There's a French word, flâneur , which means to stroll or saunter. I always imagine a sartorial gentleman, perhaps with a cane, straw hat and long grey moustache. It's how I like to imagine myself when I'm wandering across the internet in search of excellent wedding colleagues. Recently, while being a flaneur on the blogosphere, I was lucky enough to stumble upon the gowns of Karen Willis Holmes. These are really beautiful works of art and I couldn't resist writing to Karen and asked her a few questions.
1. Where have you learnt to make such beautiful creations?
I loved fashion in general and it was not until later I developed my love of Bridal gowns. I studied fashion design and manufacture at Bentley TAFE in Perth.
I have also learnt from different people I have worked with over the years, including one particular person I met while I worked for Arabella Pollen in London. We would make the sample patterns in the studio and after the shows I took the patterns to this older gentleman (there was no other word for him) and he would tweak them and turn them into production patterns which were masterpieces, he had such love & passion for his work and showed me so much. I have always been interested in, and focused on a high level of workmanship and focused on job opportunities that involved this craftsmanship which also allowed me to self-train.
2. Can you explain the difference in collections you offer ie bespoke vs couture.
We actually offer three different collections to our brides. The first is Couture - this is a custom service and is by appointment. I work one on one with the bride over five fittings to custom design and fit her wedding gown. This is a very involved and collaborative process which I love.
The Bespoke Collection is what I consider the best of both worlds. These gowns are made to order to a standard size. This allows us to make slight changes and alteration from the sample to suit each individual bride. This collection resonates with clients who require a wedding gown with hand crafted couture quality, fit and sophistication, but with the ease & price of a ready to wear wedding dress.
We also offer a ready to wear collection - KWH by KAREN WILLIS HOLMES. This collection was created to compliment the aesthetic and quality of the Bespoke Collection, while at the same time offer our brides something different in terms of design. These gowns are sold off the rack in sizes 4 - 16.
3. What’s a typical timeline in ordering a gown?
As standard we recommend a minimum lead time of six months for our Couture and Bespoke gowns. For our KWH by KAREN WILLIS HOLMES gowns - these are sold off the rack in sizes 4 - 16 which is great for those brides on a time crunch.
4. What are the current trends in wedding dresses?
Lace is still a popular trend for brides however I think we are moving into really ‘pretty’ ethereal wedding day looks with sheer fabrics, delicate Chantilly and corded laces as well as beautiful embellish work. The silhouettes are softer and more ethereal and the focus is still on a great fit with the internal structure that creates a great silhouette but doesn’t make it obvious.
5. Can you give the readers an indication of costs, perhaps for the simplest gown you've made, up to the most intricate?
A couture gown ranges in price from AUD$7,000 - $15,000, the Bespoke collection ranges in price from AUD$1,989 - $5,000 and the KWH by KAREN WILLIS HOLMES collection which is sold off the rack is between AUD$1,989 - $2,449.
6. Where are your clients mostly from? Do you have international clients?
Our customers are mostly in the cities near our boutiques of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. We also have some fantastic stockists in Perth, Tasmania and across New South Wales where our customers can get a KAREN WILLIS HOLMES gown from. This year has also been the start of the brand moving in a more international direction. We showed our collection at New York Bridal Weeks in April and October this year and from this have picked up a range of stockists in the US and UK.
I am very much looking forward to 2014 and making the brand more accessible to international brides.
7. Can you tell us any dress stories (complicated or just odd) that you found amusing?
My lips are sealed on telling specific stories about my customers.
Written by Nicholas Purcell