Alisa Benay believes in the timelessness of a wedding gown. Lots of lace. Traditional silhouettes. Touches of vintage. The Colorado Springs wedding dress designer has spent the last couple of years creating collections that are classic but fresh and timeless in their simple beauty.
“I don’t feel that I have to incorporate something just because it’s trending,” Benay said. “The designs are more specific to how I design and not of the trends of the year. That’s how it is timeless. We never discontinue a style. It’s always going to be here. …Ten years from now if (a bride to be) sees something from the current collection, we can go back and make it.”
Scanning through images of her gowns, it’s not difficult to imagine brides would clamor for her designs even decades later—although, Benay is still very much the new kid on the block.
After getting her BA in fashion and working as a pattern-maker, Benay started designing wedding dresses for friends, and then friends of friends. Eventually, she dedicated herself entirely to the bridal industry.
“I love my brides but sometimes I would think, ‘I wish I could do different designs than what they were doing.’ And I would keep coming back to thinking, ‘If I had my own line…,’” Benay said. “One of my friends in the industry, said, ‘Why don’t you just do it?’”
In 2007, she developed a business plan and started on her collection. Her dresses are now in a handful of stores around the country. She’s shown collections in New York the past two years, and has increasingly received press from national bridal publications. Benay will soon launch a new online boutique, where she will sell directly to brides. Not bad for a woman who calls Colorado home.
Colorado Brides: What inspires your designs?
Alisa Benay: I always keep an inspiration board going, and it’s all eclectic. I do a lot of sourcing first. I find the lace, the ribbon, the rhinestones, and then I start draping. I come at it backward, actually. I might have an idea, a basic idea, going into it, but I just start draping, laying and pinning.
CB: What do Colorado brides want in a dress?
AB: They like the clean silhouettes. It’s mountain living, you know. They like something that is simple, elegant and very clean lines. They like dresses that are very figure flattering.
…They want a dress that shows off their figure—not huge, puffy gowns—but more of the mermaid, trumpet or sheath gown. The girls who are having outdoor weddings, they have to make sure the gown matches the terrain. That’s something they take into mind. We do find that sheath and trumpet gowns do well if you are on a mountaintop. Really, less is more.
CB: What makes your designs unique?
AB: I think our aesthetic speaks for itself. There’s a hint of vintage. It’s pretty dramatic. I was a pattern maker, so we really focus on our fit, how it fits the body. And then behind the scenes, it’s all about customer service. The bride comes in and says, “I want to change this or that.” I’m able to do that because we manufacture in-house. With my pattern making background, I can visualize exactly what they are saying. They can tell us, “This is what I like and here’s my budget,” and we can work backward.
CB: What do you like the bride to know when she starts her gown search?
AB: I like a bride to have self awareness—knowing what they like to wear. Like a bride with a full bust—you can have one woman who is comfortable with it and the other doesn’t want to show it off. Ask yourself, do I care about my bust line? Do I care about how low it is? And then when we start from the beginning: What do you wear every day? What are you comfortable in? Your wedding dress is a glorified version of yourself. You want it to be a reflection of who you are.”
CB: Talk about your “green” efforts.
AB: We are a lean manufacturer. We manufacturer in-house. It’s the best way for us to reduce our carbon footprint. We only manufacture the gowns on order. There are no extra gowns being made; except sometimes we have samples for shows. And then we do little things. The tubes that fabrics come on, we donate them to a local bird sanctuary because the birds like to play with them. We look at everything we can do to reduce waste. We even give scraps of fabrics to local crafters.
CB: What does the future hold for Alisa Benay?
AB: I have two collections right now, and those will be merging into one collection with a build-your-own-dress feature. Right now, you have to go through me and I have to sketch it out. But in the future, the bride can go on our site and work through the process herself. She can build her own dress. Another project is really a whole new ball game all together: Basically, it’s knitting for the bride. It’s little projects for brides who hand knit. It’s accessories or even gifts for brides.