One of the highlights of any wedding is what the wedding attire will look like, especially what the bride will be wearing. The big reveal comes when walking down the aisle, taking away everyone’s breath and wondering, “Who is the designer of that wedding gown?” There are many designers out there, but when thinking of top wedding dress designers, there are few people of color that are on the list, marking the lack of diversity in wedding day fashion. Zola is here to help you find other options when it comes to finding your dream dress.
Here are seven Black wedding designers that brides-to-be can put on their radar.
Andrea Pitter-Cambell created Pantora Bridal to address a lack of inclusion and diversity in the bridal industry. According to her website, Pitter-Cambell says, “Each bride deserves to shine, we are inclusive in our mission to deliver the type of product and service that have been traditionally lacking in the bridal industry.”
She also writes that she wanted to create a safe space for brides to feel the validity of their beauty while experiencing relatable luxury. Pantora designs are made for the glamorous bride that embraces edgier trends, but it also combines classic silhouettes and modern details in their wedding gowns. Pantora Bridal, based in Brooklyn, New York, also has a wedding gown collection that celebrates curvy voluptuous brides.
The dresses are customizable and the collection features gowns with various alternative neckline and skirt options. Pantora designs also have illusion details, but with a Black bride in mind, since mesh colors don’t always work on darker skin, so she offers a selection of illusion and meshes linings to fit Black brides.
Brides by Nona was established in 2014 after Nneka C. Alexander's own wedding gown shopping experience left her unimpressed by the selection of traditional bridal salons. She created Brides by Nona with a mission to give brides what they have never experienced, but will always cherish. On her website, she says, "Design is my passion. Brides today are more expressive and certainly a lot more outspoken than in previous years. I want to give them a platform to express themselves without inhibition through the design of their gowns. I will listen, design, and execute with utmost precision and true luxury!" T
he designer custom-makes dresses that have been seen on socialites and celebrities, including Cynthia Bailey of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”. Based in Atlanta, Brides by Nona offers a curated collection of ready-to-wear wedding dresses and formal wear, but the main focus is creating bespoke custom made pieces made with authentic Swarovski crystals that transcend trends and fads, they are timeless pieces full of intricate details with clean modern lines that will make any bride feel romantic. If you’re looking to create your dream dress, Nneka C. Alexander can help you bring your ideas to life.
Designer Jean-Ralph Thurin’s career spans twenty years. A graduate of Parsons School of Design, he specializes in custom wedding gowns and evening wear with an emphasis on pieces specifically for Black women. His vision is to give a bride what she desires for her wedding day, including making sure that her dress reflects who she is.
“Every bride is different, and I’ve learned to listen, really listen to every one of them,” says Jean-Ralph on his website. Recently he launched the HUExJRT Collection that has illusion and see-through details customized to perfectly match any skin tone. He also has a collection called ROUGE that is inspired by the 2018 film “Black Panther” that has bold colors accompanied by royal gold accents fit for a queen.
Nigerian born Esé Azénabor started out designing custom evening wear before expanding her line to include bridal options after a client requested a bespoke wedding dress. “The Esé woman is strong, she’s empowering, she’s a visionary, she travels the world and loves sparkle,” explains Azénabor in a video on her website.
She says that every piece is handcrafted, including the beading. The designer is known for hand beading with fine crystals, stones, and pearls, and hand embroidery on fine French lace and tulle, and then combining it with humor, hard tulle, and boning, which attributes to her attention to the arts and travel inspiration. Though mostly known for bespoke gowns, in 2020 Esé Azénabor launched a ready-to-wear line called Prêt Mariée By Esé Azénabor, for brides looking for off-the-rack options with a faster turnaround time.
Amsale Aberra was first launched in 1990 with groundbreaking designs, and her minimalist aesthetic impacted wedding dress trends. The Ethiopian-American designer passed away in April 2018, but The Amsale Fashion House is still carrying on her legacy under the direction of her husband CEO Neil Brown, the senior design team of Sarah Swann, and Margo Lafontaine, and her daughter Rachel Brown.
The Amsale Group is one of the world’s leading luxury bridal houses headquartered in New York City. Every design in the three collections has modern femininity but also can be modified to become a true reflection of the bride’s unique and personal style. The dresses are sophisticated and refined with something for every wedding style, including long or short dresses and chic jumpsuits. Amsale Aberra’s legacy lives on through her designs and words, “I believe that true style knows no place or time—more than an aesthetic, STYLE is a way of living.”
CUSHNIE is a luxury women’s ready-to-wear bridal brand designed by Carly Cushnie. Established in 2008, the label was founded to serve the modern woman. The designs are crafted with clean, sculptural lines and tailored to fit the female form.
“As a woman, I understand what my customer wants from her clothes. I’ve grown and evolved alongside her over the past 10 years, and I strive to present her with timeless silhouettes that make her feel sexy, sophisticated, and powerful—all at once,” says Cushnie on her website. CUSHNIE designs are ultra-modern, from expertly tailored jumpsuits to figure-flattering sheath dresses. Her sleek architectural styles have been worn by Former First Lady Michelle Obama, Beyonce, and Lupita Nyong’o, to name a few.
Laurie Underwood’s Chicago-based Laury Bride showcases her unique perspective on bridal style. Laurie Underwood appeared on season 14 of “Project Runway” drawing attention to her bold, structured gown designs. Laury Bride has modern styles with dramatic flair, from oversized ruffles to airy ball gowns.
Underwood mostly designs bespoke collections, but she just launched The Forever Collection this past fall. The collection features interchangeable bridal separates that brides can mix and match to create a perfect ceremony look and switch it up for a different vibe for the reception. You can buy anywhere from one to three pieces to create customizable wedding looks that are more affordable than two to three different wedding outfits.
No matter what type of wedding dress you want, or from which designer, Zola is here to help you with your wedding planning from start to finish. For more tips on how to get started on wedding planning, click here.