and more intimate wedding show is actually very pleasant- there are no scary brides running around with clipboards (give me strength!) or manic and desperate suppliers trying to shove leaflets in your face. Think champagne reception, clean white stalls and super friendly and creative wedding suppliers.

Alice wrote about some of her favourites. Photos by us both (although we were a bit rubbish and didn’t take nearly enough…we were having too much fun to work!)

♥   ♥   ♥

So when Mrs Rock n Roll Bride asked me if I was going to the Designer Wedding Show, I was forced to face my biggest wedding fear; the bridal show.  To make matters even more complicated this was no ordinary bridal show-this was the designer version.  Sloany girls with their pushy mums immediately jumped into my head, along with the worry of disapproving looks from snobby vendors as a scruffy tattooed bride to be stopped by to have a look.  Needless to say, I was doubtful that I would fit in, and that in turn there would be nothing there to tempt to (or within my price range!)  However I bit the bullet and told Kat I’d be there.  I bought my ticket online, and booked the day off work.  The countdown was on until D-day; Designer Wedding madness day!

The day started smoothly with the complimentary shuttle bus picking me up from Sloane Street station.  I was pleasantly surprised by the other brides on the bus..aside from the odd exception decked out in their Joules finery, most of them seemed, well, normal. A very pleasant surprise!  The show was being held in Battersea Park, and so a quick journey across the river and we were there.  The first thing that hit me was the pleasant sound of an opera-singing pianist performing, well, I’m not quite sure what exactly what it was, but suffice to say it was along the lines of a jazzed-up Kaiser chiefs style number!  Ha, it was a brilliant start to the day!

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Scott & Ashley’s Incredible DIY Picnic Party Wedding

I loved Scott & Ashley’s wedding as soon as I saw it…and I loved it (and them!) even more once I got chatting to the bride and their photographer Jeremy Lawson about all the amazing little details of their day.

“Our inspiration came from our love of the vintage,” the bride began. “We listen to records at the house, shop for clothes at retro themed consignment stores, and stay glued to TCM. We sort of envisioned a party that looked like a party scene we saw years ago in the movie Mona Lisa Smile combined with the famous barefoot dancing scene from Big Fish in the town of Spectre. We wanted that easy, happy, homemade, and colorful party for our closest friends and family.”

Ashley wore two stunning dresses, the first a Goddess Gown by J Crew which she found for a steal on Ebay (seller paisleypetunia) and the second a GORGEOUS 1950’s vintage pink prom dress from landof100dresses on Etsy. Ashley chose the first dress for their first look and pre ceremony shoot as well and for dancing afterwards, “It was beautiful, simple, comfortable, and easy to dance in” she continued.

“We made the decision to see each other before the wedding to take pictures around our amazing city, but I still wanted the surprise element of the ceremony. My dress was a 1953 prom dress that came with the owner’s original filled out dance card from her senior prom. This dress made me giddy in a way I didn’t know was possible, as I’m almost strictly a jeans and T-Shirt kind of girl. My shoes were from Dillards, the jewellery served as my borrowed items from my sister (who wore them in her own wedding), and flower headband a combination of rosettes from Francesca’s and H&M.”

The couple got crafty and DIY’d their wedding completely. With a sister who runs a cake making business, it was a no -brainer to Ashley who would make their cakes, “I loved my cakes! I’m one of those lucky brides that has a sister with a cake business at home in Tennessee. She spent the week making six different flavored cakes, drove them up to Chicago, and finished the job in a tiny hotel kitchen the night before. She even made up a Tennessee Jack Daniels Chocolate Recipe to represent my home state and a Georgia Peach for Scott’s. She is amazing.”

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Juliana & Tiago Small & Intimate Brazilian Wedding

Brazilian born Juliana & Tiago met online and wed a year and a half later. They married at sunset in a small and intimate ceremony. The couple were keen to keep the day personal to them and not to succumb to the expectation of the large and lavish wedding that a customary in Brazil. “We got married in a small town, it was a mini wedding, during sunset, ” the bride told me. “We decided to not make everything big, like it’s usual here, and everything very romantic, but with a vintage touch. In the ceremony we played The Who, Beach Boys, Beatles and She & Him. The reception had the same spirit, a lot of songs to make everyone dance, from 60’s to 80’s.”

Juliana created all the flower arrangements herself from the bouquets to the centrepieces and her Aunt helped her create the flower arrangements for the place settings as well as the chocolate favours.

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“Rock n Revolution” – A Parisian Punk Rock Marie Antoinette Photo Shoot… The Final Results!

A few months ago photographer David McNeil and I were sat in a Creperie in London. He turned to be and said, “Let’s do another photo shoot and let’s make it the best yet… Let’s go to Paris!” It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come since that first whimsical conversation and that we actually managed to pull it off – to hop over the channel and channel my inner Marie Antoinette!

Well, if I do say so myself, we not only pulled it off but we SMASHED it! I am actually so blown away by the whole experience (and the results) that I kind of don’t really know where to start..maybe the beginning would help?

The Photographers
Myself and David McNeil have been friends for years – before either of us got into this who wedding ‘thing’ so needless to say we know each other pretty well. I love the fact that we started our businesses around the same time and I often refer to him as my “wedding industry husband” (and a few people have actually thought he was my husband – however Gareth is a lot more beardy!) We’ve worked together on shoots before; he did Gareth and my engagement shoot, my (two!) bridal shoots (here & here) and my boudoir shoot, however this was our first with proper styling, hair & make up.

Working with David is a dream. He’s calm, he makes me comfortable and he’s so creative it’s unreal. In fact the first ever shoot we did together was my boudoir shoot which just goes to show how comfortable I am with him! David also asked our friend and Rock n Roll Bride favourite, Shell De Mar if she’s like to come along too. I think it took her all of about 3 seconds to agree after we told her we were going to Paris! Shell second shot with David and also shot some behind the scenes images and video – both of which will be featured on the blog next week.

The Stylist
With such an epic idea as a Marie Antoinette themed shoot in Paris, there was really only one lady I could ask to help is style it. Penny Merricks of Tigerlily Weddings is not only one of the most well connected planners I know but her vivacious personality and unique visual flair made her perfect for this project. She managed to get some amazing people to donate props for us to use and she pulled together an utterly incredible hair & make up team. She also persuaded Ian Stuart to lend us FOUR – yes FOUR – gowns to bring with us! Gift of the gab? Yes I think so!

I don’t quite know how she did it, but after she spoke to Mr Stuart himself (yes she spoke to him directly!) and told him of our plans, he immediately shipped four of his most extravagant dresses right out to us! I know. I still can’t believe it either. Amazing.

The Dresses
I am so pleased that we asked Penny to take creative control on the styling of this shoot because in all honestly I would never have chosen Ian Stuart as the dresses for the shoot if it was all up to me. Not only would I never dream that he’d agree to letting us borrow over £20,000 worth of stock to bring to Paris, but big dresses scare me a little…and these were BIG dresses! These were the kind of dresses that make an instant impact and yes, are ginormous and a little scary, but after getting my hair and make up done and rocking the look out of the streets of gay Parieee, they were, well…perfect. The lady was right!

All the gowns were from Ian Stuart’s brand new Revolution Rocks! range.

The Concept
The inital idea from David & I for this shoot was to do something really really different. That phase is thrown around a lot at the moment so we really did have to think outside the box, and even go out of our own comfort zone. DIY & quirky touches, tattoos, pink hair…are all very unique and Rock m Roll but we really wanted to make you all go WOW. We wanted to pull off a real statement of a shoot…something you’d literally never seen before and maybe wouldn’t even expect me to do.

Penny was able to bring this out of us, even more so than we envisaged ourselves. David & I may have said said “Paris, Marie Antoinette” but if we’d done everything ourselves I don’t think even we would have gone as far-out as we did.

I predict that over the next few years the trend of small and quirky DIY weddings might shift slightly towards couples wanting to create something a bit more opulent and ‘out-there’. I think that people will still be doing things on a budget and implementing DIY elements, but that the styling will become a lot more more glam, ostentatious and extravagant.  With this shoot we wanted to show you that more dramatic styles can still be pretty damn Rock n Roll and you don’t have to follow everybody else’s idea of what makes a Rock n Roll Bride to be fabulous!

Want a big dress instead of a short quirky number? Go for it!

Want mini wedding cakes instead of cupcakes? Do it!

Want to wear vintage pearls and a custom made crown? ROCK IT OUT!

…And what a way to showcase this idea that by channeling one of the most glamorous and opulent women in history, Marie Antoinette!?

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