Hailing from Toronto, bridal designer Lea-Ann Belter has been designing wedding gowns for over 25 years. Every single gown is hand made in her Toronto atelier, and retailed in more than 50 locations worldwide. Aside from her couture she is a fierce environmental activists, and uses vegetable-dyed silks and donates all her fabric remnants. We got a chance to ask Lea-Ann a few questions!
What inspired you to design bridal gowns?
My dad was a painter so art was important to our family. I went to art school but it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, so I decided to study fashion design in Toronto and it was a perfect fit for me. I didn’t know I would focus on bridal but when I graduated, my brother’s fiancée asked me to design her wedding gown. Requests from other brides started tumbling in after that first gown and I’ve been designing gowns ever since. I love designing every little detail, the gorgeous fabrics, and being able to create the most important garment many women will ever wear.
Where do you find your source for inspiration and stylization of trends?
Lea-Ann Belter Bridal is a celebration of true love and genuine style. Just like our brides, our gowns are modern, romantic and timeless, and each one strives to set off the bride’s natural radiance. My goal is not for a gown to dazzle, but to seduce. I find inspiration everywhere – often times it’s a mood I’m trying to create, or it might be a ribbon or the way a piece of fabric falls.
If you could make a wedding dress for anyone living or deceased, who would it be and what would you design for them?
I have always wanted to design a gown for one of the characters on The Big Bang Theory. I would put Bernadette in my Bernadette gown and Penny in my Penny gown. Alas, Amy Farrah Fowler is the only one yet to be married and I admit she would be a bit of a challenge. I believe she might purchase her gown at the Disney store!
Which of your gowns is your favourite that you have ever created?
That is like asking me to choose a favorite child, but if I had to choose from the latest collection I would choose Elaine, Guinevere, Faye and Emenie.
Were there certain things that inspired your 2016 Avalon Collection?
The fabrics I used for this collection were my biggest source of inspiration. I found a fabulous sequin tulle and a soft and dreamy English net as well as some stunning laces, so they were the stars of this collection.
What advice would you give a bride-to-be prior to dress shopping?
My advice is to walk in with an open mind. It’s common today for a bride to have an exact picture of the gown she wants before she begins shopping, which works out sometimes. Often though, she’ll try on something she never imagined herself in and it’s absolutely the one. It’s such a special experience so I encourage brides to try on all sorts of different styles – most of the time the gown she chooses is unlike anything she pictured, and it’s perfect.
You also have a new line Astrid & Mercedes; what is the creative difference between your signature line and this line?
Twenty-five years after launching my signature line I found that I couldn’t stop sketching gowns inspired by my free-spirited nieces, Astrid and Mercedes. The new line features dreamy, playful gowns for the woman whose wedding day is about doing exactly what feels right. It’s about ceremonies under the trees, dancing barefoot and candle-lit receptions on the beach.
Each gown is patterned, cut and draped here in Toronto, sewn of silks and laces by hand, and priced from $1900 to $2900.
What is your advice to young designers looking to make a mark as #creators?
Trust your instincts. Every time I design something that I think will sell well it does OK, but when I design something that I think is absolutely beautiful brides love it as much as I do.