Demystifying the couture bridal gown consultation: An in-depth interview with Kosibah Couture bridal gown designer, Yemi Osunkoya.
Doing this interview was a special project that I had on my to do list for several months. My goal in writing this blog post is to educate and inform intended brides about what an actual couture bridal consultation is like. I am super excited and have been for the past few months and couldn’t wait to share this piece with you. It’s an interview with a person we at Olivia Dream Weddings and Events and many others in the wedding industry call a Master Bridal gown designer, the one and only Yemi Osunkoya of Kosibah Couture Bridal and Evening Wear. As I said his name out loud, in my head I could hear an imaginary thunderous uproar of praise and applause knowing who this incredibly talented and accomplished man is, and what he has contributed to the wedding industry.
I met Yemi at a MunaLuchi Bridal meet up in Brooklyn, NY earlier this year. We had several exchanges online before then. He is a soft spoken, gentle soul who makes a loud noise in the fashion design industry. Owner and designer of his bridal gown and evening wear line lovingly named after his Mother, “Kosibah” Couture Bridal though spelt differently. Yemi has spent the last 27 years making women look and feel their best on one of the most important days of their lives. He was easy to talk to and is freely willing to share his story in this in-depth interview with us at Olivia Dream Weddings and Events.
Yemi started out knowing what he wanted to do in life at the very young age of 6, not many of us have that same story. I know for sure that barbie dolls and tea parties with friends were high on my list of daily activities as a young child. At this tender age his parents recognized his natural skill for drawing as he would draw profile portraits of brides, their wedding trains, the wedding party and other intimate details of the weddings he would attend in Nigeria as a child. His parents were very impressed with his skills and so encouraged him to be creative and express himself artistically, which as he grew older, resulted in him eventually moving to England to study fashion. He learned not only the business of designing, but gained the necessary knowledge on how to run a business. Even though Yemi started out making clothing for both the male and female bodies, he quickly learned that his passion was for women’s wear; and because of his precision and eye for detail he was drawn to creating timeless couture gowns that women could feel on top of the world wearing.
And so this brings us to the part of the interview I believe will benefit all readers and empower them to make well informed decisions when it comes to choosing a gown designer for that one of a kind bespoke bridal gown of their dreams.
Q. What can clients expect when they come to a consultation with you?
A. “When I first meet with a client I ask numerous questions one of which is, what will you like in a dress? If they know what they want that’s fine, if they don’t know what they want that’s fine too. My goal here is to understand where we are once the consultation begins. I look at their figure, I don’t deal with dress sizes because I take 26 very precise measurements of my clients.” Yes he said 26. That speaks to his attention to detail on creating these one of a kind gowns. “I then look at my client to determine what I can do with the figure in front of me to accentuate, flatter and enhance. Regardless of weight and height etc. everyone has some feature on their body that can be accentuated, flattered and enhanced when they choose the right designer.” I don’t know about you, but those three words makes my heart leap and are key when I’m looking for a dress or gown for a special event. He went on to say, “I then ask them to provide the location, style and size of their wedding. It helps to know if they are getting married in a church, a hotel, outdoors or in a stately home so I can create a dress that fits perfectly to that event and meet any traditional or religious norms that might affect the design. Then we discuss the silhouette of the dress and I move on from there to share photos of my prior work. This is so that they can see my body of work and the fact that I have worked with countless happy and satisfied brides with varying body types and sizes.” Yemi takes the time to dress most of his brides on their wedding day. He builds such a relationship with them that it’s a natural transition that he be there to dress them on their special day.
Yemi then mentions something that I believe a lot of brides to be will get excited about. He said and I quote “ Nobody wearing a Kosibah dress needs to wear a bra”. Now that’s reason to shout right there! He assures his brides that all the support and construction needed is created within the dress. So no more cries of freedom necessary when wearing a Kosibah gown ladies. “ Once the silhouette is decided upon then the work of sketching three – four designs at most begins.” Using his corsetry skills he has the ability to take 3 – 4 inches off of your waist and with his drawing skills he helps to give brides a visual image of the gown being created and allows her to see with utmost precision every detail of the dress; because no detail is left to the imagination. “Afterall”, he continues, if you’re going to have something bespoke you might as well have everything that ticks all of the boxes and that is perfect so that you’re not settling for anything.” Once your style is chosen, the really fun part of choosing your fabric follows and then he provides a price to his client. The price difference from one gown to the other isn’t solely based on your fabric choice, but on the amount of labor and details that goes into creating a one of a kind piece. Muslin fabric is used to create a prototype/mock version of the dress so that the client can try it out, this helps to identify any fitting issues which can only be seen once the client has on the mock dress. This is when Yemi pins, draws, adjusts and sculpts the (toile)pattern directly on the body to eliminate any fitting issues first found. Because the goal of the designer is to achieve a near perfect fit as possible, a second twirl pattern is done with all the adjustments so that the bride can see for herself exactly what her finished product would look like right before cutting the pattern out of the fabric that she has chosen for her big day. Then the work of creating this masterpiece of a design begins. The crafting begins with lots of hand sewing and hand finishing in getting your gown ready, but rest assured, because of all the prior detailed work done beforehand, once it’s completed, 9 times out of 10 the dress fits perfectly. However, in the event there are any issues that may arise it can be taken care of if given enough time to make the proper adjustments. That leads us right into the next question.
Q. How much advance time should a bride to be give herself before contacting you?
A. “I normally prefer 6 – 9 months lead time. I work with numerous brides at any one time but I always make each bride feel that I am catering exclusively to her; and in order for me to make that happen I have to build in the time. I still like to know when my end date is, and then I finish close to the end date but I can assure you I have done this for 27 years and the dress always gets ready on time.”
Q. Do you allow family or friends of the bride-to-be to attend the consultations with her?
A. First of all I don’t have a store it’s more of an atelier because it’s almost old school couture. I’m only dealing with one client at a time. If the client wants the experience of going to try things on I would suggest going to a bridal boutique or one of the big bridal stores to have that experience. When you are coming to me, from my experience maybe two maximum three people that are very close to you, your Mom, sister or a friend you really trust. I certainly encourage my brides to come with someone to get another eye or perspective.
Q. How will you describe your design style?
A. My design style is classic but with a nod to modernity i.e. very clean lines. I prefer the design to come in terms of making the fabric choice or the very clever use of pattern manipulation as oppose to lots and lots of flounces. My preference is clean lines especially if I’m trying to bring out the figure of a client.
Q. What is your ideal client like?
“My ideal client is someone who has decided that she wants something different. When you go to a bridal shop no matter how expensive a dress you try on there are going to be lots of other dresses like that. When you come to me you know that with the combination of the design and fabric choice alone the chance of there being another dress like that is almost impossible. Like I said my ideal client is someone who wants something different, but not an over the top hyper elaborate design. Having said that, because I am designing for the client in front of me I have a design esthetic which I try to stay true to and I always try to give a client what they want. However, with my expertise if I know a client has chosen a design that will not fit or flatter her I will tell her and find an alternative that in my opinion has a bit of the element of what she wants but what I think will suit her better. Thus when the two elements come together everyone is happy. At the end of the day I still have my design esthetic and my client still has her dream dress. ”
Q. Speaking of happy brides. What was one of the best compliments to date that you’ve received from one of your happy brides?
A.“I’ve had a bride that like most people had some experiences that then caused them to react in a way that made their body change.” In other words he was describing a client who was an emotional eater. He went on to say “that they were extremely conscious of the weight they had gained, but they met someone who fell in love with them as they were. I created the dress for this bride that was very conscious of her weight but I kept telling her, your fiancé met you and fell in love with you just as you are, but at the same time I understand that you want to look great. So I created this dress for her with great sensitivity and for me that was good because I was able to show my craft off more with a slighter larger bride. So I created this dress for this bride and when she put it on she burst into tears and said I cannot believe what you have done, thank you, thank you, thank you.” I’m sure that Yemi felt the raw emotion from this grateful bride who couldn’t believe that he was able to make her look and feel so incredible even with all her hang ups about her new body.
Q. After doing this for 27 years does receiving all the accolades, awards and recognition ever get boring?
A. “Believe me when I tell you this, no. That’s why I wake up every morning and I’m so grateful to God that I am doing something that I absolutely love and adore and the fact that I get paid for it is an extra bonus. I go to my clients weddings and I’m still as excited to get them all dressed and see the reaction of people as they walk down the aisle. Even when they come for their final fitting I still get a bit nervous because I want them to like it. And that’s because I care and absolutely love doing this and I actually pray that it never does get tiring or old.”