As much as a wedding dress should make a bride look beautiful, it should make her feel beautiful and confident. Scrolling through the looks on Loulette Bride’s website, you get a sense that this sentiment is threaded throughout the collection – these dresses are made to be worn by every type of woman. Behind the Brooklyn-based label is founder Marteal Mayer whose distinct vision and philosophy are evident at first glance. After years of working in fast fashion, Marteal knew everything she didn’t want her independent bridal line to be – exclusive, cookie-cutter, and wasteful. Marteal set out to make bridal wear that she could be proud of – custom pieces that connected deeply with customers on a myriad of levels. Inclusivity, sustainability, and craftsmanship have been the driving forces guiding the label from the very beginning. For Loulette Bride, designing with passion + purpose means not only making beautiful wedding attire, but also using recycled fabrics, donating a portion of sales to a new charity each season, planting a tree for every dress sold, supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and running a fashion mentorship program for students of color.
Marteal’s made-to-order wedding dresses, suits, and accessories are best described as fresh, effortlessly cool, easy-to-wear, and playful (just check out the statement Blondie Veil!) “I like creating gowns that don’t try so hard, and that let the bride and her personality speak,” she says. By stripping away the pomp and frills often associated with wedding fashion, Marteal creates dresses that once a woman slips on, we can’t take our eyes off her.
2022 has been an exciting (and busy!) year for anyone working in the wedding industry. Adding to the whirlwind, Marteal just welcomed a baby, so we were especially grateful for the chance to interview her for our Women Paving the Aisle blog series. Here, we talk about Marteal’s commitment to being a ‘responsible’ designer, her approach to designing modern bridal garments, the legendary rock icon she dreams about dressing, and how she stays creatively inspired.
We always like to start from the beginning. Looking back, when did you know that you wanted to be a bridal designer?
I didn’t really consider bridal until I was about 26, when I worked for an evening wear designer who launched a bridal line. After working on that bridal line, I saw that the bridal industry worked a bit differently than the rest of the fashion industry. From a sustainability standpoint, I loved that bridal was made to order, eliminating inventory and overproduction. I loved that bridal was a very thoughtful fashion choice for customers, and that each piece was made carefully and beautifully for such a special occasion. I also loved that for bridal wholesale, designers work with small, independently, and mostly women-owned businesses. After experiencing a bit of the bridal world, I could see there was a niche in the bridal industry that spoke to my values and design sense.
You started working out in the fast fashion sector and realized that there was a need for more purposefully designed bridal wear. What are the main values that form the foundation of Loulette Bride?
I kind of created Loulette Bride to be the antithesis of fast fashion. After working in fast fashion, and even the bridal brands I worked for, I saw that there was no regard for integrity of design, as our job was literally just to knock off other things we saw in the market. We were also constantly bargaining with our overseas factories to make everything as cheap as possible, which only comes at the expense of the environment and human labor costs. In starting Loulette, I created the brand to center around the values of integrity, responsibility, and inclusivity. With integrity, everything we do is unique and original to our brand, and we are fully transparent with our process. In terms of responsibility, we prioritize sustainability above all else, and donate to causes in our community that we care about and support our values. Inclusivity means not only welcoming all people to our space, but making sure all sizes, colors, and genders are represented in our branding, can wear our styles, and are supported through advocacy and donation.
Your collections stress inclusivity, sustainability, and craftmanship – extremely important issues in the fashion industry right now. Can you talk to us about your ethical and philosophical approach to bridal design?
To ensure inclusivity with our designs, I make sure everything we make works on every skin tone (a HUGE problem in bridal with the “nude” mesh and “nude” cups), and also can be made into any size and measurement needed. We also have our samples in a variety of sizes so all girls can try samples on. We can also customize anything into a pant and have genderless options. In terms of sustainability, there is A LOT we do, but essentially my approach is always to ask how we can make X more sustainable. With our packaging, materials, patterning, recycling, donations, everything – I am constantly asking questions and making improvements. As far as craftsmanship, we make everything in house, to order, and are very hands on with everything we do, ensuring quality from start to finish.
Launching an independent fashion label is a daunting thought. When did you know that it was the right time to turn your side passion project into a legitimate business and establish Loulette Bride? Did you encounter any challenges?
I started Loulette Bride while I was working full time for another brand, designing bridesmaids dresses. As opposed to fashion which requires large production runs and upfront starting costs, bridal offers an easier point of entry as far as creating your own brand. I figured all I needed was gown samples to get started, and then everything else is made when it’s ordered, so I didn’t need much startup funding. I was literally making and sewing first samples myself, after work and on weekends, to create my first collection. Right around the time I finished my first collection, my boss at the bridesmaids company said I could not work on both things because “they compete” (they did not at all), and I needed to remove my name from Loulette Bride. So, that was kind of the push I needed to give Loulette a shot. It wasn’t entirely on my own terms, but I am grateful for the push because I don’t know when I would have decided that I was ready.
Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently when you were first starting out?
Honestly, not really! I have made MANY mistakes, but thankfully none so huge that I regret now. It is impossible to know everything when you get started, and so much of creating a brand or starting a business is adjusting and learning along the way, and there really is no way around that.
How would you describe your aesthetic? Where do you draw inspiration for your designs? And what types of wedding dresses can people expect when they come to Loulette Bride?
My design sense is very approachable, comfortable, and effortless. I like creating gowns that don’t try so hard, and that let the bride and her personality speak. I really like beginning with the fabric, finding unique and interesting textures and laces to work with, and design from there. I also really listen to our brides, hear what they are asking for, and work those requests into our new collections.
You’ve done an amazing job to create a pleasant wedding dress shopping experience. What can people look forward to when they make an appointment to visit your studio?
Our priority is making all our brides and guests feel super comfortable, relaxed, and supported throughout their experience with us. We allow everyone to take a look at our dresses, try on whatever they want, and just “play dress up” and have fun, like it should be!
You also offer clients the option of custom design. Can you take us through the process of creating a one-of-a-kind wedding dress?
The best way to do custom with us is to book a Designer Appointment to work with me directly. It usually starts with trying on our existing styles to see what we’re liking, and from there we can customize colors, fabrics, and take elements from different styles to make exactly what we’re looking for.
There is a lot of pressure to find the ‘perfect dress.’ What advice do you have for those who are feeling stressed as they search for their wedding day look?
There are a million gorgeous dresses out there, you can look forever, and ‘perfect’ is completely subjective. Doing some online research and finding store or brands that share your values and vision is a great place to start.
From there, make a handful of appointments, and trust yourself. Bring a SELECT number of guests with you, and make sure they are guests that make you feel supported and understand your style and vision.
The wedding dress carries immense personal and symbolic meaning. How does it feel knowing that your dresses are going to be worn on one of the most important days in a person’s life?
Making people feel confident and gorgeous and understood is the best part of the job!
We love that you offer bridal intimates. Can you tell us a little about your sister-brand, Loulette Lingerie?
Loulette Lingerie is designed and made by my bff, Timmy! We went to college together, worked together in fashion, and dreamed up Loulette together while at our day jobs! I did bridal and she did lingerie, so we encouraged each other to create lines that complemented each other, and it was a way for both of us to be creative again. Timmy creates all the robes, warm layers, and lingerie pieces we sell at our studio.
Do you have a favorite celebrity bride of all time?
If you could design a wedding dress for one bride though out all of history, who would it be? What would the dress look like?
Janis Joplin. A fringe and tie dye masterpiece
How do you stay creatively inspired?
It’s hard to find the time, but getting out in nature, traveling, museums, and new experiences is how new ideas come to me. The constant stream of bridal Instagram, Pinterest, and fashion shows feels like it bogs down creativity, because it’s a recycling of all the same ideas.
We’ve seen enough reality fashion competition shows to know that designing and making clothes can be an intense, high-stress endeavor. What do you do to relax and decompress after a heavy work week?
Loulette is the opposite of that! Every one of my fashion jobs was high stress, intense, we worked late nights and weekends, and I hated it. The energy was so toxic, and one of the reasons I needed to find my own way. We do not apply that kind of pressure at Loulette at all. I have never been a last-minute person, and we work well ahead of our calendar! But I do enjoy a nice Old Fashioned at the end of a workday!
Can you take us through your perfect day off?
Sleeping in, breakfast at home, and then bopping around our neighborhood vintage shopping and bar hopping with my husband, daughter, and dog.
A big thank you to Marteal for participating in our Women Paving the Aisle interview series! For more information on Loulette Bride and to see more of Marteal’s gorgeous creations visit Loulette Bride and follow along at @loulettebride