When asked what inspired her ‘Windsor Rose China’ Fall 2012 Collection Claire shared with us the following.
“My grandmother was quite the 1920’s bohemian…her first husband was a rum-runner during prohibition, and was mysteriously killed in a “motorcycle” accident. She never talked about him, and I was a grown woman when my mom shared the scandal that my grandpa (her father) was not grandma’s first love. I’ve been thinking about Anna Mae, and looking at the photos of her second wedding that we all thought was her first. She wore a beautiful mauve scalloped silk dress with a velvet sash at the hip, round spectacles and stylish Mary Jane’s. Grandma has long passed, but I have her wedding dress, the intricate embroidered linens she made by hand, her gold rimmed china with delicate painted roses…and a good dose of her free spirit.”
Q. How did you begin your career as a designer?
A. I went to Pasadena City College at the age of 16 and took a fashion illustration class. It was then I realized I might be interested in a career in fashion, and from there I was accepted to Otis Parsons School of Design. My senior portfolio consisted of lingerie and evening gowns. My first job was working as the design assistant to one of my college professors who was the senior designer for a lingerie company. She ended up leaving that position, and I was promoted to replace her as senior designer within a year. I stayed with the company for 5 years before meeting my future husband Guy Toley. Guy worked in finance and film production, and wanted to start a business, and I was ready to create my own look, so we launched our business in 1994. The company has of course evolved over the years, and now our bridal division is the fastest growing segment of our business.
Q. What is your favorite part of designing wedding gowns?
A. I live for details, so creating the embroideries and embellishments is one of my favorite aspects of designing. I love the quiet and personal process of researching and conceptualizing the collection. Creating the fabrics, sketching the gowns, and seeing them come to life is so rewarding in and of itself. The added bonus of seeing the appreciation and joy that my work brings to my clients is the icing on the cake! My brides seem to really connect with my work and are so emotional about it. It’s a great feeling to know that the heart and soul that I pour into my designs resonates in a very personal way…it’s not just a dress, it expresses who they are, and to me, that is the most beautiful thing!
Q. What bridal trends do you foresee being ‘hot’ for 2012 fall/winter weddings?
A. Beautiful backs, illusion necklines, color, and lace sleeves.
Q. What advice would you give a bride who is still trying to find her dream dress? And how can she create her own style on her big day?
A. Use the internet as a tool to narrow down the look and designers you seem to gravitate towards, and then the fun begins of trying on gowns! Try to shop as early as possible to avoid the stress and frustration of not being able to order the gown you want! If you have time, you can approach shopping with a spirit of fun and adventure rather than so much pressure. Accessories and the décor of the wedding can really transform any wedding dress and make it your own. Choose a style that is true to who you are and holds special meaning for you. I love incorporating family heirlooms and some of the bride and groom’s cultural backgrounds for inspiration as well.