Some of our favorite wedding gowns in the shop are Karen Willis Holmes’ designs! She was kind enough to participate in an interview with us. Read on to get to know Karen a little better and learn about her incredible design process!
BBB: Where are you from originally?
KWH: I am originally from the UK
BBB: What do you love most about designing and creating your own pieces?
KWH: When designing I am just looking and thinking of anything I like – chandeliers /nature /mist /a woman walking down the street with a great coat on/ or simply a piece of fabric.
Then everything goes into a melting pot – i.e. my computer for images and my notebook I keep in my handbag for jotting down “brilliant” ideas as I see or think of them.
When I am actually designing the collection I look at all of these images I have saved and sit with a sketch book and draw whatever comes to mind. I will then look at these a couple of days later and add to it and edit the designs. This actual process of the collection usually takes me a couple of weeks – after hours and on weekends when no one is around.
I always draw reference from the fashion period of the 1940’s. In particular, Christian Dior’s revolutionary ‘New Look’ in 1947, following the Second World War. The construction, fit and hourglass silhouette – cinching in and defining the waist, of the collection is always a source of inspiration.
Designing is not just for the outer aesthetics of a gown, you also have to consider how the design is going to work internally – on a structural level. I also take inspiration from the history and the art of making corsets, how they manipulate the body and how they work within a wedding gown
BBB: Where do you get your inspiration for new collections?
KWH: When I am designing a collection I look for inspiration completely outside of the bridal world and it can come from anything and everything. During the design process I will also meet with fabric agents and look at their fabrics and pick fabrics and laces that work with the mood and feeling I have for the collection, the designs are constantly evolving and centre on a great silhouette, a fabric or an embellishment.
BBB: What bridal trends are you seeing for 2015?
KWH: There are two completely opposite trends I am seeing for 2015 – 2016. The first is ‘Boho Luxe’ – beautiful ethereal pieces using exceptional quality fabrics and laces. The other trend I am seeing is one which is very structured silhouettes with clean lines.
BBB: How did you get your start in designing and what have you learned over the course of being a designer?
KWH: 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, Western Australia.
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.
BBB: If you could sum up your look and aesthetic in three words, what would they be and why?
KWH: Timeless, Feminine, Stylish
BBB: What is your all-time favorite piece from your collection and why?
KWH: Usually 80% of the new collection I am working on are pieces I just loved and adore.
BBB: Was there a surprise hit design…something that became very popular and you didn’t expect it?
KWH: I design on many levels, we look at what is selling, what brides are looking for, what I feel is the next big thing and for a couple of pieces in the collection we will stretch ourselves more for editorial that will inspire brides to seek out our gowns. The last 3 – 4 editorial pieces we have made have surprisingly been our best sellers.
BBB: What other designers do you admire?
KWH: Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney & Christian Dior.
BBB: What do you do on your days off from work?
KWH: I am a bit of a workaholic, but out of choice. My work is also my hobby – I love what I do and I am very driven to create a bigger and better business. But when I do get some time off I like to socialize with family and friends – going out to restaurants, going to the movies and taking walks.
BBB: What is your favorite place to travel?
KWH: Big Major Cities all around the world. I regularly travel to New York and London, but I recently went to Barcelona and I fell love with it.
BBB: What’s been the most exciting time in your career thus far?
The last three years the business has started to expand in to the US and I most excited to see this expansion including opening our boutique in New York.
BBB: What is the most valuable bit of advice you would give a bride-to-be?
KWH: This may sound corny but is oh so true! – stay true to yourself, your personality and your tastes. This can be said for all areas of your wedding from the invitations, décor and the cake. Choose a gown that you not only love but is a perfect representation of who you are. By doing so you will feel totally comfortable walking down that aisle to your handsome fiancé!
BBB: What’s on your “bucket list”?
KWH: From a business perspective, to be one of the biggest bridal brands in the world, but still maintain our handcrafted approach to design.
BBB: How many colors has your hair been and what is your favorite?
KWH: I am brunette – so version of brunette besides one time I dyed my hair bright red which was terrible.
View some of Karen Willis Holmes’ designs here: