Rosie Assoulin never intended to make wedding dresses.
But as the designer points out, after debuting her eponymous ready-to-wear label in 2013, customers turned to her white pieces for wedding wear. Soon fans started asking about a bridal collection; By Ms. Assoulin’s estimate, her company received hundreds of such requests over the years.
By 2020, she had realized that these demands could no longer be ignored. Then, just as her sister was due to get married, the pandemic hit. “They had to call off their wedding and just got married on a beach,” Ms Assoulin (pronounced Ah-SOO-Leen) said. “We made her dress: a burgundy and turquoise tie-waist dress from our Fall/Winter 2018 collection, which we reworked in cream and beige with a beautiful hooded veil.” The process, she added, showed “our team that we could make a bespoke collection specifically for brides”.
The materials she chose, although not typical of formal wear, were more varied. “For this, I was drawn to more elegant and precious fabrics such as gauze, organza, moray, velvet and silk,” Ms. Assoulin said.
Less typical are some pieces she said “you don’t see on a bride,” including a bucket hat and cargo pants. There is also a dress inspired by a puffy comforter, as well as dresses made three-dimensional from embellishments, including satin pearls and pearls.
“Historically, brides only wore one dress. Now they can want an outfit for every moment that can happen during a weekend, that’s how we saw this collection,” said Ms. Assoulin. “Weddings have many moments.”
Prices start at $795, for the bucket hat, but most of the collection retails between $1,795 and $12,995, according to Lauren Cooper, a spokeswoman for the label.
“A Sisterly Feeling”
On a Friday in May, Ms. Assoulin hurried into the bridal salon at Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan, where her new collection was displayed on two racks. A trunk show was about to start, her first since the pandemic hit, and she was feeling “out of practice.”
“I haven’t been in front of a customer or a buyer in two years,” she said. “It’s a muscle I haven’t used in a long time.”
Dressed in a white button-down shirt and cream trousers, Ms Assoulin practically blended into the clothes she was presenting as she explained her design process and the inspiration behind it.
“I am inspired by beautiful, expressive and creative elements: art, sculpture and architecture,” she said, as well as the hundreds of vases and bowls she has collected over most of her life. “Many vases already look like dresses.”
“Being able to take those elements,” she added, and “find ways to fit that puzzle into a garment and make it functional, flattering, comfortable, and relaxed—that’s what design is all about.”
Ms Assoulin was in the middle, her hand touching one of her dresses, when Elizabeth Limberakis, 33, entered the salon with her mother.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe you’re here,” said Mrs. Assoulin. Limberakis, director of integrated marketing for fashion brand Eloquii. “I can’t believe I’m actually meeting you.”
After introducing herself, Ms. Limberakis asked Ms. Assoulin for some styling tips for her wedding, which will take place next May in Philadelphia, where Ms. Limberakis lives. She then entered the dressing room in the Bouquet, a tulip-shaped, tea-length dress with a pointed needle and puffy shoulder straps, lined with silk gauze, costing $3,995. It suited her perfectly.
“It feels so fascinating,” said Ms. Limberakis. “I’ve tried on a few dresses before, and nothing looked as good as this one.” She finally placed an order for the dress.
Describing herself as “bigger on the bottom and smaller on the top”, Ms Limberakis said she was drawn to Ms Assoulin’s clothes because “Rosie designs for everyone, not just the perfect sample size.” (According to Ms. Cooper, spokeswoman for Rosie Assoulin, the bridal line is semi-bespoke and made-to-order, while the ready-to-wear line is generally available in sizes 0 to 16.)
“I feel a sense of sisterhood and camaraderie because I see myself in her plans,” Ms. Limberakis added.
The fact that customers can develop such personal connections with Ms. Assoulin’s line may be because her early clothes were personal in nature. From Gravesend, Brooklyn, Ms. Assoulin at age 12 began cutting up her mother’s old clothes and reconfiguring them into wearable pieces using her grandmother’s sewing machine.
She later enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but dropped out after four months. “I wasn’t a good student and I didn’t thrive in that school environment,” Ms. Assoulin. That didn’t stop her from landing a design internship at luxury brand Oscar de la Renta, where she worked for a year before moving on to gigs at other labels, including Adam Lippes and Lanvin.
In 2004, she married Max Assoulin, the son of accessories designer Roxanne Assoulin, for whom Ms. He exiled Assoulin as a teenager. Mr. Assoulin has been chief executive at his wife’s eponymous fashion company since its inception. The couple, who have four children, live between their homes in Manhattan and New Jersey; Rosie Assoulin’s offices are in Manhattan.
Out of the ordinary
“Today’s bride has a clear idea of what they want,” Ms. Assoulin said as the pace began to pick up in her trunk show. “They are looking for something unique and different. This is us.”
The unusual is what Osa Omokaro, 38, a senior user experience researcher at Google, was hoping to see when she showed up at Bergdorf Goodman with a friend. For her wedding, which will take place in Marrakesh, Morocco in November, she struggled to find a dress that matched her style, which she described as “non-traditional, a bit quirky, but elevated and stylish “.
“It’s all so traditional, which to me means mermaid with a lot of swing,” said Dr. Omokaro, who lives in Lower Manhattan and has a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “I’m excited that Rosie is here so she can tell me what to wear and how to style the dress.”
And that’s what Ms. Assoulin did, crowding into the dressing room with Dr. Omokaro and her friend and offering advice while Dr. Omokaro tried on three dresses.
“They make a statement,” said Dr. Omokaro about Ms. Assoulin’s designs, calling them “sophisticated and classic” and “structural and high fashion.” But no also high fashion. “You can mix and match her pieces and then wear them with something else,” she added.
Soon Ms. Assoulin was back in the dressing room with another potential bride: Diana Ming, 30, a vice president of strategy at a major Wall Street bank.
It was Ms. Ming’s first time shopping ahead of her wedding, which is scheduled for next June in Brooklyn. A self-described “huge fan of Rosie’s,” the Hodges Podges dress she was trying on — a $5,995 A-line style with a sweetheart neckline, spaghetti straps and silk flower embellishments — checked all her boxes.
“My wedding is garden-themed, so I wanted something floral,” said Ms. Ming, who lives in Brooklyn. “I love that it’s flowy, that it’s floral and feminine and yet it’s still creative and fun.”
Madame Assoulin, who so far showed no sign of being out of practice in engaging with clients, entered.
“This part here,” she said as she taped some fabric to the back of the dress, “is more sheer, which is what we do for the samples. For you, we could add something dark, or we’d double something clear to keep that ethereal look.”
By noon, the two shelves once full of Ms. Assoulin’s wedding dresses were nearly empty. Most of the clothes were inside the salon’s four dressing rooms, all occupied. But not from Dr. Omokaro, who by then had left feeling much more optimistic about her clothing quest.
“Rosie’s pops are classic, beautiful, elegant and trendy,” she said. “It feels like this designer gets me.”