A whole new bridal experience
Your dream dress may be waiting for you in a sunny room in the designer's home, finds Constance Harris
Sitting with Louise Kennedy in her newly launched Bridal Room in 50 Merrion Square, it seems incredible that this long-established designer took so long to launch herself into this showcase area of fashion.
But, according to Louise, it just never occurred to her until last year on a flight to Milan, where she met old pal, jeweller Paul Sheeran, and he suggested she should.
"By the time I came off that flight, my head was buzzing with ideas. Paul gave me an insight into the world of bridal, obviously with all his experience as a jeweller -- the engagement ring being the first purchase by newly engaged couples."
"We had done the occasional wedding gown over the years, but they were often evening gown designs that people asked for some bespoke details to be added to," Louise explained.
"But really, bridal is a whole experience in itself and it has to be celebrated. I did a lot of research before I decided to do it because if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it properly."
Louise spent the past year researching and designing the collection, creating the salon and the experience, and then quietly launched Louise Kennedy's Bridal Room this autumn.
Louise Kennedy's design reputation is built on her love of the classical aesthetic coupled with acute attention to detail and quality. So of course her Bridal Room will epitomise the best of what Louise Kennedy is about.
The bridal room is on the first floor of Louise's Georgian house. It is decorated in soft white with subtle touches of silver, crystal and purple, and palest gold in some objets d'art. It is furnished with designs by Irish craftsmen and women such as David Marshall, Joseph Lyons and Aiveen Daly, all of whom Louise is most proud to feature. "I believe in buying a piece that you truly love. You will always find a home for it."
Two large Georgian windows face north, overlooking Merrion Square Park, so the light is perfect and the view special.
The gowns are kept in giant, mirror-lined, subtly illuminated wardrobes.
There is a real sense of ceremony and occasion when one is directed to take a seat and the tall doors are opened to reveal the 25 styles hanging elegantly in all their glory. It all feels very couture.
The dresses are mainly full length and sleeveless, six are cocktail, one of which is a very Halston-esque kaftan style and divine in its modernity: I could see Sharon Stone, Sarah Jessica Parker or Charlize Theron in it and looking sensational.
All the dresses are in ivory silk satin, georgette and lace because Louise says, "Ivory truly is the most flattering and magical colour on a bride".
A lot of Louise's bridal collection is 1930s-inspired, with some Art Deco detailing and a little bit of old school Hollywood glamour thrown in. Think Veronica Lake and you get the picture.
I adored her lace creations. Having grown up admiring Victorian lace and the seductive sensuality of 1930s evening gown and boudoir designs, I very much appreciated the beauty of Louise's lace gowns, with their soft drape and elegant skirts, some with short trains.
All the silks used are from Italy and France while Louise sources the lace in Switzerland, as well as France. The skilled craftsmen she works with in India carry out the exquisite and luxurious beading work she designed to be applied to her fabrics.
"For me, a lot of satisfaction in my work comes from cultivating quality relationships. The craftsmen in Delhi are superb. Their skill, their passion, their attention to detail -- it is second to none."
Though a lot of the gowns are sleeveless, Louise said they could make small alterations such as adding sleeves where people require them. But essentially the design is the design.
Each dress takes about six months to make and requires about four fittings, which are done on a one-to-one, exclusive basis. Some dresses can be finished sooner, but it very much depends on the design and the level of hand-work involved as these dresses are very much about those couture, time-consuming skills.
The Bridal Room opened last September and so far Louise has been struck by how many young women in their 20s and early 30s are getting married. She says they are very clear about what it is they want and they are very appreciative of the work that goes into each creation.
"They are very body-aware and like the designs because they flatter the body without clinging." Which was very much the epitome of the seductive designs of the 1930s.
This season also sees Louise launching her first fine bone china tableware collection for Tipperary and bridal gift crystal collection.
She also relocated her store in West Halkin Street in London to a larger and more prestigious corner position; the Chilean president's wife even became a fan when she was in London recently to celebrate the miners' liberation.
For an idea that started during a conversation on board a plane, Louise Kennedy's Bridal Room is now a thing of reality -- and beauty.
The Louise Kennedy Bridal Collection is available from The Bridal Room, 56 Merrion Square, D2. For further information log on to www.louisekennedy.com or tel: (01) 662-0056.
Photographer: Barry McCall
Model: Sarah MacDonnell, Bookings Models London
Stylist: Catherine Condell
Hair: Michael Leong
Makeup: Paula Callan O'Keeffe
Shoes: Jimmy Choo Bridal