Brides to be dream of the perfect wedding dress — one that was designed with only them in mind. This is where Therez Fleetwood comes in. Combining the exotic and romantic, her collection includes everything from lace adornment to African cowry shells. The originality of her bridal gowns has attracted customers from all over the world — Germany, Egypt, Italy, Tanzania, and Australia.
“The Therez Fleetwood bride is a woman looking for cultural nuances in her wedding attire,” says Fleetwood in an interview. “A bride who is looking to walk to the beat of her own drum and make a statement on her wedding day. She is a doctor, a lawyer, a Marine, an artist, and any other bride who is seeking a bridal gown that allows her to be self-expressed.”
Her love of African design cannot only be seen throughout her bridal collection, but also in the book she penned entitled The AfroCentric Bride – A Style Guide, which provides tips for couples who choose to incorporate cultural elements into their wedding. Prior to launching her bridal collection, Fleetwood had a clothing line called PheZula that combined African prints with contemporary Western designs. Her clothes have been considered art and have even be on exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and at the Fashion Institute of Technology (the college she attended).
As Fleetwood began to expand her offerings for brides, she decided to focus on wedding clothes. “I love the bridal industry. I love being a part of one of the most important days in a woman’s life. I get joy in helping brides find that ‘perfect’ dress that allows them to feel like a queen on their wedding day. My vision for designing bridal gowns has always been inspired by ‘world couture.’ It was through my travels to different countries that I became inspired by the colors, beads, trinkets, artwork and design elements of these cultures,” she explains.
It was a good business move on Fleetwood’s part. The bridal industry is big business. One would thing think the recent economic troubles would lead to simpler weddings for most everyone. But not so found TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com 2011 Real Weddings Survey. “For the first time since 2008, wedding budgets are on the rise,” said Carley Roney, co-founder of The Knot in a press statement. “In 2011, one in five U.S. couples spent more than $30,000, and 11% spent more than $40,000 on their weddings. Our research shows that couples and their families are less concerned with the economy and are increasingly comfortable investing more in the once-in-a-lifetime occasion of their wedding.” The average wedding budget: $27,021, not including honeymoon costs.
The 2011 BRIDES American Wedding Study found slightly different results. According to that magazine, the average wedding cost is $26,501—a decrease of a little more than a 5 percent from 2009 when the average cost was $28,082 but up $8,000 since 2002.
“It is a very exciting time in the bridal industry. Brides have more choices than ever in the planning of her wedding. Weddings are becoming more unique and individualized and can range from subtle and simple, to colorful and exuberant. Couples today are no longer confined to ‘wedding rules’or carbon-copy celebrations, they are adding personal touches throughout the wedding,” notes Fleetwood.
The Knot too found that couples aren’t tied to tradition and are opting for more causal weddings. Fewer brides, says the magazine, are going for the “formal/black-tie” tradition… only 16% went this route, down from 18% in 2010 and 20% in 2009.”
But even though weddings are less formal and more couples are doing their own planning, they haven’t gotten less expensive. “There is a trend towards do-it-yourself weddings. Are the weddings more simple?…. Not really. They are more unique and specialized and capture the true essence of the couple,” explains Fleetwood. “There is so much information offered over the Internet that allow couples the flexibility of planning all aspects of their wedding. Brides are creating their vision boards, seeking out vendors and coordinating ideas and concepts to pull everything together.”
And of course for every bride, the wedding dress is the most important purchase. The average spent on a wedding dress was $1,121 found The Knot survey. (Brides in Manhattan, the most expensive place to plan a wedding, spent the most on their dresses–$2,403.) BRIDES found the average wedding dress cost to be $1,289, a 20 percent increase since 2009 when the average cost was $1,072. Future brides start shopping for their dress at least nine months before the wedding, states BRIDES.
So if you are getting married next year, there are new trends for spring/summer 2013, reveals Fleetwood. Wedding dresses are no longer white. “Bold reds and pastels have been gracing the runways,” says Fleetwood, whose gowns are sold at her studio in Atlanta and in Virginia at Soliloquy Bridal Couture. “The trick is to find a color that flatters your skin tone and works within your wedding theme.” Dresses fashioned with peplums and beautiful backs are the current rages.
Brides looking for a totally one-of-a-kind look turn to Fleetwood. She explains why, “What makes my collection so unique are the different embellishments that adorn each dresses. I purchase my fabrics and trims from India, Asia, Africa, Italy and Spain. My focus is on creating each dress as a piece of artwork that reflect the essence of each bride who wears them.”