I first met Carol Hannah Whitfield in 2009 when she was on Project Runway Season 6. She came in 3rd on the reality show, but since launched an amazing bridal career which I have been following from the beginning. I met Carol Hannah in real life a few weeks back at the launch of her new collection at Lovely Bride in New York City. I already loved Carol Hannah's etherial and easy to wear bridal gowns, but she was such a delight to chat with, that the woman behind the label won me over as well. Carol Hannah answered a few questions for me to shed some light on how she comes up with the unique silhouettes and beautiful details she puts into each gown, which by the way, are hand made here in New York City. Thank you so much Carol Hannah for taking the time to answer our questions.
How long have you been designing wedding gowns and how did you get started?
Gosh it feels like always. I made my first one in high school and made custom gowns all through college. The company formally formed here in NYC about 6 years ago and we just showed our 5th annual collection.
What is your day-to-day like? and what is your favorite part of the process?
My day to day varies so so so much, depending a lot on the time of year and what we are currently working on. Before a new collection is released, I'm heavily in the studio draping and sewing. My process as a designer is extremely hands on. I make each new sample myself and try things on a lot as I work. It's important to me that my gowns feel and move as good as they look. Apart from the creative side, I also oversee the business side so some days are more about accounting and marketing and such than actual design. Other times, I'm on the road visiting our retailers across the country or teaching at styling workshops. Every day is different, which keeps me on my toes and inspired. As any designer can tell you, everything in your life influences your work, becomes inspiration, affects your mood and therefore your point of view.
Do you have any advice for young designers looking to design wedding gowns?
My best advice is to find the special thing that makes your aesthetic yours and stick to it. What do you have to offer that's different, that can't be found elsewhere in the marketplace already? Design is about point of view and telling your own story. Also, learn to sew really well. If you don't know how to construct something beautifully, you will greatly limit your range of creativity.
What is your favorite thing about working in the wedding industry?
I love the personal relationships we cultivate with our clients and the impact that this very dreamy garment has in their lives. It sounds cheesy, but I love it.
Your latest collection is called "The Alchemist," where did that name come from and what is the significance?
This was the blurb in our runway program: "With origins in ancient Egyptian culture, our journey takes us from the mysticism of the sacred scarab to the magic and wonder of the study of alchemy. Through gold detailing, geode inspired embellishment, and relaxed but powerful silhouettes, the 2015 Carol Hannah collection celebrates feminine strength and mystery."
Which is your favorite gown from the collection? or a favorite of all time?
This changes every day. Malachite (second photo) and Azurite below) and Lolite (above) definitely rank among the top for this collection. Past favorites are Downton, Kensington, Poplar, Les Astres, Le Soleil.
Where do you see the bridal trends moving?
Thankfully we've seen the bridal fashion market really blossom over the past few years. Girls are more adventurous and open in their style, whereas it used to be more limited and, to me, generically defined. It feels like there's been a sudden realization that "bridal" doesn't mean one specific thing anymore.
And one more fun wedding question, in your opinion, what makes a good wedding great?
It all happens on the dance floor to me!
photos by Matthew Ree.