What a wonderful treat I have for you today. Finishing off Romance Week I've made it a point to save the best for last: an interview with Australian bridal designer, Clarissa Grace. In my good opinion, she’s one of the top five custom designers in the world today. I'd even add she's got a special niche catering to brides with romantic tastes. She has an extraordinary love of creating costume, so evident in her work. It’s a pleasure to have this interview . . . . thanks Clarissa!

How many years have you been in business?I have been designing and been in business for just over 10 years.
Describe your background in design?I studied Fashion Design at the Sydney Institute of Technology East Sydney. I completed my diploma here, and then went on to study costume design part time for another 2 years.
Did you take any specialized training?At the Paris American Academy, most of the training was in Couture and couture techniques, and then the history of couture. The French draping techniques are amazing, that was invaluable training I will never forget, it was wonderful to learn as we are taught very differently here in Australia.
How and when did you get involved bridal design?When I first studied fashion, I started with my hopes on eventually working in theatre and costume design. I actually never considered becoming a bridal gown designer. But after working as an assistant designer in a couple of companies, a girlfriend of mine asked me to design her wedding gown. It was such a precious experience, I loved every moment of it! And the response I received after creating her gown was amazing, and that is basically where it all started.
What is it you love most about doing wedding gowns?It is amazing to be involved in the process of helping girls realise their dreams of a beautiful gown, on a special day and to know that you are a part of one of the most significant days in their lives. Making a gown is a wonderful journey and I hope that it represents the beginning of their journey as a married couple. I don't forget the groom either!! It is lovely to imagine how he will feel when he sees his Bride looking so gorgeous.
Describe the method in which you work with your custom clients?First the bride comes to meet with us for her first consultation. At this stage we chat with the bride and try to get a really good picture as to how she imagines her wedding day as a whole, and the mood she is hoping to create. We then chat about the gown more specifically. Usually we try on a few different styles from our collection. Sometimes she also brings in inspiration pages to show us where she may really like particular elements of other gowns. Usually after all of this we either come up with a new design for her, or slightly adapt a design from our existing collection. We do a final sketch for her so she can see the gown on paper with all our changes and ideas. Usually she will then go home and think over all that we have discussed and come in for a second consultation to confirm all the final details. It’s an extremely exciting time for her (and we love it too!)!
What sort of historical references inspire you most?I love the femininity of women’s costume. Though usually the gowns were completely painful to wear and horribly impractical, I love that they suffered for such beauty and grace!
What are the attributes of French couture design and construction that makes a dress more desirable for your customers?I guess the old couture techniques of the French are not often used in the construction of wedding gowns anymore, mass production has taken over. So what we do with the construction and detailing and hand finishing of our gowns is what sets us apart from other designers. It is all in the special details and intricacies that make each gown so special. Like each one has its own story to tell.
Is there any advise you'd give to brides who are looking toward working with a custom designer?Just to be prepared that it is a longer and more time consuming process than buying Ready-to-Wear. You need to always be very honest and communicate as well as you can to your designer so that you are both confident that you are always on the same page, and working towards the same vision. Pictures help a lot with initial consultations, so it’s always great when a bride has a little inspiration folder with her, that always helps the designer to get a really clear image of what she wants.
PS Let us know geographically where you are in Australia . . . like what you're close to.We are located in Caringbah, Sydney, not far from Cronulla and about 20 minutes south from Sydney Airport.

You can see more of Clarissa's work at Clarissa Grace