Perhaps, when flipping through the new issue of Seattle Met Bride & Groom, you noticed a knee-length wedding shift by a dressmaker whose name was not Vera Wang or Elizabeth Fillmore or Monique Lluillier. Her name is Rebecca Cairelli, she lives in Bellingham, and her style couldn’t be better suited for the current bridal market—easy but romantic, sweet but sophisticated, and aware of ready-to-wear fashion silhouettes and traditional bridal shapes but not beholden to either one.
Having held several of her pieces in my hands, I can tell you her work is meticulous, and her fabric choices are impeccable. Event designer Steve Moore, he of the highest taste and greatest standards, introduced me to her work, and that says a lot, too. Birds of a feather flocking together and whatnot …
For the time being, Cairelli’s dresses are available directly from the designer herself. The best way to familiarize yourself with her shapes and ideas is to head to Moore’s Bellingham design studio, or click through our slideshow of wedding day looks and read the following Q&A. The best way to see her full collection and talk to her about custom work is to ring her up and talk to her about an appointment. Can’t say that about Ms. Wang.
WWW: You started making wedding dresses at a very early age; where do you think that came from? Who inspired your earliest notions of romance and grand elegance?
Cairelli: I think it’s just in my blood. I come from a long line of artists. My grandfather was accepted into the same art school as Salvador Dalí in Spain; he is an amazing painter. I have always created. I think though, it started as a need. My Barbie needed to get married and she absolutely needed a dress to do it in. Actually I don’t even think I had a Ken at the time, I’m not sure who it was that she was to marry. But as for first inspirations I think the Givenchy dress Audrey Hepburn wore in Sabrina was, in my eyes, the most fabulous thing I had ever seen—at least at the age of five. I probably watched that movie 100 times while growing up just for that scene.
You’re from Australia but you’re now living in Bellingham; does geography and place play into your perspective as a designer? I know Australia has a really vibrant fashion scene, and Bellingham seems to really support the idea of a small independent artisan. But beyond that, getting into style, are you influenced or informed by your outer environment?
Yes and no. I have lived all over: Australia, Argentina, Singapore, and now the Pacific Northwest, so my outside influence has been very broad. A lot of who I am as a designer today is because of my life, my whole life and all of the experiences that encompass that; geography, my faith, who my parents are, and my husband have all been key in shaping my philosophy to design. But when talking style, Australia has played the major role in my aesthetics. It is an extremely creative culture and with that, artists who are not afraid to push the boundaries of beauty.
You were married yourself not long ago. What was your dress like and how on earth did you manage to distill all your skills and ideas to create your own perfect dress?
Is ironic the right word? Lets just say love was the only perfect thing about that day… oh and maybe the weather. Because of all of the immigration laws my husband Henry and I decided that we would have what they refer to as a ‘spontaneous wedding’. I created my wedding gown ‘Project Runway–style’ the night before. I struggled with deciding on a design, so instead I let our environment dictate the direction. We had a beach wedding down at Ballard’s Golden Gardens. It was super casual. So in the end I walked down the isle in a dove gray high-waisted mermaid skirt with horizontally stripped panel inserts. My top was also gray, billowing over where the skirt met. It was far from perfect, but when I look back I love how well it went with the overall feel of the day.
Your style takes classic, traditional wedding fashion into account, but adds fashion detailing and modern shapes. Is it a conscious decision to keep that balance or is it a natural result of your ideas about what’s beautiful and current? Do you look at current ready-to-wear lines and think about incorporating those silhouettes? If so, who are some of your favorite designers?
I think it is an unconscious decision. I have always been drawn to the unconventional shapes and fashion detailing of ready-to-wear lines, there is a freshness to them that the traditional bridal fare is absolutely missing. But really I think it just lands on personal aesthetics and how I feel when I look at a gown. For me what dictates the balance is movement. How my eyes move across the gown, how the gown itself moves. One of my favorite designers at the moment is Australian Designer Alice McCall. Her clothes are really urban and relaxed. They make me think of flowy dresses.
Okay, Kate Middleton already had her wedding. Who—anyone in the world, really, don’t bother thinking about if they’re actually married or engaged or whatever—would you love to design a wedding gown for?
Hmmmm, this is a tough one. Maybe top model Miranda Kerr. I met her several years back at Australian Fashion week. She is a really genuine person.