Inside Bridal Fashion with Designer Maria Korovilas
How did you get started in the bridal fashion industry?
I had a ready-to-wear collection, Korovilas, from 2010 to about 2018. The brand focused on dresses, incorporating artisanal and novelty techniques into casual and event looks, but customers also came to us for special occasions. We didn’t want to cloud the original concept, so we started a new bridal and event spinoff. BHLDN had been buying from the line before that second collection started, but the new focus further fostered our relationship. Now, I work with BHLDN to create the same kinds of artisanal novelties for their own-brand collection. I love the latest collection with BHLDN.
What was the inspiration behind the BHLDN Blue Label?
This latest collection started as a series of vignettes inspired by different facets of the Regency period. We looked at writers, popular colors, artwork motifs in linens, antique fabrications we love today, and even wallpaper. I broke that inspiration down through various lenses, then put it back together to capture versions that would suit the many sides of our customer. That overarching concept shaped a very cohesive collection. I love bridging the gap from ready-to-wear to the bridal market and looking at bridal style through the lens of the fashion customer.
How would you describe the style of BHLDN Blue Label?
It leans very feminine and romantic—that’s my innate DNA as a designer. While that is my instinct, I also love a modern, clean moment, especially how it’s happening now in terms of volume, volume, volume! I’d say the style overall is novelty, artisanal, fashion shapes you won’t find often in bridal, combined with a playful, more artful way of envisioning events. Think about your look in terms of creating “moments” rather than just a pretty dress that fits well.
"Think about your look in terms of creating 'moments' rather than just a pretty dress that fits well."
How would you describe the bride who wears your designs?
She’s a cool girl with a fashion point of view, even for her wedding dress. She’s open to options beyond the traditional—not afraid to go out on a limb and wear color, print, or a statement-making 3D pleated organza mini! This bride wants to fall in love with the “concept” of the gown, and that’s hard to do unless you’re adept at vintage shopping, or sourcing with a keen eye from the ready-to-wear/luxury market. BHLDN is building out this own-brand collection to capture the true artisanal design process, and that really sets the gowns and their wearers apart.
Who is your style icon or style inspiration?
I’m a Francophile to the core, so my list goes something like: French New Wave, Anna Karina, Lou Doillon, Clemence Poesy, Vanessa Paradis, Francoise Hardy, Charlotte Gainsbourg . . . plus a dash of Talitha Getty, Anita Pallenberg, Jenny Lewis, and a lot from Freddie Mercury. Those bohemian rock ‘n’ roll vibes find their place with me constantly, even if it’s just the music in my studio. I call them all my “ever inspirations.” For me, these muses are so eclectic, so unique, and have a way of taking the unusual and putting it together to feel effortlessly modern and trailblazing.
What is special about BHLDN Blue Label?
The open-mindedness of the BHLDN team to embark on creating this collection from a designer’s point of view is entirely special. This is just the beginning and there’s so much more to build.
What trends are represented in BHLDN Blue Label?
Color, print, casual fabrics made fancy, the return of the empire waist, modern prairie volume, puff sleeves, on/off-shoulder sleeves, tiers.
What is your favorite gown from BHLDN Blue Label?
The Marina Gown. She’s the mothership of Regency-gone-modern with bold novelty cutwork for that extra something. I had this shape in my mind for a long time. My first win came when I sourced an amazing cotton-silk taffeta that had the perfect dainty/dry slub texture . . . but it still felt like something was missing. One day it came to me: it needed that BHLDN novelty, which arrived in the form of children’s dresses from the Regency period. They had all this beautiful cutwork, so I traced off some antique motifs and blew them up to the maximalist scale of the silhouette, which changed everything.
What is your favorite accessory to pair with a wedding gown?
I go through phases with favorite accessories, but I love a good headpiece. Antique waxflower and metal crowns are a classic for me. It’s a way of having a bridal crown moment with a piece that feels extra special and magical and not cheesy in the slightest.
Are there any wedding dress design trends you hope make a comeback?
Though I love pushing fashion-forward, I’m a sucker for classic pieces. I absolutely love capes, cathedral length trains, and lately, I have really been into some 80s bridal details that many women have pushed to the backs of their closets. Case in point: I have a newfound love for the silhouette of Princess Diana’s wedding gown, which is something I could not have said even two years ago.
What kind of wedding dress did you wear on your special day?
I’m very hands-on in my design life, but my wedding dress was different. I found some insane Art Nouveau tablecloths at an antique fair, threw them on the form, draped them into a look, sketched the look, and sent it to my factory with six weeks to go. I don’t know what I was thinking, but it arrived four days before the wedding and fit perfectly! The gown was cotton-y gauze (my first foray into casual as fancy) with antique brass and ivory cutwork. Our wedding was Art Nouveau-inspired, so that brass detailing became a thread line with my gown as the anchor.
What advice would you give brides who are currently looking for their dream wedding dress?
Don’t think about your dress in a vacuum; think about the “story” of your wedding and build into it with your dress as the most aspirational portion. Always ask yourself “is this cohesive with my wedding concept?” Build a vision, an experience, not just a “bridal look.”
"Build a vision, an experience, not just a 'bridal look.'"
What changes would you like to see in the wedding fashion industry?
Less fear, more freedom. More accessibility with timelines. More customization opportunities. I think the wedding industry is a sector of fashion that’s poised for huge growth. It’s a bit of an uncharted frontier beyond the expected.
About BHLDN Blue Label
BHLDN Blue Label captures the notion of what it means to be a “modern heirloom.” It’s all about that artisanal touch, highlighting techniques like fabric manipulation, embroidery, and patterning that set the pieces apart from mass-produced commodities. The gowns include various artisanal takes on trends including wallpaper motifs, applique florals, print, and color. These are key to non-traditional bridal gowns, and you’ll see more of them as BHLDN continues to develop this point of view.
The team was captivated by Bridgerton, so we dug into fashion history from the Regency period for BHLDN Blue Label, particularly how casual fabrics like lawn cotton and organdies were made to look so luxurious. We wanted to put those fabrications through the filter of luxe techniques for a high/low mix.
BHLDN Blue Label offers a range of fairly classic shapes paired with fabrications that make them unique and interesting, yet still totally wearable. There are some riffs on architectural pleating and fashion-forward silhouettes, but it’s really all about color, technique, fabric manipulation, and the fabrics themselves. You’ll discover faille, taffeta, chiffon, organdy, cotton voile, organza, and a range of tulle qualities that go beyond the expected bridal tulle into more cotton gauze-y textures. There are, of course, variations on ivory, but this collection also plays with prints, blushes, and tea shades for the bride who wants that “golden” moment.
Sketches by Maria Korovilas, courtesy of BHLDN
View the full feature in Volume 1 of The Aisle magazine