What Would They Know? Wendy Makin

by | What Would They Know?, Wisdom


Polka Dot Bride

There’s designers in the Australian bridal industry that have been creating designs for such a long time that they’ve become a foundational part of the industry. To me, Wendy Makin is one of them- Wendy has been designing for 30 years and has produced some amazing, award winning gowns in that time. it’s such an honour to have Wendy join  us today on Polka Dot Wisdom to share a little about what makes her so successful!

Please tell me about yourself and your background?

This year represents 30 years in the Bridal Design industry for me. I started with a company, Dundee Fashions, who were arguably the first company to make Ready to Wear Bridal gowns in 1981 as a junior designer and by 1984 I was Head Designer and Patternmaker. In 1993 the Directors of Dundee retired and my husband Geoff and I bought the forward orders and some machinery and started Wendy Makin Bridal Designs.

What inspired you to get into the bridal design industry?

I was making cloths for my dolls at 6 so it was always my dream to be a fashion designer. The first company I applied for a job with was Dundee Fashions and they happened to be a Bridal Wear manufacturer. It was fate more than design and I’m so happy to have had that opportunity and couldn’t have wished for a better side of fashion to be in.

What sets you apart from other bridal designers?

I think my less is best design philosophy. I like to let the fabrics design the gown rather than try to make something what it doesn’t want to be. I also think that my production and patternmaking background have been a big help with the fit of the garment as well as the quality of workmanship that our team produce.

You’re often praised for your ability to provide an extraordinary fit for a bride, how difficult is it to flatter different figures?

It’s actually not that difficult. If you assess a brides figure shape and find the gown that flatters that shape then you’ll make a very happy bride. I always look for a gown that enhances a brides best features.

How do you choose the fabrics and laces used in your Couture collection? Quality, quality, quality. The quality of the fabrics and laces used in a gown is really obvious and if you try and cheat by using a cheaper lace and “blinging” it up…it shows.

What prompted you to launch the BellaDonna line?

The BellaDonna Collection was born out of an ever decreasing pool of qualified tradespeople here in Australia. When we started we made everything in Australia but as our workforce aged and retired we found it almost impossible to replace them so our workroom team slowly dwindled. We realised that to survive, let alone grow, we had to start a business relationship off shore and hence the BellaDonna Collection. It also gave us an opportunity to offer gowns at a lower price point.

How did your “Ready to Wear” bridal dress collection come about?

Ready to Wear are basically our simpler popular Couture gowns made in slightly different fabrics and techniques so that they can retail at a slightly lower price. A number of our good retailers were asking for this and that’s what drove the label. It’s been a really popular decision with both retailers and Brides to Be.

Where do you look for inspiration when making a new design?

Fabrics and Brides-to-Be inspire me. I’m afraid I’m not one who looks at a golden shiny beach with its turquoise blue water and become inspired to design a gown. I’m much too practical for that. I see a design in the way a piece of fabric I buy drapes or sparkles or working with a Bride to create her individual look from my existing styles. This to me is designing.

How do you keep your product fresh and different?

I’m constantly on the look out for new fabrics and laces. My network of suppliers are very attune now to what I look for and are constantly sending me samples they think I might like. I also work with a couple of suppliers on specific beading styles on laces or fabrics. We do travel to the UK and Europe to look at developing trends there and we have an association with a US company were we exchange ideas plus my team are always providing good ideas and inspiration. This all keeps me excited and enthusiastic about my collections.

You have been named Australia’s number 1 couturier in the National ABIA poll?Where to from here?

That is an award for service which we are very proud of but also very humble about. That award was voted for by the Brides and we are very conscious of the tremendous regard with which they must hold us and we constantly strive to uphold that and to improve on it where we can. I also recently won the Supreme Award at the Queensland Bride Design Awards which was also a tremendous honour but we are always aware that tomorrow is another day and you have to keep striving to do better every day.

You often incorporate colour into your designs, do you think a dress needs to be primarily white to be considered a wedding dress, or do modern dresses have to be accountable to tradition at all?

It’s funny you should mention that. In the Queensland Bride awards recently I entered a red wedding gown. It didn’t win anything but I suppose it shows my commitment to pushing boundaries. I don’t see wedding gowns having to follow traditional styling anymore. A bride will wear what she feels suits her personality and if that’s a full silk ball gown on the beach or a little short lace number in red in church then so be it.

What are 5 things a bride must consider when in the market for a wedding dress?

1. Give yourself time so you aren’t limiting your choices.
2. Choose a gown that flatters your figure and don’t be pushed into buying what someone wants you to.
3. Choose a Designer or Bridal Boutique who you feel comfortable and confident with. If you’re being told you look beautiful in everything…it’s time to leave.
4. Choose the right undergarments.
5. Always bring your shoes to your fittings!!

Where do you see your business evolving to in the next few years?

We want to continue to make Brides to Be beautiful and to strive to give them the best quality design, make and service that we can. If we can continue to do that then our customers will decide where we will evolve.

Thank you for joining us today Wendy! You can find out more about Wendy’s designs or find the stockists of the Wendy Makin line by visiting the Wendy Makin website.

Photos from Wendy Makin

  • Australian Wedding Weekly News, Friday Roundup | Polka Dot Bride says:
    November 29, 2011 at 12:44 am

    […] by using this link or hit the subscribe tab on each individual blog to subscribe to each feed!)A glance into life as a bridal designer with an expert interview on Wendy Makin on Polka Dot WisdomAlso on Wisdom, behind the scenes of the Karen Willis Holmes Silver ShootShae and Eugenio share […]

  • Emily king says:
    April 4, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    Hi there

    I’m looking at buying a vintage Dundee Fashions wedding dress for my wedding day- the design is stunning and such a flattering fit-I just wondered what I should expect to pay for a pre worn 1980s dress from Dundee fashions, the vintage shop owner is asking more than I’m willing to pay so I just wanted to know from someone in the industry If her pricing was off.

    Many thanks in advance for any help/advice

    • Kim says:
      April 7, 2019 at 4:24 pm

      Hi Emily
      I am sorry that I cannot help you with a price for your vintage gown. I was a “Dundee” Bride 35 years ago! I was actually clearing out my wardrobe today and found my dress at the very back wrapped in dry-cleaner’s plastic. Despite my careless storage, it was in near perfect condition and all the magic feelings I felt when I bought it came flooding back to me. I still think it is the most beautiful dress in the world and for me it is priceless. It is great to see that modern brides appreciate vintage gowns from the 80s. Good luck with your wedding.

  • Alice Milson says:
    August 15, 2019 at 9:27 am

    This is a bit out of left field, but I have found an old Dundee Fashions wedding dress and when I search for information on the brand, this is the only useful website that comes up.
    Do you happen to know when Dundee Fashions started? I can see in this post that the company name ended in 1993, but I am trying to get a bit of info about the dress as part of a write up for it, and would like some more background information on the brand.

    While looking for this I got distracted and went through your modern designs. Woah, they are so stunning! My best wishes for the continues success of this brand, which is definitely assured with such individual and classic designs coming out!



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