The journey into custom wedding gowns with Hrissa Soumpassis, designer of Elika In Love.
When you’re making something custom, what are the first steps you take to get a feel for what the client is looking for?
"I really love getting to know my clients - it helps me feel more connected to them as a person and gives meaning to what I do. I want to learn about their personal style and what the vibe of the day should be. What kind of silhouette she is thinking of and if it’s in a gallery setting or an organic wine vineyard. Above all else, the ELIKA girl is fashion forward and independent, and wants to feel like the most beautiful version of herself her wedding day. "
How much custom bridal do you do on average?
“Bespoke is a big driver of my business. It’s how ELIKA started in bridal, as I was doing cocktail dresses that women kept on approaching me to ask if I would make it in white for their wedding dress. Bridal culture has changed a lot these days, but 5 years ago you could barely find a dress that wasn’t the ‘traditional’ princess gown that we were all used to seeing. Bridal stores, especially in Vancouver, offered little to excite the discerning bride, so custom was and still is huge for me. ”
What was your first custom piece in bridal?
“My first custom wedding gown was a commission by my old roommate/s, Vibeke and Rasmus. While travelling Europe, I lived in their dining-room-meets-spare bedroom in Copenhagen while Vibeke was away studying fashion law in NYC! I was designing and selling ready to wear in a Scandinavian independent designer boutique, with a studio where I would create designs for publications like Vice. We became close and once I moved back to Canada and Rasmus popped the question to Vibeke, she reached out to me to ask if I would make her wedding dress! I was so honoured, and of course, I had to say yes! She would send me photos online of what she wanted; a short strapless gown made of silk with hand draping on the skirt. We did the entire process by email, including the measurements, and months later I shipped it from Whistler all the way to Copenhagen and waited with baited breath! She received the gown and just loved it, and that really was the beginning of my path in bridal. The emotional connection to wedding wear, the client, what it means to her family and fiance, and how my contribution to that can give loved ones immediate tears the moment they see her in the dress. This is how ELIKA as a bridal collection began.”
How do you decide on the silhouette for the gowns?
“It’s important that we start with some ideas, so most brides come to the studio with images of gowns that they like certain aspects of. We talk about fabrics and how it can affect the silhouettes; whether they need a bra and if they want a fitted skirt of something more dreamy and soft. More often than not, brides come to their initial appointment very scattered in what their ideal vision is, and we have to take the time to talk through what is possible based on their needs to create a more clearly defined silhouette for their wedding dress. Most importantly, you should feel at ease in your custom wedding gown and enjoy the moment of the day!”
How about the fabric?
“We talk about lace and chiffon, whether the bride wants to show off her curves or opt for a romantic and flowy style. My favourite fabrics at the moment are 3D lace with hand detailed beadwork and flowers. I’ve also found a lace made with synthetic Ostrich feathers that I’m dying to create a custom gown with. I have a few global fabric wholesalers who come to Vancouver to show me their collections, and my clients can pick through the images of fabrics I’ve selected that I love. Or they might already love a fabric at the studio and want a custom gown made from that. Every bride is different, and that’s what makes bespoke so fun!”
What part of the gown do you start with?
“It depends on what is most important to the client; if she definitely wants thin straps but can’t decide if she wants a very low backless gown or something with more coverage, we start with the bodice and design from there.”
How do you decide on the cut and fit for the custom wedding gown?
“A sense of structure with movement is the perfect mix for a bespoke wedding gown. Everything is considered, from dancing with your hands up in the air to walking on the beach or vineyard to concealing that little tattoo that your grandmother still doesn’t know you have... ”
What elements of the brides' personal style do you focus on in creating the look?
“I want to know if the bride is thinking Jimmy Choos or Converse, or if she loves the idea of a boho fairy-goddess style gown but can’t handle the idea of a flower crown. All of these elements need to come together for the bespoke gown to be right. Brides always want to bring a touch of the unexpected, which your bespoke look reflects.”
Do you offer custom to online clients or brides from outside of Vancouver?
“Yes, I love my global brides! In 2015 I switched from ready to wear to bridal, and that first season saw 80% of our business come from online orders in custom bridal! We start with a skype call and share images to narrow down the design. Fabric selection is important in this process, so often I’ll send some swatches so she can see it in person. Seeing it in person is so important! Then we move forward with a design and she’ll have her measurements taken by a local seamstress. I always ensure our gowns, made to order or custom, are in the hands of our clients at least one month before the wedding date. This allows time for alterations and finalizing accessories and honestly, it really just alleviates stress when your dress is hanging in your closet.”
What is next for the new season of ELIKA?
“I’m currently designing for the 2021 season, and I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be designing our fabrics for this next collection! Made to order gowns will be cut from custom designed fabrics, which is a first for ELIKA, and I simply can’t wait to create and share this collection with you.”
Photographer: Bettina Khan
Location: Elika In Love