Interview on Oscar de la Renta with Cristina Bedwell, Manager of The Bridal Salon at Saks Jandel
Wit: When did you first become interested in fashion, and more specifically, bridal fashion?
Cristina: I wanted to be a fashion designer from the time I was ten years old. I was obsessed with red carpet glamour, dreaming up and sketching gowns all the time. I stuck with my passion and got a degree in fashion design, and moved to New York City after college. I was lucky enough to work for some really amazing companies, even seeing some of my designs on the red carpet! When I got engaged, I definitely had thoughts about designing my own gown, but I worried about it not turning out exactly the way I wanted. I certainly didn't want any last minute gown drama! I thought it might be less stressful to be able to try gowns on and see exactly what I was getting, so I hit the streets in New York in search of the perfect dress! I got discouraged pretty fast. I would walk into a store and explain to the consultant that I didn't want poufy and I didn't want strapless and they would pull out one, maybe two gowns. Pickings were pretty slim! After I exhausted almost every bridal shop in New York, I felt like I had to go my own way. I had access to the best fabrics and seamstresses in the industry and realized it was going to turn out beautifully with all these great resources at my disposal. My gown was a simple satin V-neck sheath with crystal pleated chiffon godets at the hem. I was inspired by the bias gowns of Vionnet and Adrian. I found an antique brooch that I wore at the base of the neckline - very art deco. It was everything I imagined. When my husband's job took us to Washington, D.C., I felt like bridal retail would be the perfect place to put my skills to work!
Wit: As the Manager of The Bridal Salons at Saks Jandel, what are some of the highlights of your position?
Cristina: I I absolutely love going to New York Bridal Market twice a year to see the new collections! The anticipation of wondering what our designers will offer is thrilling. And having lived in New York for ten years, it's great to go back on a regular basis - the energy of the city is infectious. I'm definitely a New Yorker at heart!
Wit: How do you go about the buying process and selecting which designs to carry in your salon?
Cristina: I always keep in mind the taste and preferences of our customers. The Washington, D.C. bride often has traditional tastes, but we are starting to see more and more women choosing fashion-forward gowns which is really exciting. I make sure to have a variety of gowns in different price points and silhouettes as well. The biggest challenge is everything is always so beautiful, and I just can't buy it all!
Wit: The professionalism and expertise from the stylists in your salon is incredible! How do you help guide your clients to invest in the ideal bridal gown for them?
Cristina: Aw, thanks! I am incredibly lucky to work with very talented women with great taste! All of our stylists have backgrounds in fashion retail and/or merchandising. We listen carefully to what kind of event our customers are planning and what they want to express most about their personality. I truly believe that no woman should feel like she is wearing a costume on her wedding day - the dress should be a natural extension of her personal style. Also, unlike other salons, we do not work on commission. All we want for our customers is for them to be 100% happy in the gown they choose. Buying a bridal gown is often the most important sartorial purchase in a woman's life. It is important to be able to make that decision yourself without outside pressure.
Wit: Your salon features legendary designer, Oscar de la Renta. Can you tell us more about his bridal designs and aesthetic?
Cristina: Oscar de la Renta's bridal gowns are exquisite. He is a master of creating designs that are elegant and endlessly feminine. I love the quote from him, "I have always felt my role as a designer is to do the very best I can for a woman to make her look her best. Fashion is only fashion once a woman puts it on." And what bride doesn't want to look her best on her wedding day?! Oscar has an amazing pedigree, having worked at top European couture houses like Lanvin and Balenciaga. He is obsessed with fine fabrics and rich embellishments and that is instantly obvious when you see an Oscar bridal gown.
Wit: You are invited to attend Oscar de la Renta's bridal runway shows. How is this experience? From your perspective, what is one of his most memorable runway shows and collections?
Cristina: Oscar shows his bridal collections in his showroom. It's in the heart of the garment district in a building that overlooks Bryant Park. The showroom is modern and flooded with light from an endless wall of windows. He keeps the shows feeling intimate which I think is really important. This isn't your typical big fashion show with thousands of attendees and a wall of photographers - just a group of the top press and bridal retailers. Oscar is famously obsessed with hospitality, and it shows at his bridal presentations. Every detail is perfection, from the chairs to the floral backdrop to the thoughtful gift left on each chair. And Oscar loves to have fun, often including children in the show - his flower girl dresses are so adorable! His Spring 2015 bridal collection blew me away. Beautiful necklines, gorgeous back detailing and really interesting embroidery techniques. Each dress was more beautiful than the last.
Wit: Oscar studied in Spain, and oftern credits his ready-to-wear designs to Spanish influence. Do you find this influence in any of his bridal designs?
Cristina: In some designs you definitely see a bit of flamenco influence. Oscar loves ruffles! I see hints of Spanish influence in his embroidery designs as well. There is a dress that has beaded fabric applique in a scroll pattern that looks like wrought-iron designs you see in the south of Spain. But he keeps it subtle. Nothing costume-y. I personally see the most influence form his time working at Balenciaga - the architectural draping and the way he creates volume in his gowns.
Wit: Can you speak to the gowns you will featuring at your Oscar de la Renta trunk show this September?
Cristina: Our trunk show is September 11th-13th. As I mentioned, this Spring 2015 collection is drop-dead gorgeous! I especially love all the amazing detail on the backs of the gowns. Whether it is a ruched mikado gown with an unexpected ruffle down the back, or a breezy chiffon A-line with delicate corded embroidery over the back and shoulders, these gowns are stunning from all angles! The details in this collection are really unique. One of my favorites, Corinne, is a printed lace pattern that has then been over-embroidered with caviar beads and small sequins.
Wit: Who would you love to style for their wedding?
Cristina: I love Allison Williams. I'm a huge GIRLS fan, and I just love her style - clean, and modern with a bit of an edge. I would love to see her wear Oscar de la Renta's Carmen gown - a luxurious silk faille gown with dramatic silver sullion scroll embroidery. She would be breathtaking in it!
Photographs courtesy of Oscar de la Renta