Do you ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes when you order a custom wedding gown? I went behind the veil with Rami Kashou to bring to you the ultimate custom bridal experience. Yes, the very Rami Kashou who designed Dixie Chicks' Martie Maguire's wedding gown, who designed the costumes for the Roman Ladies in Madonna's Superbowl 2012 Halftime Show, and who has created red carpet gowns for the likes of Kim Kardashian, Heidi Klum and Jessica Alba. Earlier this year he helped Bebe launch their bridal line, and in a few months he will reveal his own signature bridal collection. But yes, Kashou will continue to design his custom wedding gowns that adorn brides all over the world.
(Scroll down for photos of Kashou's gowns)
What happens at your first meeting with a bride?
We talk for about an hour, and I get to really understand what she wants and doesn't want, which parts of her body she wants to showcase, and what kind of bride she wants to be.
What kinds of questions do you ask to get to know them?
It's not very different from having coffee with a new friend and getting to know them a little bit better. I find out about them just from the way they speak and describe what they love. I can figure out if she's the kind of bride who wants to be low-maintenance, or is she a bride who wants to sizzle and sparkle and be the center of attention all night? Is she more dramatic or more demure? I don't have a list of questions; it's a back and forth, sincere conversation. Well, and the location of the wedding also tells me a lot about what the dress should be like. If it's an outdoor wedding, the gown has to be less fussy. Other brides want their big red carpet moment with the works.
Do you start sketching in your head while your brides are talking to you?
Yes, I start sketching in my mind, and I start having different ideas. Sometimes I'll start actually sketching in my sketchbook, just to break the ice.
Do you sketch by hand?
Yes, some people do it by computer, but I like to do it all by hand.
How hands-on are you in the making of the gowns?
I do all my own sketching and artwork. I love the creative part, to be honest. I work with a bridal expert who has been with me for years, and she works with me on the fittings and on the patterns. And I have a team that works on the cutting and sewing of the gown. But I personally do a lot of the detailed work by hand. For example, my last wedding gown had a neckline without a specific pattern, it had to be draped on the bride, and I worked on that during her fitting. And recently, for a bride in New Mexico, we had to create the actual fabric by sewing together a series of flowers we hand-made with organza, chiffon, ostrich feathers, and a lighter weight organza. The single-shoulder, silk taffeta bodice was all quilted.
How long after the consultation does the first fitting take place?
Anywhere from four to six weeks. During that time we're working on fabric sources and we're finalizing details. It becomes almost like a six-month relationship, because the bride and I are constantly in touch. I show them my sketches and swatches, they show me clippings and ideas of their own, and we start preparing their muslin fitting. Engineering a wedding dress is sort of like engineering a building, because it requires that perfect fitting. Honestly, the first fitting could be even sooner, but sometimes brides take some time to make up their minds, because they have to look at a million details in their dress. Usually I advise a bride to do what she needs to do, but then there has to be a cut-off point where she stops looking. It's dangerous, because there's an infinite number of wedding gowns out there, and she'll never be able to stop. That's a natural process, but eventually we need to start working on her pattern.
Your evening gowns frequently have draping, do you also incorporate that into bridals gowns?
I definitely incorporate that into my bridal designs, but it's not exclusive to that. Some of the bridal gowns are very constructed. This week I'm working with a very constructed silk faille for a gown with crisp, clean, perfect lines. The one after that is a silk taffeta strapless gown with a really straight corset, and some really delicate tulle that sort of drapes over the corset, so it almost creates a shell. The entire skirt is hand made out of horsehair and organza. So really, each gown is different.
What are the brides like at their first fitting?
She's usually excited and overwhelmed. The important thing is that she trusts me, and trusts what I'm doing. Sometimes a bride finds that she can't make the decision herself, and I can guide her in the right direction.
What happens next?
The first two fittings are out of muslin, which is a cotton-based test fabric. We make all the changes we need to make and draw all the style lines on it. It's important for the bride to see how she feels in the look. For the third fitting we cut out of actual silk, and a few weeks before the wedding she's at the final stage of trying on her dress so we can finalize it. I ask brides to leave about eight months for the entire process, but I've done it in as few as three months. The best moment of the entire process is when she tries on her final gown. You know that's the moment when she truly sees herself as a bride for the first time. It's really rewarding.