7 Black Wedding Dress Designers to KnowDec 31, 2021 08:00AM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
The wedding industry has made strides in recent years to become more inclusive, but there is still work to be done. Perhaps one of the most poignant examples of the lack of diversity in weddings is bridal fashion. When thinking of mainstream wedding dress designers, few people of color come to mind. The problem is not a lack of talent and stunning designs, but rather, a lack of representation and exposure. Black bridal designers have been at the forefront of innovation in the bridal fashion industry for years, yet many of them have failed to receive the recognition that they deserve. To shine a light upon these incredible wedding dress wizards, and because wedding season is upon us, we took the liberty of listing seven Black wedding dress designers you should know.
Andrea Pitter is the founder and creative director of Pantora Bridal, a bridal boutique based in Brooklyn, NY. In 2011, she received a BFA in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology. According to Pitter, Pantora brides are confident, feminine, and fancy and they have a connection to the "real world". “At Pantora we offer relatable luxury. Our brides enjoy clothing that hits home, our design aesthetic is unique yet inviting. Pantora Bridal offers brides the opportunity to come as they are and to be celebrated. It’s feel-good bridal wear!,” she tells Brides.
After recognizing the need for a simpler wedding dress, Ethiopian-American designer Amsale Aberra started her own bridal company and began to sell her gowns in high-end boutiques and department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus in the 1980s. In 1996, Aberra opened her flagship store on New York City’s Madison Avenue. Although Amsale passed away in April 2018, The Amsale Fashion House is devoted to carrying on her 30-year legacy under the design direction of Margo Lafontaine. The brand now has three lines: Amsale, Amsale Nouvelle, and Little White Dress by Amsale.
Jean-Ralph Thurin rose from rags to riches when he launched his own design house in 2013. He learned to sew by carefully studying his grandmother piece together bits of fabric to make clothing. He designs dresses to fit Black women and their bodies and gets a lot of his inspiration from architecture. “Sometimes its a curve in the window, it’s a pillar, it’s the interior, but that really gets me going,” he says. “Most of my clients really love form-hugging dresses and really appreciate their curves, so a lot of times it's me trying to enhance that with different types of lines and fabric embellishments, but it extends from architecture.”
Valentine Avoh launched her eponymous bridal brand in 2017. After graduating with a degree in fashion from London College of Fashion, Belgian designer Valentine Avoh went on to work at renowned international houses such as Alexander McQueen, and Alexis Mabille. In 2009, Avoh designed and completed her first wedding dress and completely fell in love with the process.
Avoh’s inspiration is from the glamour of movie stars like Rita Hayworth and Marlène Dietrich to musical greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. "I used to watch a lot of old movies from the early 30s until the late 50s which really fascinated me. I loved how feminine and sensual women were in those films and yet had a very strong personality," said Avoh. Avoh works closely with her brides her gowns are covered in feathers, embroidered tulles, and silks, and she loves experimenting with transparency.
Nigerian-born Esé Azénabor got her to start designing custom evening wear. She expanded her line to include bridal options after a client requested a bespoke wedding dress that would work for her body shape and darker skin tone. The Esé Azénabor brand has produced a total of 21 different collections. Her designs have been seen on national and international stars such as Taraji P Henson, Tara Banks, Michelle Williams, country star Kelsea Ballerini, Latin superstar Thalia, and Vivica A Fox. Though mostly known for bespoke gowns, in 2020 Esé Azénabor launched a ready-to-wear line called Prêt Mariée By Esé Azénabor, for brides looking for off the rack options with a faster turnaround time.
Before her own wedding in 2015, Leah Langley-McClean was an accountant with a passion for fashion. Her frustration with finding a dress she loved that embraced all her curves, led her to design and sew her own couture gown. elleNelle Bridal caters to the modern high fashion bride who creates her own rules. Our design aesthetic is contemporary, clean, and sleek. “Our goal is to always go above and beyond to make our brides feel beautiful and stunning on their big day,” said Langley-McClean.
Born in Nigeria, Yemi Osunkoya could often be found sketching bridal gown designs as a young child and he started his line in 1991 in London, creating gowns that are embellished with lace, Swarovski crystals, and details that make them elegant, classic, and a bit over the top. Yemi counts among his clients, members of the British Parliament, senior staff of the British Royal Family, daughters of a member of the British House of Lords, members of Royal Families from Nigeria and Ghana. What really stands out about his gowns is that they’ve been created for every body shape. “My unique selling point is my ability to flatter and enhance the figure of my brides by my use of corsetry and structured bodices, developed and perfected over my 29 years in business,” Osunkoya said.
Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies. She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.
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