Interview on J. Mendel with Jennifer Johnston, of The Bridal Salon at Saks Jandel.
Wit: Since J. Mendel's inception, in St. Petersburg as a fur atelier in 1870, the fashion house has evolved from it's couture heritage into bridal and ready-to-wear. What luxurious design qualities are particularly evident to the house's bridal collections?
Jennifer: J. Mendel started as a furrier, and with that background, Gilles moved toward a more fashionable fur. He changed the way fur was presented, by shearing, dyeing, and mixing fur with fabric. This would become a trademark so to speak. When he started designing dresses to go under his fur, he used similar techniques, exposed seams, mixed fabrics and movement of fabric that often follows the curves of the body. Many of the J. Mendel bridal gowns imitate the art he creates with evening gowns, ultra sophisticated and complicated to piece together.
Wit: J. Mendel is a fifth-generation French atelier with Gilles Mendel as the current creative director. Having apprenticed under his father, Jacques, at the family's Paris atelier, do you see a significant French influence in Gille's bridal designs?
Jennifer: I do not see his designs as French so much as I see the French influence in the workmanship. One word best describes J. Mendel gowns: Couture. The gowns are created with subtle details like curved seams that wrap around the body. This is difficult to alter, but the result is a fit that many designers cannot replicate. The exposed seaming, frayed trim, peek-a-boo openings and the draping of soft wispy fabrics are the details we have come to love with J. Mendel dresses. Ask any bride that has worn J. Mendel, the expectation is perfect fit. J. Mendel never disappoints.
Wit: How would you describe a J. Mendel bride?
Jennifer: Brides that love J. Mendel have had the luxury of wearing J. Mendel evening wear. They understand the sophistication, the unusual fabrication and the modernity of design. I do not have to explain a J. Mendel dress. The bride is sophisticated, successful and wants something different.
Wit: Gilles' design process begins with the fabrics. His ready-to-wear designs often combine a spectrum of fabrics, such as fur, chiffon, and leather. Is this unique design approach apparent in any of the J. Mendel 2015 bridal gowns?
Jennifer: Leather is not something we have seen with J. Mendel bridal. J. Mendel will often create a 'fabric' based on the way he pleats and ruches fabric. For example, the J. Mendel Mireille gown was constructed from panels of mousseline and tulle creating a diamond pattern from flat fabric.
Wit: What are some of your favorite designs from J. Mendel's 2015 Bridal Collection?
Jennifer: My favorite J. Mendel dress would have to be Liane. This gown is hand pleated. The fit on the body is amazing. The fabric is mousseline, an incredibly light airy fabric. Yards and yards of fabric are required to make this gown, all with hand tacked pleats and perfect draping to outline a woman's shape. A vision, like walking in a cloud. Another favorite gown is Lauren. The extreme beauty and femininity shows through with the delicate embroidery around the hem and on the hipline. The sensuality of a woman definitely gets attention with the dramatic and deep V neckline. J. Mendel pleating seen once again in this perfect gown.
Photographs courtesy of J. Mendel