How could we not fall for a designer whose particular penchants include girls with gap-toothed grins, the way women dressed at horse races in 1926, and white? (Which, she insists, is anything but a non-color.)
For Delphine Manivet, finding the wedding gown as an object to devote her creativity seems the result of three things: a sense of fantasy she's held onto fiercely since childhood, a respect for her instinct above all, and fate. In her early twenties Delphine left coursework in economics and moved to Paris to pursue her persisting dream of becoming a fashion designer. She soon found herself working at Rochas, and as it happened, beginning a search for her own wedding dress. When she couldn't find anything that seemed right, she decided to design her own.
The symbolism of the wedding gown itself, eighteenth century portraits, Brigitte Bardot, and Madeleine Vionnet are inspirations among many which Delphine brings to the table when beginning a new collection. And whether it's a painting that broke boundaries or another luminary designer (a predecessor you might say) whose respect for women was inarguably reflected in her silhouettes, it's clear that the individual girl is what Delphine finds inspiring, and thus the focus of her work. Her challenge, she notes, is finding what is self-evident in every one of her clients and then reminding them of it. Precision of cut, lightness in draping, a luxurious fabric, and simplicity, she believes, are the best ways of revealing a woman's unique femininity.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
When I began designing wedding gowns, my only goal was to create dresses that myself and my friends would want to wear. To me, a wedding gown should have sense of airiness, authenticity, and a streamlined silhouette. I also enjoy marrying modern with vintage, like the way an old, yellowed lace looks next to bright white cotton. Each collection is a search to find a nice balance between dream and simplicity.
Can you speak a bit about your design process?
Every day is an opportunity to gather inspiration. Of course I look to fashion past—the fine stitchwork on Marie-Antoinette's dresses, the ingenuity of Jeanne Lanvin—but it's also very much about the women of today, observing them and striving to understand what makes them feel beautiful. If I have an idea for a dress, I document whatever I can about it and then let it rest. As I do this I create a collection from which I can pull, add to, and adjust at any time. It's only when I feel a design is complete—when all of the elements such as textiles, lines, and details are there—that I decide to sketch it. I'll make as many sketches as necessary until it matches what I imagined.
What role does the city of Paris play in your designs?
Paris is mostly a "know-how" reference in terms of fashion; it's the encyclopedia of couture.
How would you describe the 'je ne sais quoi' so famously attributed to Parisian women?
This goes beyond the "very chic under any circumstance" quality. It's interesting to note that Parisian women are those in Europe who work the most while having children. They are women and mothers at the same time and need to stay feminine and elegant in all circumstances.
Share with us a best-kept Parisian secret?
Cheesecake at the Café Costes in the Village Royal just next to our showroom, rue Boissy d'Anglas in the 8th arrondissement. It's a true culinary art.
Your favorite places to look for vintage finds?
I've loved rummaging through flea markets, charity sale boxes, etc. since my mother took me as a child, and I've never lost this need to look for pieces so full of history. Today, I'm addicted to the French auction house Drouot for the older pieces; and for vintage pieces, I love the store Chez Paulette, rue Bichat in the 10th arrondissement.
What are your favorite fabrics to work with?
Calais lace, mousselines, pleated silk, and embroideries are all part of my world. I have a profound admiration for the work the centuries-old mills, with whom I partner with, carry out. It's fuelled my passion for beautiful fabrics. I feel as if I've inherited a fragile, disappearing art.
Could you tell us a bit about the lace used in the Appolinaire Blouse?
It's based on an 18th century motif, made exclusively for my brand.
What inspired you when designing the Swan and Mickael Gowns?
What the Swan and Mickael have in common is "suivez-moi jeune homme" which means: follow me young man. On dresses worn by women in the 19th century, there were sometimes two panels of lace left floating at the back of the dress to entice the men to follow. The expression, and these two gowns, was inspired by this forgotten detail.
How do you decide on the names of your dresses?
I give each dress a man's name. For me, it's a way to pay tribute to the man who is never included in the process of choosing or making the dress, but counts in the choice for sure.
If you could dress anyone who would you love to see in one of your gowns?
Without a doubt Vanessa Paradis. Not only is she a childlike woman (which I love) but she has a particular kind of beauty and a lot of personality. She has created a style that is personal, unique, timeless, and now a reference.
How would you describe your everyday style?
Being a working mother, I need to be ready in ten minutes. I'd rather spend more time sleeping than in front of a mirror—that's my beauty secret. So I make simple choices. This same secret extends to my designs: simplicity well-carried out.
You mention the design of your salon is considered down to the scent. What music are you playing?
Norman Cook's Remix of “Brimful Of Asha” and Petula Clark's “My Love”. I match every collection with a playlist that's then heard in the store.
What does 2012 hold for Delphine Manivet?
To make many more young women happy on this important day, and to continue to expand my little fashion house.
Photography courtesy of Elizabeth Messina, Cecile Burban & Thomas Vollaire.
Nuptials of Yesteryear
While browsing a shop in Belgium, we stumbled upon a shoebox with the word “Mariées” hand scribbled onto the side…
We couldn’t believe our eyes; we’d found a treasure trove of the most beautiful wedding portraits and photographs. We probably spent two hours crouched in the back of this tiny, hole-in-the-wall place, poring over them and deciding which ones were coming home with us. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
My Mother's Wedding Dress
If you don't already know the story by heart, ask again. It's likely one of the best. In honor of Mother's Day, us girls at the home office unearthed photo albums from the depths of our closets, laptops, and moms' closets and thought again of our parents' wedding day and our own beautiful moms as brides. If ever a lady existed with pitch-perfect wedding day style, it'd be her. Wishing lots of love to our moms and a happy Mother's Day to moms everywhere! xo
3 Days in Paris
There is something about Paris. You land, you wander and then you leave, feeling that much more chic, as if through osmosis. Fashion week this year was no exception. Having quietly murmured “c'est magnifique!” to ourselves until out of breath, we spent a few more days visiting favorite designers, markets, and taking in all things fresh and French.
IN OUR POCKET: A travel map of Paris, English-French dictionary, euros, a notebook with addresses
LISTENING TO: Francoise Hardy “Comment te Dire Adieu”
FIRST STOP: LES NÉRÉIDES,
5, rue du Bourg l'Abbé
Named after the sea nymph daughters of Nereus (Greek mythology for The Old Man of the Sea), Les Néréides is a wonderfully whimsical family of jewelry designers based on the Cote d'Azur. Collectors first and foremost, husband and wife founders Pascale and Enzo use treasures snapped up in Indian markets, New York garage sales, and vendors in Waterloo, Clignancourt, Vanves, and Thailand as their main source of inspiration. Since their first boutique opened in 1980, Les Néréides continues to offer entirely handmade and perfect compositions of nature and novelty.
NEXT STOP: MADEMOISELLE SLASSI, 175 Avenue Jean Jaurès
A recent find for us, Mlle. Slassi has become our go-to for edgy yet elegant hats in vibrant colors.
CLUB SAUMON: At La Belle Ferronniere
IN THE AIR: Brigitte “Monsieur je t'aime”
FIRST STOP: DELPHINE MANIVET, 93, rue du faubourg St Honoré
Her dresses hooked us, their beauty both simple and brave. And then we began learning more about Delphine Manivet, her creative process, and the close partnerships she’s formed with centuries-old lace and embroidery makers. That did it; we were in love.
The quality and history of a fabric is central to Delphine’s design perspective, as is keeping art forms which have played such an important role in French heritage alive. Delphine believes that beauty is simplicity. Her ideal dress is one that appears simple from afar, but rich in details up close. For these details she turns to Jean-Philippe Méry, whose family has been hand-weaving silk thread for generations and is one of the largest names in lace. The lace produced in the family’s Caudry facilities is unique in that its production process has remained non-automated since the company’s beginnings. Every stitch and knot is still overseen by a human eye and is finished by hand.
Likewise for the delicate embroideries and Edelweiss guipure she prefers, she turns to Villers d’Outréaux, whose mills use ancestral embroidery patterns as inspiration for the designs they bring to market today. Each of the patterns in this vast, cherished library is rendered the old fashioned way, by rubbing pumice stone over the punches onto tissue paper.
Delphine explains that her admiration for these graceful fabrics stems from a time when they marked the milestones in a person’s life, such as a wedding, baptism, or graduation. We love that idea that these elements in her dresses are deeply symbolic and chosen with great care. In fact, they’re anything but trim.
PICNIC ON THE SEINE: Crusty bread, butter (wrapped in parchment paper), radishes, salt, Camembert, white grapes, a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau, paper plates and cups, a knife, corkscrew
MORNING PICK-ME-UP: Café au lait and a pastry from Ladurée
FIRST STOP: CLIGNANCOURT, Av. de la Porte de Clignancourt, 18e
Collector of knickknacks, notions, new and vintage fashions: gather your comfiest shoes, your roomiest shopping bag, and be prepared to rise early.
Occupying block upon airy block of the city’s northern edge, most would argue Clignancourt is Paris’s premier flea market. These bustling booths, storefronts, and tables boast wares, high-end to low-end, and venders who’ve made their living here for over three generations.
OVERHEARD: Les boutons? (tug, pluck) vous concevez les boutons!
MARKET FINDS: For more information about our vintage assortment contact a BHLDN stylist at 1.888.642.4536.
LAST STOP: Charles de Gaulle
CAN’T GET OUT OF OUR HEAD: Carla Bruni ”Quelqu'un m'a dit”
Photography courtesy of Elizabeth Messina, Cecile Burban & Thomas Vollaire.
A Shop Less Ordinary
A year come and gone calls for twice the celebration: February 14th marks our first anniversary as a brand and the grand opening of our second store! Revolving antiqued brass doors will usher Chicagoans and visiting brides into a newly appointed two-story space on 8 E. Walton Street this Valentine’s Day—exactly one year after the debut of our online shop.
Chicago’s store, like our Houston location and BHLDN.com, greets brides, their friends and family, and anyone looking for that exquisite something they haven’t been able to find yet with an exceptionally personalized, out of the ordinary experience. Every detail and service is considered with the art of dressing-up in mind; the space brims with unexpected touches, custom fixtures, and an eclectic mix of vintage and modern design.
A one-of-a-kind travertine and walnut staircase takes you from our first floor dress shop, complete with large-scale wardrobe and reclaimed Parisian mirrors, toward the 12ft-high windows that line our second story facade. Natural light pours through these into the accessories salon which provides the 15ft-ceiling crescendo, and ample opportunity to experiment with different headpieces, jewels, and shoes. Chicago’s store also features wallpaper from local purveyor Maya Romanoff, a new, specially curated bridal accessories area, as well as an expanded apparel assortment.
All are welcome to stop in and browse our full bridal collection at any time, though we do recommend appointments scheduled through our concierge to guarantee personal consultation. Our bridal salon showcases gowns, less traditional options like our coordinating separates and tea-length looks, reception dresses, and accessories. Private bridal suites with dressing areas feature individual sound systems and iPod docks, so that a bride may host her friends and family to the tune of her own playlist, whilst sipping Prosecco and nibbling on macarons. Once selected, speedy delivery ensures her chosen gown arrives to her home, work address, or to a follow-up appointment at BHLDN in just a matter of days.
Our store stylists and specialists are available to offer guidance on everything from bridal gowns and attendant dresses to party-going and party-throwing looks to an overall theme for your event. Décor items are displayed with a work table in reach, so that you can pull and pair from stocked cubbies with the help of your own planner or a BHLDN décor specialist. Mobile point of sale devices allow service associates to complete purchases chatting comfortably with customers on a settee, while laptops enable shoppers to explore our complete online shop, including a gallery of moodboards designed to inspire.
We can’t tell you how happy we are to call Chicago our new home! Hope to see you soon!