Rosie Assoulin never intended to make bridal wear.
But as the fashion designer recounts, after launching her eponymous ready-to-wear label in 2013, customers turned to her white pieces for wedding attire. Soon fans started asking about a bridal collection; according to Ms. Assoulin’s estimate, her company has received hundreds of such requests over the years.
By 2020, she had recognized that these demands could no longer be ignored. Then, just when her sister was due to get married, the pandemic hit. “They had to call off their wedding and got married alone on a beach,” Ms Assoulin (pronounced Ah-SOO-Leen) said. “We made her dress: a burgundy and turquoise dress that ties at the waist from our Fall/Winter 2018 collection, which we redone in cream and beige with a beautiful hooded veil.” The process, she added, showed “our team that we could do collection specifically delegated to the bride.”
The materials she chose, although not atypical for formal wear either, were more diverse. “For that, I was drawn to more capricious and precious fabrics like gazar, organza, moray eel, velvet and silk,” Ms. Assoulin said.
Less typical are some pieces she said “you don’t see in the bride,” including a bucket hat and cargo pants. There’s also a dress inspired by a puffy quilt, as well as garments rendered three-dimensional by embellishments including satin daisies and pearls.
“Historically, brides only wore one dress. Now they might want an outfit for every moment that can happen over a weekend, which is how we saw this collection,” Ms Assoulin said. “Weddings have a lot of moments.”
Prices start at $795, for the bucket hat, but the majority of the collection sells for between $1,795 and $12,995, according to brand spokeswoman Lauren Cooper.
“A feeling of brotherhood”
On a Friday in May, Ms. Assoulin rushed into Bergdorf Goodman’s bridal salon 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 felt “lack of practice.”
“I haven’t been in front of the customer or the buyer for two years,” she said. “It’s a muscle I haven’t used in a long time.”
Dressed in a white button-up shirt and cream trousers, Ms Assoulin practically blended into the clothes she presented 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 collected during the major part of his life. “A lot of vases already look like dresses.”
“Being able to take those elements,” she added, and “find ways to work that puzzle into a garment and make it functional, flattering, comfortable, and casual — that’s design.”
Ms Assoulin was in mid-sentence, her hand touching one of her dresses, when Elizabeth Limberakis, 33, entered the living room with her mother.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe you’re here,” Ms. Limberakis, integrated marketing director for fashion brand Eloquii, told Ms. Assoulin. “I can’t believe I’m actually meeting you.”
After introducing herself, Ms Limberakis asked Ms Assoulin for style advice for her wedding, which is due to take place next May in Philadelphia, where Ms Limberakis lives. She then walked into a dressing room with the Bouquet, a tulip-shaped maxi dress with a pointed bodice and puffy straps encrusted with silk gazar, which retails for $3,995. It suited him perfectly.
“It’s so glamorous,” Ms. Limberakis said. “I’ve tried on a few dresses before and nothing looked as good as this one.” She eventually placed an order for the dress.
Describing herself as “taller at the bottom and smaller at 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 Rosie Assoulin spokeswoman Cooper, the bridal line is semi-custom and made-to-order, while the ready-to-wear line is generally available in sizes 0-16.)
“I feel a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie because I see myself in his designs,” Ms. Limberakis added.
If customers can develop such personal connections with Ms. Assoulin’s line, it may be because her first garments were personal in nature. From Gravesend, Brooklyn, 12-year-old Ms Assoulin began cutting up her mother’s old clothes and reconfiguring the leftovers into wearable pieces using her maternal grandmother’s sewing machine.
She then enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but left after four months. “I was not a good student and I did not thrive in this school environment,” Ms Assoulin said. That didn’t stop her from getting 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, with whom Ms Assoulin interned as a teenager. Mr. Assoulin has been the managing director of his wife’s eponymous fashion business 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 she wants,” Ms Assoulin said as the pace began to pick up during her trunk show. “They are looking for something unique and different. It’s us.”
Out of the ordinary is what Osa Omokaro, 38, a senior user experience researcher at Google, hoped to see when she showed up at Bergdorf Goodman with a friend. For her wedding, which is due to take place in Marrakech, Morocco, in November, she had struggled to find a dress that matched her style, which she described as “non-traditional, a bit tomboyish but elevated and elegant. “.
“It’s all so traditional, which to me means mermaid with lots of bling,” 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 so glad Rosie is here so she can tell me what I should wear and how she’s going to style the dress.”
And that’s what Ms Assoulin did, piling into a dressing room with Dr Omokaro and her friend and offering advice while Dr Omokaro tried on three dresses.
“They make a statement,” Dr Omokaro said of Ms Assoulin’s designs, calling them “sophisticated and classic” and “structural and high fashion.” But no too high fashion. “You can mix and match her pieces and then wear them for something else,” she added.
Soon Ms. Assoulin was back in a dressing room with another bride-to-be: Diana Ming, 30, vice president of strategy at a major Wall Street bank.
It was Ms Ming’s first time shopping for a dress ahead of her wedding, which is scheduled for next June in Brooklyn. A self-proclaimed “big Rosie fan,” the dress she tried on, the Hodges Podges — a $5,995 A-line style with a sweetheart neckline, spaghetti straps and silk flower embellishments — ticked off all her boxes.
“My wedding is garden themed, so I wanted something with flowers,” said Ms. Ming, who lives in Brooklyn. “I like it to flow, be floral and feminine while still being creative and fun.”
Ms. Assoulin, who now showed no signs of lacking practice in interacting with customers, stepped in.
“This part here,” she said, squeezing some fabric from the back of the dress, “is more sheer, which is what we do for samples. For you, we could add something opaque, or we’d double up something transparent thing to keep that ethereal look.
By mid-afternoon, the two lockers once filled with Mrs. Assoulin’s bridal attire were nearly empty. Most of the clothes were in the four locker rooms in the living room, all occupied. But not by Dr. Omokaro, who had by then left much more optimistic about her search for a dress.
“Rosie’s pieces are classic, beautiful, elegant and edgy,” she said. “I feel like this designer understands me.”