The Korean-American designer Andrew Kwon had always envisioned dressing women for the red carpet. The pandemic prompted him to change direction and focus on bridal fashion.
“I knew I would do bridal one day,” said Mr. Kwon, 25, who grew up in Colorado Springs and came to New York in 2014. “I also knew I couldn’t sit at home waiting for Covid to go away. Brides were still going to get married. The weddings might be smaller or they would be postponed, but they needed their red carpet moment, which is walking down the aisle.”
Mr. Kwon spent months reflecting on life and his career, then he got creative. By December 2020 he had six dresses and two veils. His first bridal collection, Reminiscence, debuted at the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Runway360, a digital platform for designers to release their collections through videos and look books anchored around New York fashion and bridal week.
This fall he returns with his second collection, Dreamer. “I’m a dreamer and everyone deserves the chance to believe in themselves,” he said.
In preparation for its release, Mr. Kwon did an outdoor photo and video shoot highlighting his 11-piece collection at Untermyer Gardens in Yonkers, N.Y., which will showcase again on Runway360 on Oct. 6. Private appointments at his studio in the garment district will follow.
What prompted your passion for designing bridal?
In 2016, my mother got remarried to my stepfather. I remember the emotions that were felt during the day and the ones my mom felt walking down the aisle. The hardships she went through, the new chapter she was entering, the light at the end of the tunnel for her — it was an incredibly inspiring experience for me. I wanted to create that strength and resilience for other women.
What differentiates your wedding designs from others?
I’m creating a visual story. There’s a story in the dress and the one the bride tells. When these two stories come together as one, that’s when the magic happens. My designs are modernly elegant and chic with a twist — interesting cuts, dramatic drapes from the back, and layering of different silk fabrics, like crepe de Chine, chiffon and tulle. I’m interested in movement, how the dress follows behind the bride and how it moves along with her when she steps. The exciting moment is when nature is organically moving the dress and you see it blowing and picking up on the fabrics, especially if the piece has floral embroidery or metallic lace. You can see and experience the opulence in the shimmers and colors.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I always start with a memory, an emotion, something I saw from a performance that stuck with me, like Sophia Lucia, who’s this amazing dancer from San Diego; or even music like Abel Korzeniowski, Andrea Bocelli and Katherine Jenkins. These set a certain tone. It encourages reflection, inspiration and gives me strength when I’m sketching or designing.
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What is your process?
Once I’m inspired I start sketching, which I do at my dining room table in my apartment, which is near Bryant Park. An image appears in my head when I’m in this place that I’m able to get down. I love creating moments, proportions and embroidery placement within the dress. Then I explore fabric choices. The development happens at my studio. I have a team of six, including a seamstress, cutter, patternmaker and head of the studio. We discuss the sketch and what it means. Patterns are done digitally; draping happens on the mannequins. To execute a full collection can take two to four months.
You did your first set of trunk shows this year; how did they help your career?
Trunk shows are wonderful because you interact with brides and the store’s buyer. My first was for 10 days at Bergdorf, in Manhattan, right after bridal fashion week in April, and then Neiman Marcus, in Dallas, for five days. It gave people the opportunity to see my work for the first time. It gave me strength and confidence, and a push to keep going. I had heard a lot of nos from retailers and other stores, who, during Covid, weren’t saying yes to new designers like myself. Both department stores asked me to become part of their bridal salon, so that made other bridal stores interested in me. It was also a great education to see what brides gravitate toward and what they don’t like.
What was the motivation behind Dreamer?
Mythology plays a big part in my work. I wanted to create modern-day goddesses and wearable art. Each of the 11 dresses is named after a goddess. The collection offers different silk weights, metallic brocades and white and metallic lace, some of which have beautiful, intricate artwork. Eight dresses are white; three are color. Those were inspired from a trip I took in July to Provence, France. It was the first time I’d been there. The soft blue reminded me of the sky. A soft yet bold green was reminiscent of the rolling hills. A pastel yellow tulle ball gown reminded me of the sun shining down on them.
Why did you decide to shoot your collection at the Untermyer Gardens in Yonkers?
It’s the most beautiful place. It’s as mythological as the collection. And both have a twist of modernism. The place is transcendent and tranquil and open to the public. It was founded in the early 1900s by Samuel J. Untermyer, and his story is fascinating. There’s music when you walk in, there are extraordinary flowers and plants, trees, stones, sculptures, columns and waterfalls. I wanted to capture nature and how it plays a part in moving the dresses and being able to capture the light of the sun on the fabrics.
Being an Asian-American, have you felt embraced by the industry?
I’ve always felt supported by the fashion industry. But being an Asian-American during Covid and watching all of the Asian hate happening was very difficult and sad to see. The world needed beauty. That’s part of why I did my collection. I couldn’t stop Asian hate, but I could put something beautiful into the world and let people feel there’s hope, and let the Asian community know they could still accomplish their goals and find inspiration from others, like myself, who were contributing something, and following their dreams during this period.
What is your favorite moment?
When a bride has the dress on for the first time and sees herself in the mirror and puts her hand over her mouth and a sound escapes, and then nothing. There’s just this silence, which you can feel. Their eyes become wider and their expression changes and then freezes. When they’re silent, all these thoughts are running through their head. It’s a very powerful moment, which I’m part of and witnessing at the same time.