Lisa Gowing on her wedding day in 2007.
Sydney based designer Lisa Gowing’s collection of exquisite, high fashion, designs, in layered silks and exclusive French and Italian laces, has changed the face of bridal design in Australia for the past 20 years! Trained in the intricacies of couture dressmaking from a retiring industry expert, Lisa uses only the original couture techniques mainly forgotten in today’s fashion. Today, we celebrate 20 years of Lisa Gowing gowns with 20 questions with the designer herself!
Congratulations on 20 years in business! What is the key to your longevity in bridal design?
I think my longevity is due a few factors. Firstly, my designs are timeless. I offer elegant silhouettes in quality imported fabrics, and the styles and fabrications do not date. My gowns are fashion-forward, however, style is far more important than fashion when dressing for your wedding day.
Secondly, the quality and love that goes into each gown is apparent. Each gown is individually made locally here in Sydney with hand finished couture techniques. Brides continue to fall in love with my new collections as they did when I began in 1997. Finally, the client is able to view and select from a full range of coordinating accessories at my Design Studio enabling her to create a complete bridal ensemble for her day.
How are you celebrating 20 years in business?
In January 2018 I am hosting a huge sale. The biggest offer I have ever made to my brides in 20 years. All our current stock will be reduced by 40%-60% and we have over 70 gowns currently in stock.
What do you love about working in the wedding industry?
I love that even though wedding styles change over the years I can continue to offer brides a beautiful, fashinable yet classic gown for their special day.
Do you travel the world to seek inspiration for your collections?
Yes, I find I am very inspired when I travel. I see elements for my designs everywhere, on the street, in books, a film or even a wallpaper pattern. Travel definitely assists the creative process as I am able to switch off from my usual routine and am open to new ideas and opportunities.
Your website tells us “Lisa uses only the original couture techniques mainly forgotten in today’s fashion.” Please explain what couture techniques you practise?
When designing a new gown I always hand deliver the design features for the gown myself. This could be a hand-appliquéd French lace that I individually cut, mould and pin on the bodice and skirt or a hand-draped liquid silk bodice, a ruched waistband or a jewelled neckpiece that I have designed and placed.
Hand-draping and hand-ruching are techniques mainly forgotten in today’s fast fashion and true moulding and hand-application of lace is rarely seen. Most bridal gowns are machine-stitched and often made in overseas or local factories.
You got married in 2007. Did you design your own dress?
My husband David proposed on the first day of a month-long tour of Italy in 2006. We were in Bellagio on Lake Como and so I had the remainder of the trip to start planning our wedding. I did one sketch of my wedding gown and that is what I wore. I was the in-house fit model for my collections for many years so I have worn most styles and knew what I wanted and what would best suit my style and my day. My gown was a couture design made on the body using layered white silk faille and hand appliquéd cotton based French rose motif lace. The bodice had a wide scoop neckline with fine shoestring straps with a low scoop back and rose lace appliqué framing the neckline. The skirt was bias cut and this same rose lace dripped down towards the hem. The linings of the hem had the same lace scallop appliquéd all around the one-metre long train, so when I lifted the train the lace scallop was visible. I wore a mantilla veil edged in the same rose lace.
Could you please tell us about your wedding day?
David and I were married at McKell Park on the waterfront at Darling Point in Sydney. We were living at Darling Point at the time and love this special little green space by the water. Our reception was on Fort Denison in the middle of Sydney Harbour with a view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge; a magical place. After a lovely ceremony at the park and Roederer champagne with our congregation, we had our guests transported by catamaran to the Fort and we stayed on for an hour for photographs by Dan Blumenthal of Blumenthal Photography and then arrived by speedboat to join our guests for roving canapés on the lawn.
We chose to have a roving entree and roving desert canapés so we were only seated at formal tables for the main course. This enabled us a better opportunity to mix with our guests. I chose an all-white vintage pretty theme with a white gown for myself and my only bridesmaid, my sister. I dressed my mother in a pale champagne silk. My husband wore a black Hugo Boss suit and his groomsmen, his brother and mine both wore similar black suits. We had all white flowers of magnolias, roses, and snowberries with lots of green foliage. My flowers were provided by Susan Avery and Susan created my bouquet of only magnolia buds, blooms and leaves. I have now planted magnolias in my garden and the scent of the flowers always reminds me of this day. We had large crystal bowls of white flowers and green leaves on every table accompanied by tea lights and huge white urns of these flowers both at the altar in the park and at the wharf on Fort Denison at the entrance to the reception venue. Simmone Logue provide a magnificent cake topped with fresh flowers. Music was played by a live band and it was a wonderful day, a true celebration.
You’ve been married 10 years now. What is your secret to keeping the marriage healthy and happy?
My husband David and I are very well suited. We are best friends first which I think is very important. We communicate well and play to our strengths. We have two gorgeous sons who we centre our lives around, we both love being parents and participating in the parental roles in our marriage.
Lisa and David renewing their vows.
How did you celebrate your 10 year wedding anniversary?
We had a low key lunch at China Doll at the Finger Wharf on the actual day. We renewed our vows 18 months earlier at our home. Simmone Logue was the caterer and we enjoyed delicious roving canapés accompanied by the same Roederer champagne as our wedding day and of course another fabulous chocolate cake by Simmone! Our guests were dressed in cocktail attire and our young sons were the ring bearers. I wore two custom-designed gowns and we enjoyed a celebration on the terrace and grass that went into the night. Blumenthal Photography again captured the images of this event for us.
You have two sons. Do you think they’ve picked up the creative gene from you? Do they have any interest in pursuing a career in design?
Both my sons are very creative, they are also skilled in other areas so it is too early to tell if they will choose a career in design or take a different path.
Who have been some of the most memorable celebrities you’ve dressed for their weddings?
I dressed Georgie Gardner for her wedding. Georgie is divine, a beautiful person. I designed two couture gowns for Libby Tricket (then Libby Lenton) when she married Luke Trickett in 2007. I have also dressed celebrities for events, such as Deborah-Lee Furness who wore my cape and gown to the Tony Awards the first time Hugh Jackman hosted. She then revisited the cape only a couple of years ago when attending the Met Gala. I have also dressed Delta Goodrem and many other celebrities for various for appearances and red carpet events.
What kind of bride is usually attracted to your style?
I think a Lisa Gowing bride is one who is fashion forward with unique style and a taste for quality. She is usually very feminine and looking for a unique quality coupled with high style.
Is there a particular fabric or style of dress you have continuously used throughout all of your collections? And why?
Every collection I try to offer a selection of silhouettes and necklines and European laces and jewelled trims coupled with quality fabrication. Brides know when visiting Lisa Gowing they will always find a dramatic longline sheath with a pretty feminine neckline and long sweeping train covered in moulded lace. They also come for the floaty tulle and chiffon skirts on offer which can be worn as a separate overskirt over the slimline gowns or attached to a detailed bodice moulded in lace, jewels or draped in silk. I am known for the exclusive European laces and fabrications that I use and the gentle layering of soft colours.
What are you working on right now?
My Heirloom 20th anniversary collection. I am in the final stages of completion and draping sleeves and designing matching accessories.
When can we expect to see your new collection?
We will be photographing the collection in January and it will be available exclusively in the Lisa Gowing Design Studio and online in February.
What bridal accessory trends are you seeing a lot of right now?
I always work with fine imported European laces which are my signature so of course, these will be on offer in the form of mantilla veils and lace edged or panel appliquéd veils. We have capped and long lace sleeves and lace trimmed combs for the hair.
I also offer jewelled combs, belts, sleeves and earrings to accompany the collection. Plus we always have a selection of cover-ups on offer in tulles, silks and faux furs.
Have you got a creative space you retreat to when you’re in the initial stages of drawing and dreaming up beautiful dresses? How does this space inspire you?
When designing I usually work from my home office. As both my boys are now at school I am usually home alone so this is where I find the peace to create. I also design when travelling and basically will jot down notes or a sketch a design anywhere if inspired.
What does a typical Monday look like for you?
Today is Monday and I am setting up my week. I firstly helped my two sons with their homework and then dropped them at school. I then visited my new home where renovations are taking place to check on the tradesmen working there today. We are moving very soon and our European Oak floorboards are being laid, painting and tiling is continuing and the electricians are there today.
Once I spoke with every tradie and checked they had everything they required I returned to my desk at my home office and checked emails and my calendar to ensure I was getting everything done that is due for this week. I have touched base with my makers and my cutter this morning and will be pinning bodices for new designs this afternoon. Later in the week I will be at the Design Studio meeting with makers and cutters and reviewing new designs as they come in.
Do you have a particular morning routine?
My routine changes every day depending on school requirements (I assist with literacy groups and other events where possible) and what is happening in the Design Studio. And, of course, at my home as we are renovating and restoring a 100 year old house at the moment which is quite time-consuming but a fabulous design experience!
Who are your favourite non-bridal fashion designers right now?
I am a long-standing fan or Valentino, Chanel, Elie Saab and Alberta Ferretti.
Lisa Gowing’s 2016 Enchantment collection offers brides a modern silhouette using techniques steeped in tradition. Check out this beautiful behind the scenes video of the Enchantment photo shoot…
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