Designer and TV personality Randy Fenoli chats exclusively to Demelza Rayner about the changing face of bridal, as well as his vision for creating the dream dress for any bride's big day
How long have you worked in the bridal sector and what was your first job?
I started in the bridal industry immediately after graduating from The Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC in June 1993. My first job was designing bridal: Randy Fenoli for The Diamond Collection as well as bridesmaids: Randy Fenoli for Dessy Creations.
How would you describe your signature style and how important is it for you that brides can instantly recognise a Randy Fenoli design?
I would say my signature style is constantly evolving with the latest bridal trends, new fabrics, laces, and embroideries; and fresh, new, fashion-forward silhouettes, along with traditional elements that capture the ever-evolving style of real brides. My first collection introduced the halter neckline and boned corsets to American bridal fashion.
What inspires you when designing a new gown or collection?
My inspiration is always closely aligned with the desires of brides and current fashion trends. When I design a gown I am constantly thinking about who is going to wear each dress, and try to capture the bride's fantasy. I am also heavily influenced by the newest fabrics, laces, beadings, and embroideries.
What sort of designer would you describe yourself as?
I consider myself a designer that tries to give real brides their ultimate dream dress for their wedding day. Whether a bride wants to look traditional, fashion-forward, bohemian, sexy, understated, or like a princess, I have a gown that will hopefully fulfil her dreams!
Tell us a bit about the latest collection.
This season I was inspired by sensory experiences, and meeting with 'real brides' throughout my travels to Barcelona, London, Milan, Venice, Amsterdam, the United States, and Canada. These beautiful locations influenced my 33 new designs, giving them a fresh-feeling and fashion-forward look.
What do you think attracts brides to your label?
I think brides trust me. They trust my fashion sense, my taste level, and my honesty from watching me for over 16 seasons on “Say Yes to The Dress”. I try to deliver affordable luxury to brides in gowns that go up to size 30 in the U.S. and size 60 in Europe with no extra charge for my curvy girls. My desire is to have a gown for every bride's fantasy.
What fabrics do you like using and why, and how important is fabric quality for your designs?
I like to use many different types of fabrics, including satin, organza, crepe, tulle, lace, taffeta, and novelty fabrics. The quality of fabric is paramount! A wedding dress may be the most important and most photographed article of clothing a woman will ever wear. The fabric can make or break a design. I have to make sure the quality of the fabric, as well as the drape, weight, weave, design, and finish are of the highest standards.
Is there any dress you've designed over the years that you have fond memories of, and if so, why?
I have fond memories of so many of my gowns. The first gown I designed had a halter neckline, which was new to American bridal, and immediately got me noticed in the bridal industry. My boned corset wedding dresses were also distinctive to bridal and made my dresses stand out. One of my personal favourites was a gown I designed with a boned corset neckline, delicate spaghetti straps, and an enormous tulle skirt that reminded me of a ballerina.
Is there a particular era in fashion that you're drawn to?
The 1940's and 50's are probably my favourite decades in fashion. I loved when Dior introduced the “New Look”, which celebrated women with fashion that emphasised tiny waistlines and hourglass silhouettes.
If you weren't a bridal designer, what job do you think you might have done?
That's a difficult question because I've had so many careers in my lifetime that I've loved. As well as being a bridal fashion designer, I am or have been an entertainer, a public speaker, an artist, a personal chef, a makeup artist and hairdresser, and TV personality. I've had a very blessed life that has allowed me to do so many things I love, especially working with many different charities. A fantasy of mine would be to appear on Dancing with the Stars.
What would you say are the biggest challenges facing bridal designers at present and do you have any suggestions for countering these challenges?
One of the greatest challenges for bridal designers today is that – because of technological advances – today's bride lives in a world where she can get almost anything instantly. Many brides think they can walk into a bridal salon and have a dress when they walk out. They don't realise you need to purchase a gown six to eight months in advance. I am trying to fill this need by carrying many of my most popular styles in stock to fill these rush orders.
What TV shows are you currently working on, and what do you enjoy most about the experience?
I just finished filming as a judge on “Wedding Cake Championship” for the Food Network, and am currently filming “Say Yes to The Dress” along with a new bridal show for TLC, which I am not able to announce at the moment.
How would you like to see the company evolve over the coming years?
I am extremely happy and very blessed with the direction my company is headed and hope it continues to grow and reach even more brides globally.
On a day off from bridal, how do you like to spend your time?
If I happen to have a day off, which is very rare, I enjoy cooking and entertaining friends, spending quiet time at my home in Florida, however, I most enjoy spending time with my best friend and Shih Tzu puppy, Chewy!
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