CIARLAbride is the brain child of designer Jessica Ciarla, which came to fruition after she created five couture bridesmaid dresses for a friend’s wedding. She spent a year fine-tuning her collection, inspired by her time spent in Florence, Italy, where she received her Masters in advanced fashion design at Polimoda International Institute of Design and Marketing.
Ciarla created her unique collection of bridesmaid dresses to last longer than the affair. The concept is to incorporate the bridal party color palette and allow each bridesmaid to choose silhouettes that flatter their figure, resulting in a gorgeous sweep of the bride’s chosen scheme, and bridesmaids who are delighted to wear the dresses after the wedding.
CIARLAbride collections are created with a high-fashion vision, where a mood board is developed, swatches in prints and unique fabrics are chosen, and a visionary collection is created to transform a poetic dream into reality.
Ciarla has immersed herself in every aspect of fashion – from styling to magazine editorial, and even a stint in fashion public relations. It is this commitment to her craft that makes her a stand out in her industry, and she is often asked to consult for some of today’s most prestigious fashion labels. Her skills are so sought after that her clients ask her to sign confidentiality agreements so their competitors won’t get wind of her – she is their secret weapon.
Q: Describe your style as a designer?
A: I really appreciate past collections from Parisian couture houses back in the 1950’s, as designers were able to connect with clients one on one, and really take the time to create well-made, beautiful garments. Tailoring, manipulating proportions, and textures all inspire me to create looks that have a vintage feel with a modernized design. My designs are playful and fun, and make a woman feel good when she’s in them. I line everything in silk, because I feel it’s important to love the way the clothes feel against your skin. When I design, I consider the whole look of the garment. Where the woman is going to wear it, how she’ll wear her hair, what shoes would look fabulous with the dress.
Q: You said you worked as a designer for several years and had a collection of high-end cocktail dresses back in 2003 called CIARLA collections. What made you want to go into bridal?
A: I discovered a market for fashion-forward brides who didn’t want the typical A-line, satin white dress that the stores were feeding to them. Talented designers like Vera Wang, Monique Lhuillier, and Amsale have really opened the doors for bridal fashion, giving women who wanted a designer look a great selection to choose from. I decided to stick with what I know best, and offer my party dresses in white, and as bridesmaid gowns, because that was what my clientele was asking for. I design cute cocktail dresses that the clients can get in a variety of colors, lengths, and for a lower price point than my designer collections. They really do have the option to wear the dress over again, since it doesn’t look like something that was made to be worn at a wedding.
Q: Since you specialize in little white dresses for the bride, bridesmaid dresses, and cocktail dresses, have you or would you ever custom make a gown for a clients?
A: Yes! I love to custom design gowns or for brides who are looking for something different. I won’t create a white, strapless dress for someone that they can just buy off the rack, but if there is a bride who is interested in doing something creative, then I love to be involved. Last November I designed a “Cha Cha Gown” for Ashley, a bride who got married in Mexico. She wanted a yellow gown, and wasn’t afraid to go bright. I designed an asymmetrical flower neckline with a body-hugging cut bodice trimmed with 3 layers of silk chiffon. The combination of pale yellow and neon with her blonde hair and tan really popped, and she looked amazing on the beach.
Q: You spent time in Italy getting your Masters in Fashion Design in 2008. What made you want to leave NYC and go back to school?
A: I had been working in New York for the past 8 years in all aspects of the fashion industry including design, production, sales, and public relations, and felt like I needed to get a different perspective. In New York, you can get wrapped up in the workload and lose time for creativity. The Europeans have a completely different outlook on fashion. It’s not about the sell-through of each item – it’s about the artistic statement and social movement of the collection. I thought it would be a great time to start a new collection with this kind of outlook. Linda Loppa (who founded the Antwerp six, including Dries Van Noten, Martin Margella, and many others) was our Dean, and she critiqued every process of our collection. It was amazing to design a line without thinking about how I was going to sell it!
Q: You started you CIARLAbride with one collection called “the Classic” in 2009. How has it grown since then?
A: In October of 2009, we launched all 3 collections at the Chicago Bridal market including the Alice – a little white dress collection for brides, the Bella – a collection of bridesmaid dresses and gowns for bridesmaids, and The Classic – which is bridesmaid dress collection with print fabric options. The response has been amazing both from press and buyers. We started off selling to local brides in our Austin showroom, but can now be found in Bella Bridesmaid Boutiques in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Los Gatos, along with Anna Be in Denver, and Miss Ruby in Milwaukee. We are hoping to be in every major city by next year.
Q: Do you see yourself becoming a big fashion house, or do you want to keep your company small and under the radar?
A: That’s a great question. Part of me is torn over where I see CIARLA heading into production as a designer and as the head of a company. I do want to keep my line exclusive to boutiques, or possibly high-end department stores. I want my collections to remain unique, and don’t want to over-saturate the market. We make everything in our Atelier in Austin, and use local seamstresses to create samples and production. I think it’s really important to keep the quality level high and to use local resources. I’m a fan of that the old couture houses, and want to keep that type of work environment alive for as long as I can. think it allows for more artistic freedom, and provides creative rewards to both myself and my clients.
Q: What is your most popular dress style?
A: I’ve noticed each collection speaks to a different type of girl, which is exactly what I was hoping for. Our classic collection is perfect for a bride who wants a more traditional bridesmaid dress look with just a little variety. Our Bella collection has been a hit with fashion forward brides who like to mix up colors and necklines, and it can be worn as a short dress for an outdoor wedding, or long gown for a very formal evening affair. The little white dress collection has been very successful, but the Tear Drop bride has been our top seller of all three lines. The hand-cut petals add a modern twist that the brides just love for their engagement or reception party dress. I get multiple orders for this particular style on a weekly basis!
Q: What’s on your list for 2010?
A: We have so many projects going on. I’m really excited. We’re working on a vintage-inspired hairpiece collection that will offer brides an option that’s different from the traditional veil usually worn with a gown. For Spring 2011, we are planning 3 new collections, including a bridesmaid line, and a little white dress collection and cocktail dress collection. These 3 collections will be launched at the New York show in October 2010, and I can’t wait to see how people will respond to them.