Whites all right for most wedding gown designers, but Sara Hooser of Overland Park dares to design differently.
By JACKIE HOERMANN
The Kansas City Star
Hooser, 26, is sketching and stitching her way into bridal couture with alternative options such as yellow gowns, black bodices and cocktail dresses. The first collection from her Ila Bean label debuted in March at Altar Bridal in Waldo, where Hooser works as a full-time manager.
What makes a bride alternative?
A girl who wants to stand out a little bit. In a sense, she wants to incorporate something different or unique. My dresses are classic shapes with a twist. They have a lot of personality, and theyre playful.
What inspires your designs?
I look at high-fashion runway designs, textures, bouquets, fabrics, architectural designs and shapes. Im also inspired by the shape of the girl Im designing for and what will flatter her.
So brides can come to you for custom looks?
Yes. Brides and bridesmaids can tell me their ideas, and Ill sketch them out. Once, I made seven one-of-a-kind bridesmaids dresses, and it ended up looking more cohesive than I imagined. They had one-shoulder dresses, spaghetti-strap styles, tapering and pleats, but it worked because the dresses fit their bodies so well.
Do you create gowns for a lot of friends?
Yes. Last year, I made one of my best friends wedding dress and all four of her bridesmaids dresses. I also made a dress for one of my friends from college. Hers was pink with ivory lace. Having so many friends weddings has given me opportunities to work on different designs.
How does it feel watching your creations float down the aisle?
Its touching and a little emotional, especially for my best friends wedding. You spend so much time making them perfect.
Im sure it takes longer than we realize.
It does. Theres about a 12-week turn-around time for each dress. Pattern-making and draping take a long time, but for me, all the details at the end take the longest. Im a perfectionist.
How did you get interested in fashion?
My mom. She sewed a lot of my prom and homecoming dresses, and we would work on different dresses together. She fueled my passion for design.
Why did you name your label Ila Bean?
Ila is actually the name of my great-grandmother, and Bean is a nickname my sister gave me. I think its quirky and fits my dresses personalities.
How do you name the gowns, such as Sadie, Penelope and Molly?
All my dresses are named after girls in Beatles songs, the lesser-known ones. Ill probably mix it up in the future. I have three sisters, and they wanted me to name the dresses after them, so maybe Ill do that for the next collection.
Are you married?
Thats a question a lot of brides ask me (laughs). I have a boyfriend.
How do you approach designing or talking to brides about wedding gowns if youve never spent a whole day in one?
I think it helps that I havent been married. I dont have my wedding dress in mind to compare theirs to. Im open-minded and supportive of whatever the bride wants.
Does the boyfriend find your proximity to the wedding industry intimidating?
No, no. Hes supportive and really sweet. He even bought me two sewing machines for my birthday last year and said, Ive given you what you need to get going you can take it from here.
Do you watch Say Yes to the Dress or any bridezilla shows?
Shows like that kind of stress me out. I watch them sometimes, but theres so much added drama, and that never happens here. But movies like The Wedding Planner or My Best Friends Wedding never get old to me.
Whats your forecast for gown trends this fall?
Youll still see so much texture, like ruffles, flowers and tiers. Also, expect some interesting, nontraditional lace patterns that were big before the royal wedding but have been amplified by it. For color, pink will be really popular, and Im seeing light café or latte colors in gowns, sashes and cummerbunds.
Where can brides buy your designs?
SAVE THE DATE
When: Friday and Saturday
Where: Altar Bridal, 332 W. 75th St., 816-926-0555, altarbridal.com
What: Meet Sara and Altar Bridal consultants at the Heidi Elnora trunk show. Elnora, a former Project Runway contestant, will preview her upcoming collection, and the store will offer discounts.