Lea-Ann Belter is a Toronto, Ontario-based designer who is known for her "real gowns for real women." Her collection was one of the lines carried at my shop, and her commitment to well-made, well-constructed, timeless gowns was obvious each time a woman tried on one of her designs. Rather than focusing on trendy, fashion-forward designs, her collection is filled with gowns that appeal to a woman who craves a timeless, updated dress that she will still love in 20 years.
FW: What motivated you to begin designing bridal gowns and create your own label?
LAB: My first "job" out of fashion school was to design a gown for my brother's fiancée. I realized then that as an artist working in bridal would give me more creative freedom. I love working with the various fabrics and truly love helping make a bride's dream dress.
FW: Who is/was your style icon?
LAB: I have many favorite designers, but I have to say my top three are Tom Ford, Coco Chanel, and Karl Lagerfeld.
FW: What influences and inspires your designs?
LAB: I draw inspiration from so many places - people, brides I work with at my boutique in Toronto, as well as brides I meet when doing shows across the country are probably my biggest source of inspiration. I also draw from classic couture styling, nature, and of course I listen to my clients and try to design their gown.
FW: What factors do you take into consideration with each collection?
LAB: I like to design gowns for real brides. I take fit and styling into consideration as well as comfort, wearability, and of course price. It doesn't matter if the gown looks great on a hanger or on a mannequin, it has to look great on a body and it has to look great all day long. I design my gowns in silk with silk lining so they are comfortable, light, and easy to wear. The biggest compliment I get on a regular basis is "this dress is so comfortable, I don't want to take it off."
FW: Where and in what fabrics are your gowns created?
LAB: Our gowns are all made 100% in Toronto by hand in silk fabrics.
FW: Can you give us any hints about your Spring 2010 Collection?
LAB: We are hard at work on Spring 2010 now. The gowns are going to be romantic and soft with some touches of color. I am searching for beautiful unique lace patterns and designing new soft beading patterns. I am incorporating soft fabric flowers and more adornment than I have in previous collections. I like to keep my styles classic and wearable so I tend to avoid obvious trends.
FW: What advice would you give to ladies on the hunt for their gown?
LAB: This is your wedding dress - if you love it and feel beautiful in it, that is what matters. If your sister, maid of honor, best friend, and sometimes, unfortunately, your mother don't like it, that is okay. You should be true to yourself. Too often brides will fall in love with a gown, bring their BFF in to share in their happiness to be shot down and disappointed by their reaction. I am not saying you shouldn't take their advice, but make sure it is good advice. Also, make sure it is comfortable - you will probably be wearing it for 8 plus hours.
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