Your Perfect Wedding Gown
Andrew: So, thanks for doing this today. I guess maybe you want to start this by telling
us a little about who you are what you do, and where you’re based?
Kel-Leigh: Okay, my name is Kel Hillhouse and I’m the head designer and owner of Kel-Leigh
Couture. I’m based here at East Gosford and I’ve been doing bridal couture for about 14
years and basically, in a nutshell, I design and custom-make my own wedding gowns and we
also have a ready-to-wear collection as well, but brides come to us if they want something
really different and unusual and something made specifically for them.
Andrew: Awesome. Okay, so I guess that the idea of today was to give brides a little
bit of an idea of what to expect when they’re ordering a gown, we might talk a little bit
more about the couture first and just get a bit of an idea with what’s involved with
that. So, when would a bride normally come and see you? Is it straight after they book
their reception or when they’re 5 years old and they’ve got their eye on their dress?
Kel-Leigh: I think most girls have their idea dream wedding gown when they’re 5 years old.
I’d generally say as soon as they do get engaged, it is good, if they’re going to go down the
road of a couture gown, to come and see us straight away. At the moment, we’re working
on a 12 month lead time. So, because our couture gowns, we have a lot of handwork. Everything
is done by hand, it does take time. Lacework, beading can take months to accomplish. We
can work on a 6 to 8 months timeframe. It just depends on the amount of work that’s
involved so generally we ask girls to come and see us pretty much straight away and then
that way, they don’t have to worry about their gown then and that it’s getting created
in enough time. Andrew: So, you’ll actually find that some
brides that would book you even before the reception or their place of the ceremony.
Kel-Leigh: Absolutely. Andrew: First stop?
Kel-Leigh: Yep, we’ve had girls who come in to the store on a Saturday and they got
engaged on Friday night, so we’ve had that many times. We’ve had girls who had come in
on sales and booked gowns without actually being engaged yet. I think that wedding gowns
are a big part of…. Andrew: That would scare some guys. So in
that initial appointment, so they phone up or do they walk in off the street? How does
that work? Kel-Leigh: Some girls do walk in off the street
cause they just want to have a look and get a feel. A lot of girls will ring up and then
we generally make a private appointment for them so they will come into the store, they’ll
sit down with myself and then we’ll talk about their needs, what sort of style, what
sort of look that they’re going for and type of fabrics. And some girls will come
in and have no idea what they want and that’s when we step in with our training and everything
like that and show them exactly what would work well with them and then once they’ve
decided on that, they would then book their gown and the whole production process will
begin. Andrew: So, just tell me, so when those girls,
when most of the girls come in, do they have like magazine cut-outs or they say I like
it just off the shoulder, or I want to have this style of back or how does that work or
would they just go to the racks and see things? Kel-Leigh: I find that most girls, when they
do come in, have an idea of what they want to wear and most girls know their own body
and know what do look good on them so they are choosing along the lines of correct style.
Then you get the other minority group who come in and have no idea, they have no idea
where to start, they don’t know what would suit them and, again, that’s where our training
and expertise will come in and we’ll help them find their right gown and it could require
just trying a few different styles on off the rack. But, most girls come in with magazine
clippings and big folders, big boxes, we’ve had girls with big binders come in with all
different ideas and then we just sort of try to create a special look just for them.
Andrew: So once you’ve got a bit of an idea of the style they’re going to go with, is
it then a matter of then starting to do some drawings or do they go away or do you do something
with them then, how does that part work? Kel-Leigh: At that first consultation, I would
sit down and I will talk to the bride a bit first and just find out about where the wedding
is going to be, what she’s like, is she athletic, is she sporty, is she not a girly-girl because
there’s no use putting an athletic tomboy in a big fru-fru gown. So, I find out a little
bit about her, what she likes and what her vision for the wedding is and then we will
sit down and usually I do a few sketches, just do ideas while we’re talking and then
she’ll sort of say, yeah that’s what I love or she’ll like the top of that skirt of this
one and then we’ll re-sketch again so during that whole consultation she will walk out
with an idea or a dress on paper. She would have chosen fabric colours, choices, textures
and then she’s given a quote and then it’s up to her, she’s got time to think about it
then. Andrew: Okay, so with that first appointment,
you’ve done some sketches and things like that. So is it sort of an hour, an hour and
a half, ten minutes? Kel-Leigh: Usually, we block off an hour to
an hour and a half but those girls who come in who have no idea what they’re after, we
would block off a 2 to 2 1/2 hour appointment because then we will bring in gowns and get
them to try styles on, see what they feel comfortable in. The girls who have no idea,
it can be a little bit overwhelming so we try to take as much time as we can with those
girls. In general, an hour or an hour and a half is what an appointment would take.
Andrew: And how often do the girls come in with an idea that just is not going to work
or is not right for them. Does that happen often or is that just an occasional thing?
Kel-Leigh: I would probably say it’s an occasional thing and again that’s where I suppose they
come in to us because we know, we will give honest opinions and if it’s not quite going
to work, we would try and steer them in another direction and maybe still keep the idea of
the concept that they’re wanting to run with but we would choose something that’s
a little bit more appropriate for maybe their body shape or the type of wedding. There’s
no use getting married on the beach with a great big ballgown but, ultimately, in the
end it is the bride’s choice and we try and go with it as best as we can.
Andrew: With that first appointment, is it good idea for them to come with someone else
like mum or matron of honour or bridesmaid? Kel-Leigh: We generally recommend to come
with one other person. Two other people is ok, too many it’s too many opinions. I do
try to limit the amount of people that do come to that fitting because it’s a lot of
decision-making and I think sometimes brides can be a little bit persuaded off track and
may end up booking something that’s not quite what they had in mind so we always say bring
in one, 2 other people who will give you an honest opinion but still allow you to express
yourself as an individual. Andrew: So, after that first appointment,
you’ve got some drawings, you’ve got some ideas, so what’s the next step? Have you already
picked the fabrics then or actual styles? Beading?
Kel-Leigh: Yep, we’ve gone along the lines of this is the type of beading, this is the
type of fabric that we would choose, most girls don’t know about fabrics so, again,
that’s where I would come in and select a fabric and say this is what would hold well,
this is what will work well with the type of gown that they’re having.
Andrew: Sorry Kelly, I don’t know fabrics either, I just know silk. There’s silk and
there’s silk, is there or…. Kel-Leigh: Generally, in couture, we will
only use silk. So silk is obviously a natural fibre and then you have your ready-to-wears
which we have made in polyester which are your cheaper versions of fabrics. Silk, and
being couture is high end so we wouldn’t use anything other than that. It’s a natural fibre
so it’ll breathe, it’ll hold beadwork, it would just hang nicer and look better and
it’s quality, when girls are buying a couture gown, they’re buying luxury and they’re buying
quality and that’s why you would use silk. Andrew: Is there different types of silk or
is silk, silk? Kel-Leigh: No, there’s different types of
silk. You have girls who want a really soft flowy dress, you have silk satins, silk charmeuse,
silk crepes. Those girls who want a little bit more of a structured gown, you will have
some dupioni, silk duchess that are a little bit more heavier. There’s hundreds of different
silks. Andrew: You’re showing off now, you’ve
totally lost me. And they’re all white. Kel-Leigh: Not all the time, there you go.
Again, girls say to me, I would like a white gown and then we’ll pull out the color cards
of whites. It’s not just white or ivory, there are shades of white, shades of ivories, shades
of naturals, and it can get a little confusing. Again, let us choose the colour that is going
compliment the bride’s skin the most. Andrew: Okay, that’s what you’re looking at
with that? Kel-Leigh: Absolutely, most girls will sort
of say, well, I want a white dress. I go, okay, but with silk, it’s not as bright as
blue-white as a polyester but you can get a milky white, you can get a creamier white.
And, then we’ll decide which white will suit best to the bride and she’s obviously paying
us, she’s more than happy for us to use our professional opinion there and guide her in
the right colour choice. Andrew: That sounds awesome, so all that sort
of stuff will get discussed at that first appointment.
Kel-Leigh: Absolutely, we cover a lot of ground in that xfirst appointment.
Andrew: Wow. Kel-Leigh: I mean, the key to me is that that
bride walks out knowing exactly what she can get, what she can have, what’s available for
her, the total cost, and then it’s up to her to decide whether that’s the road that she
wants to go down. So, the more information we give, the better.
Andrew: So, I’ll get to the cost in a little bit, but so when you do come up with that
initial cost, if they say, if they think, woah, that’s a little bit more than I wanted
so then you can start doing some trimming, with styles or fabric types, beading?
Kel-Leigh: Absolutely. Beading is obviously, beading and lace are the 2 of the highest
cost factor, because beading is so time consuming, and lace, the laces that we use is of extremely
high quality so, therefore, we might need to choose something that’s a little bit more
within budget to keep the price down.