Brides by NoNA is a bespoke designer based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded by Nneka C. Alexander, Brides by NoNA specializes in bridal gowns, bridesmaids dresses and formal/evening gowns.
We interviewed Nneka to learn about the brand’s inspiration, creation process and future goals.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and why you chose to become a wedding designer
My name is Nneka C. Alexander and I am an avid fashion lover. I’m obsessed with everything that has to do with fashion – clothes, shoes, accessories, bags–you name it! I think I was born with it. I recall my early childhood years (around 6 years of age) I always looked forward to Saturday nights just to go through ALL the clothes in my closet and put together my look for church the following day. My favorite pass time as a kid was to lay out all my clothes on the bed and try them on one after the other. TRUE TALK here! I would mix and match clothing pieces, pair them with the perfect accessories and then top it off with a “fashion show” for my siblings. They hated it and I loved it. I’m sure if you ask any one of my siblings about that period they would roll their eyes and shake their heads as they recall the hours of “torture” I subjected them to.
My love for fashion grew more intense over the years. I wanted more! I wanted to know more about fabrics, designs, sewing techniques and styling so I pursued every avenue I could to satiate my hunger for more. I enrolled in modeling school in Houston, TX called Barbizon and took fashion design classes as well. I modeled at quite a few bridal shows and I was more interested in the fabrics and designs than in the modeling aspect of it to be honest. The main thing that set me off to take the jump and go full on into designing was when I modeled the clothing line for the rapper Nelly. I saw the most amazing designs and fabrics in his collections. I was like a kid in a candy store. I had never seen fabrics of that nature before. And I thought to myself that if a rapper can make these stunning pieces then so can I. After all I did take some fashion design classes and my modeling career gave me access to network with quite a few talented designers. I started immediately off by designing my own wedding gown in 2008. When my family members and close friends saw how beautiful my gown was then they entrusted me with their gowns and slowly but surely my passion became the much anticipated career I’ve always yearned for.
Where do you get inspirations for your designs?
I absolutely love shapes! Yes, very unusual right? Most of the décor and furnitures in my home consist of shapes. From flower-shaped glass ornaments to long oval standing lamps to an oversize L-shaped Chaise lounge, I am surrounded by shapes in my home and I love it! If you notice most of my designs have some sort of signature shape like an oversize bow, floral cutouts on fabric, embellished leaf shape on a sheer back, embellished starburst pattern on the bodice of a wedding gown just to name a few.
What goes into the process of making a wedding dress?
Pardon me if this answer sounds cliché but A WHOLE LOT goes into designing a wedding dress. Sometimes I come across the bride who has no idea what she wants and so I have to start off by slowly unraveling her style profile in order to present ideas that fit her style profile. So the first and most important step in my opinion is understanding the client. As soon as I understand my client I immediately go into creativity mode and present her with fashion forward designs. If a client has made the decision to secure my bespoke tailoring services it would be an absolute disservice to present her with designs that are currently trending. I have to think ahead of current trends and create something unique for her.
Fast-forward the process past the consultation and design phase and let’s go to the production phase where the masterpiece (the wedding gown) is created. Since my specialization is bespoke tailoring, every step of the process requires some sort of custom work. If the client has chosen a color that cannot be sourced in the fabric market then the fabric has to be dyed which takes about three to four days. Of course if the fabric is dyed then it means it’s a plain fabric with no bead work on it so I start off by making the pattern of the dress style chosen. I prefer to make my patterns in pieces so I make separate patterns for the bodice, the sleeves, and the skirt and then cut the fabric to the shapes of the patterns. If the style of the dress requires bead work I then make markings all over the fabric to act as “road maps” that will guide me to achieve clean, well-traced arrangements. I’m sure you’ve seen some bead work that just looked chaotic. That’s usually the result of not carefully tracing out clean patterns on the fabric for the beading. Of course all my bead work is done by hand as I don’t believe in using glue. Glue is for art projects not wedding gowns. This type of meticulous hand-crafted bead work takes up the most amount of time in the process…usually around two weeks or more depending on how much of the dress will be beaded. Once all pieces have been finished (the bodice, the sleeves, the bottom of the dress), I sew all pieces together neatly concealing any lines created by the stitches. The dress is then cleaned and ironed/steamed ready for the bride to try it on at her fitting.
You recently launched your RTW. Can you tell us more about this collection?
Yes, yes, yes! That’s my baby! (laughing out loud). It’s my very first ready-to-wear collection and it’s called Nona R|T|W. I decided to launch it after receiving many requests from family, friends and past clients. I found that I had an increasing number of people calling me to ask if I had any fabulous designs in stock that they could purchase for an event taking place in as soon as one week and my answer was always “I apologize but my designs are custom made and require at least six weeks to be tailored.” So I thought to myself why not make a ready-to-wear collection to cater to the client who has a special occasion event coming up soon and needs something unique that she can wear. You know we ladies cringe at the thought of going to an event thinking you’re the best dressed only to see someone else at the event wearing the exact same dress. Hence, my Nona R|T|W addresses these two issues: (1) Unique designs you will not see at any department stores, and (2) Limited quantities so you don’t have to worry about someone else sharing your spotlight. Pieces from my Nona R|T|W collection are currently available for purchase online at www.bridesbynona.com/collections/nonartw . Remember quantities are limited!
Where do you see Brides by NoNA 5 years from now?
Great question! I’ll tease you a little bit…keep watching this space and see for yourself 🙂
One thing I can tell you is that (by God’s grace) each year will be bigger and better than the previous. I introduced a ready-to-wear collection in 2015…who knows what will happen in 2016? (wink!) Just keep watching and you won’t be disappointed.
To learn more, visit www.bridesbynona.com