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Friday, April 24, 2015

Isabelle Armstrong Bridal Spring 2016

isabelle armstrong bridal
isabelle armstrong spring 2016
Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, Isabelle Armstrong bridal imagined their romantic collection around the beauty of a diamond. Sure, the diamond is a classic symbol of an engagement ring, but lots of elements inspired by the gem were involved.

First, lots of light. The fashion show was presented on a sunny Saturday morning on a sun-drenched rooftop. The natural beams shone down on the sparkling embroideries and reflected off the luxurious fabrics of the collections. There were lots of re-embroidered laces, feathers, hand-cut organza petals and silks.

Isabelle Amstrong designers are clearly a fan of the dramatic train Gown after gown took up half the runway (I don't have the space for all of the full train photos!) Imagine how gorgeous they look walking down the a full wedding aisle?

wedding dress embroidery

The embroideries. There were crystals that glittered like diamonds in a sprawling floral vine motif or all over corsets. There were also geometric diamond shaped motifs on sashes and embroidered along skirts.

In the end, the diamond symbolized the Isabelle Armstrong bride herself. Like a diamond, she is strong, brilliant and extraordinary. Now who wouldn't want to commit to that?
All photos by Mariana Leung

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

5 Stylish Earth Day Finds

bio seaweed gel polish

Happy Earth Day my loves! Being a fashion and beauty fan isn’t always the most eco-friendly attitude. Frankly, it shouldn’t be Earth Day, but an on-going approach to your sartorial choices.

Here are my favorite Earth Day Fashion and Beauty finds:

1. The Bamboo Shirt
I was introduced to P3 Bamboo shirts through the team at designer Zang Toi. Bamboo is a sustainable fiber. It is hardy, doesn’t need pesticides, a little water, and little space to grow.  It isn’t just the fiber itself that makes it eco-friendly. The breathability and anti-microbial qualities mean it needs to be washed less. Less laundry saves water and potential toxic cleaning ingredients from that water as well.

There is a good selection of basic silhouette tops and colors. They are super soft so I can totally see why fans (like myself) are happy to wear these every day as my basic shirt. I was pleasantly surprised at their affordability too.

2. Health Gel Manicures
My girlfriend loved getting gel manicures. Since becoming a conscientious Mom, she has shied away from nail lacquers because of all the toxic ingredients involved when you put it on AND when you remove them. I was just introduced to Bio Seaweed Gel polish. It doesn’t have any of the “big 5” (no formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, BHA, solvents, etc.) It doesn’t need a special lamp; you just cure your nails in natural sunlight.  This is the healthier option of gel nails, and they hail from my childhood suburb of Scarborough, Ontario. The brand has a gorgeous range of trendy colors and sparkly shades. Your mani doesn’t chip for two weeks like your traditional gel manicure, but unlike the traditional job, it only takes 5 minutes to take it off.

3. Alkemie Reclaimed Jewelry
Love artisanal jewelry? One of the best ways to be green is to upcycle gold. The husband-and-wife makers behind Alkemie Jewelry used reclaimed metals and manufactured locally in Los Angeles. They make sure each piece is lead and nickel free and are committed to running a sustainable design company. They cast pieces like this stunning Gingko leaf bracelet through the traditional lost-wax process.

4. Angela Roi Gives Back
How cute is the handbag? One of my fellow Twitter #stylechat buddies introduced me to Angela and Roi. They were entrepreneurs who met in college and had mutual interests in fashion and philanthropy. The created a stylish handbag brand that is affordable (almost all styles were $150 or under) well made and vegan. But not only that, each bag and color also corresponds to a cause that they contribute to. It makes you feel good to shop stylish and know you are helping a worthy cause as well. 

5. Come Visit Olsenhaus
Striped heels for spring? Yes, please. Olsenhaus makes these fab shoes from cotton, cork, and composite rubber. Founded by a vocal advocate on behalf of animal rights, Elizabeth Olsen created the company to provide stylish options made with healthy vegan materials and ethical manufacturing. 

So now you see that you can be a fashionista and care about your planet. Go ahead and check out my guide for 10 ways to green your wardrobe for sustaining Earth Day style all year. Now go hug a tree or something. 


Monday, April 20, 2015

Maggie Sottero Bridal Fall 2015

pink wedding gown 
maggie sottero bridal
 One of the surprising fashion shows during NY Bridal week was the Maggie Sottero and Sottero & Midgley Fall 2015 presentation at the Metropolitan Pavillion in New York. The Knot's Couture Bridal Show is a trade show for brands to sell directly to their retailers. For the most part, there were lots of clipboards, order forms, a few makeshift runways in front of desks. The looks you see here are ready to hit the stores almost immediately as opposed to the bigger catwalks.

The majority of the press-baiting creations on the NY Bridal Week runway cost the equivalent of a luxury car. Unlike a luxury car, a custom designer gown is something you only get into once (maybe twice if you are creative at Halloween). In my conversations with recent brides, many complained after multiple appointments at bridal retailers, how difficult it was just to find even a simple sheath under $2000.

I admit, when I attend and shoot fashion shows, I am not always conscious of the price point of the looks on the runway. I am just documenting the design elements of what I see before me from the perspective of my design background. Being at a trade show, there was an announcer shouting out the catalog page number and both the retail and wholesale price for every style. What this jarring voice lacked in adding to the ambiance it made up for in practicality for the clients in attendance.

embroidered bridal

I saw the full, extravagant silhouettes on this runway that were comparable to any of the most famous designers that anchor NY Bridal Week. I admired the vintage inspired crystal studded embroideries on many of their looks. However, I was most impressed at the prices I was hearing from the announcer. Most of the richly embellished gowns were under $2500 retail (and usually negotiable with the boutique itself). Many were at the $1500 mark. From my own experiences at stores like Kleinfeld, that's barely a starting point. 

The Maggie Sottero collection calls both Utah and Australian their home base. That's rather unusual for the designers that are major players in the bridal game. While Sydney is one of the most stylish cities in the Southern hemisphere, Salt Lake City is not the one of the top fashion locales to come to mind. Either way, the collection I photographed here was glamorous but actually accessible to most brides. 
All photos by Mariana Leung

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Marchesa Bridal Spring 2016

I love that no matter how edgy, how minimal, how avant-garde a designer is, when it comes to bridal, they are unapologetic romantics. Marchesa creates some of the most amazing sculpted gowns that an A-list celebrity could ever hope for on the red carpet. Fittingly, their wedding dresses are the dream-like and cinema-worthy.

The tiered, asymmetrical skirt of the top dress is a fresh take on the traditional ballgown. The skirt looks transparent but high volume with innovative use of horsehair along the edges. Normally, a skirt with this shape needs many layers of fabric and ends up looking like a mountain. The back ruffles also is a new take on a bustle. The 3-dimensional flowers appliqued onto to tulle look like they are popping off the fabric.

Marchesa bridal makes your fantasy princess gown, 2.0. Now what can the groom where that even compares?
Photos provided by Marchesa via FirstVIEW


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Monique Lhuillier Brides Down The Rabbit Hole SS16

monique lhuillier ss16 bride
monique lhuillier wedding dress

It looks like a lot of designers are into fairy tales for weddings this year. Monique Lhuillier's 2016 bridal collection had Alice in Wonderland as her muse. The presentation was held in the gorgeous Baccarat Hotel's Grand Salon.

While the inspiration is not seen as a literal representation in the collection, Lhuillier saw her bride as someone who was exploring curiosity and fantasy. Instead of an all-white collection, there were gowns of blush, honey, mint and pale blue. Almost every look had a dramatic skirt silhouette. There were lots and lots of layers of transparent fabrics. One would be a mountain of tulle. Another dress was graduated organza. Trumpet shapes gowns, flowing lace, every bride was meant to make a huge impression entering or leaving a room.

As per her signature look, Monique Lhuillier incorporated rich, delicate embroidery into her collection. Also, she is a master of fabric manipulation in her gowns. It is not a surprise that so many celebrities choose Lhuillier for their red carpet or wedding look. Her gowns are timeless glamor.
Photos by Greg Kessler

Friday, April 17, 2015

Theia's Fairy-Tale Bride 2016

When designer Don O'Neill talks about creating a fairy-tale wedding, he means it. The THEIA 2016 bridal collection was inspired by illustrations of Hansel and Gretel, The Brothers Grimm and other storybooks of the Victorian era. The muse specifically was the Art Nouveau aesthetic of the artist Kay Rasmus Nielsen. 

You can see the influence in the delicate butterfly appliques on a bodice, the illustrations printed on transparent silk, Art Nouveau motifs beaded onto the gowns and wispy web-like fabric treatments complete the theme.

I grew up on the same books  that had these illustrations. I was also obsessed with Hansel and Gretel at the age of 3 (though it was more for the idea of a gingerbread house than anything else). At 5, I was obsessed with the witch after seeing the Canadian opera version of this tale. She was my childhood standard of glamor all the way into my teen years as she was the first person I had ever seen with glitter eyelashes and jeweled nails.

What many bridal collections do is water down trends seen in Haute Couture into a wedding dress. What I love about THEIA is that Don O'Neil will take fashion forward silhouettes from sportswear and give it a luxurious makeover for walking down the aisle. How gorgeous is the silk jacquard shirt dress? Crop tops,  a sleekly tailored suit are great for brides who want to stay true to their personal style when they get married.

My favorite dress though was the finale gown. It was a lacy sculpture of butterfly 3-dimensional corset. Design team member Eduarda used an innovative 3D printing pen tool to draw/sculpt/print? The bodice of the dress. This look was the epitome of what Theia does the best in the industry. The brand experiments with cutting-edge technology and use it to execute classically beautiful fashion aesthetic in a new way.

The intimate runway and backdrop were quite small but gave a thorough ambiance to the presentation. The woodsy moss runway and fanciful bouquets were created by fiancĂ© floral designer Pascal Guillermie of Fleur de Pascal. It's so touching to see  the longtime partnership in real life was also the perfect creative  marriage on the runway, then soon to be romantic wedding in the upcoming year.

I already had my own wedding, but seeing THEIA's 2016 bridal line-up, I think I might go for a posh renewal of vows...
THEIA models and design team
photos by Mariana Leung