Vendor Spotlight: Elegant Bride's Exclusive Line

Emma Frankart Henterly

Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography/courtesy Elaya Vaughn

Project Runway viewers may well remember Kate Pankoke, the two-time contestant and darling of the show's fanbase. While she never won the show, she's gone on to create a stunning and exclusive bridal line, Elaya Vaughn Bridal. Fewer than a dozen boutiques in the U.S. (plus two in Japan) sell Elaya Vaughn gowns, and Dublin's own Elegant Bride is among them.

"We were going to market last spring, and I had just posted on…our social media that we were on our way," says Jamie Smith, assistant director at Elegant Bride. "And apparently Kate was just looking…at all the tags through the social media, and she contacted us and was like, 'I'd love for you to come to our studio.' " So she and store director Frankie Murphy decided to check out the designer's line.

"I really loved the whole aesthetic that they promote on their social media," explains Kate. "And then, once I finally got to meet Frankie and Jamie, I just really loved the way they view the industry. Because all of our gowns are made to order, they're like my babies. So I always like to make sure they're going to be in good hands and the brides are going to be treated well. And they definitely are, at Elegant [Bride]." Kate adds that she always likes to handpick the boutiques that carry her line, to ensure that their mission and style matches her own.

Photo credit: courtesy Elaya Vaughn

Frankie says that when she and Jamie visited Kate's studio, "we had zero intention of picking up a new line." Curiosity and a little bit of "fangirling," says Jamie, were their two main motivators. "She was fabulous," Jamie says. "We just kind of fell in love with her, because she spoke to what we try to do when we sell dresses."

Buying a wedding gown, Kate says, "can tend to be a very impersonal thing, almost like buying a car…which is not how it should be at all." She feels that, rather than a checking off an item on a to-do list, buying your dress should be an experience.

Part of that experience, as far as Elaya Vaughn is concerned, includes the ability to customize a gown as needed. Because each gown is made to order, customizations like altering a neckline or even the type of fabric often are possible.

"I think that right now, a lot of brides don't trust that that's actually real, that we have a designer who will do that," says Jamie. But Kate will work one-on-one with brides who request customizations, fulfilling as many requests as possible and setting what Frankie calls an incredibly reasonable custom price for the project. "To have that kind of communication with a designer is incomparable," Jamie stresses.

Photo credit: Jeremy Moss Photography/courtesy Elaya Vaughn

In fact, during the boutique's Elaya Vaughn trunk show last November, Kate herself was onsite to educate bridal consultants on her philosophies and help brides find the dress of their dreams. When several brides asked for a silhouette that she doesn't carry, Kate got to work.

"I had actually just made something very similar for my sister-in-law's wedding," Kate explains. "I really loved the way that that turned out, so I did a little sketch and I changed up some of the fabrics to incorporate more beading, because the brides in Dublin and Columbus seem to like a lot of beading, a lot of intricate lace." Kate adds that it was important for her to get input from the Elegant Bride staff, "because nobody knows their brides better than them." What followed was the Elizabeth Rose: a fit-and-flare gown with flowy, detachable godets that transform a slim silhouette into an almost ballgown-esque one.

Although Elegant Bride has only sold five or six Elaya Vaughn gowns since they started carrying the line, Frankie isn't concerned. "We did not pick up the line to be a mass sale line," she says. "We picked up the line to be a showstopper." But every once in a while, a bride asks for something unique and fashion-forward, stating that she doesn't want to look like an average bride, Frankie says. "And that's when you reach for a Kate."

Want to be featured in a Vendor Spotlight? Email editor Emma Frankart Henterly for details.