A Day In The Life of a Wedding Dress Designer

By Jenn Rose Smith

Scrolling through designer Stephanie White’s instagram feed is basically seeing my deepest, most sacred wedding fantasies come to life. I’ll never forget the day I discovered Odylyne the Ceremony — I literally gasped out loud and thought to myself, Oh my god. Somebody out there gets it. “It” meaning the ethereal, romantic, dreamy, ceremonial vibe that I always pictured for the wedding inside my mind. I’m not alone — Stephanie showed her 2017 collection at this year’s NYBFW (that’s shorthand for New York Fashion Bridal Week, in case you didn’t know) to rave reviews from publications like Vogue, Martha Stewart, and The Coveteur. The designer’s out-of-the box designs are quickly gaining a cult following among bohemian brides who aren’t interested in the strapless satin sameness that’s dominated the wedding industry for years. Stephanie designs for the bride who wants to take risks and be daring. “We’re here to help her do that,” she says with a smile. Join us as we spend the day with Stephanie chatting about designing with emotion, why the best fabrics come from India, and what it really takes to make it in the competitive world of bridal fashion.

photos by jaka vinsek and harper smith

What do you love about your job?

I really love being able to create anything that my heart desires. For so many years when I was designing in ready to wear, I was designing for what others were saying would sell. A lot of my true creations were maybe steered in a direction that seemed to follow mainstream trends or commercial sales. With our bridal line, I finally developed a brand that felt like the true me. Being able to work with such amazing brides who share the same point of view is really awesome and a dream come true.

You’re a fantastic designer. Did you always know that you wanted to focus on bridal? Or do you have experience in more general fashion design? 

Thank you! Bridal fell into my lap after I took a hiatus from ready to wear and got married only to realize there was really nothing out there that felt like it was me or basically unique. It was all fluff and that was the sad part of my bridal shopping experience. I just felt that I never understood the bridal world and it also never really excited me. Unfortunately I had that underwhelming experience shopping for my own wedding dress so I definitely had the desire to create an alternative for that. It felt like the school of hard knocks for sure when I first started but I think I soon started to get into my groove. What I realized right away in the beginning was what I did NOT want to do and that made it all so easy.

How long have you been designing? Do you have any formal training that helped you get your career started?

I have been designing since 2009 with my ready to wear line Odylyne and began my bridal line Odylyne: The Ceremony in 2015. My degree is in Studio Arts/Graphic Design with a minor in Art History. So I was definitely focused on in the artistic side of the world of fashion. I was always really great with attention to details and art design were my favorite classes. Fashion came along with all the experience I gained working in Los Angeles doing graphics, visuals, then merchandising for different fashion brands. I am very particular with vision and have a strong sense of branding and creating story boards in my head of things I see from my studio arts background. The design part I learned as I worked in LA and gained knowledge from working under other strong designers.

Was there a defining moment or “big break” in your career? Tell us about it.

I think my defining moment was definitely when I presented my 2017 collection for the first time in NY for NYBFW. I had never imagined that I would be right in the mix of other bridal designers that I admired so much along the way. It was really a surreal feeling putting on a larger scaled show and seeing how the everyone would react to it. I had such a rush of emotions and the whole time I felt like I was holding my breath until the day of. When it was go time, to see our models standing in this beautiful hall dressed in my gowns was such a magical moment. It truly was something that set the foundation for what we want to strive for each year.

Where do you find inspiration for your collections?

I find inspiration in so many things! But mainly I draw upon things that inspire me artistically and memories of images and moments of my childhood that moved and shaped me into adult.  I usually like to pick a theme and kind of run with it. I love to sit upon an idea and really dig my hands into it. I research and I start creating mood boards and collect images and quotes and clips of things that are related to the thought. Because of my artistic background, I am a visionary kind of girl. Everything to me is all generated around the senses, literally. I hear sounds, songs, see colors, envision a memory that reminds me of scent or think of moment of an emotion that stuck with me. It’s all a mad science but it all works in the end.

Tell us a little about your design process. Does a gown start as a sketch? Or a mood board? How does it evolve from there?

My design process begins with vision. We always start with a mood board. It’s always nerve wrecking to start a new collection and sometimes I get nervous about my direction. However, I think having a strong mood board is so important. That way you can channel your ideas and really get lost in the mood. The we start to sketch. We sketch and sketch and sketch till we have some solids ideas. And it always changes. I will get going on an sketch and then wonder what I was thinking a few days later! Or I just keep falling love with an sketch and then I know it is a winner. We start to swatch beautiful fabrics for our sketches that are at the forefront and then keep the momentum with first samples… and then fittings. There will be more and more fittings until we have a home run.

We love how your gowns feel edgy and modern, but also very romantic and flattering to wear. You’re so clued in to how a woman wants to feel on her wedding day. Are there key points that you think about hitting across all of your designs? 

We have developed our brand by really upholding our philosophy of having a strong foundation of imagination and art.  We have an ethereal and free-spirited approach to bridal, each of the dresses embody the deep emotion, sensibility and beauty of the life and art. All of our collections tie in the feelings of the traditional foundations of marriage to the exotic and unfamiliar, while harnessing the power of the imagination to envision and to escape. I think the key point to all our designs is the ethereal element and how each style has a twist of romance with a deep appreciation of all the delicate moments of the ceremony. We mostly just want to create something unique and breathtaking. Sometimes being and seeing things unexplainable is so exciting to me. I wish brides would want to take more risks and be more daring. We are trying to help her want to do that. That is what we are here are. We are okay with not being the most popular as long as we are doing great work that feels different and special, then I did my job.

Many of your designs seem to be built around a single incredible statement fabric. Where do you find all of the amazing fabrics you work with?

We usually work with a fabric vendor who sources all of our amazing fabrics from all over the world. We are currently working closely with several mills in India and that has seen to be the best direction for us. Although the fabric is made to order, we feel the most special textures are coming from India and are done by hand.

What does your typical day look like? Are you meeting with brides, visiting factories, planning shows?

My typical day includes waking up and getting my children off to school. After they are gone to school, I can finally have my cup off coffee and do some morning emails. After about an hour or so, I head into the store to go over the day with my assistant discussing any appointments that are lined up. We also go over production and what is happening downtown and making sure all our workers have everything they need to get any orders done. I may do an appointment within the day, but try to to focus on the behind the scenes of the company more. I really wish that I could do all of the appointments but if I did, I wouldn’t have that much time to stay up on emails and everything else that I have to do to keep the company running. The most important thing is for me to be there for fittings with the current brides we have. I like to make sure they are happy and have any questions answered. We Skype call with all our international brides, so we get those scheduled in as well.

The day is so busy and there is constantly work for me to attend to. Sometimes the workload can be so much for one day, but I really love what I do and it makes it all worth it. At about 4pm, it is time for the kids to come home but my day doesn’t stop there. It slows down a bit but having your business is a non stop work-in-progress situation! 

Tell us a little about your runway shows. How many do you produce per year? How do they play into your overall business model?

We did our first ever show in NY for NYBFW last year in October and it was really exciting. We are only producing one collection per year and we do it this way because we really want to focus on one set of designs and relishing in those silhouettes. I think we spend so much time investing in a theme and into the designs, the fabrics, that it only seems fair that we really let our brides and stockists enjoy it all year, before we move on to the next collection. We take so much pride in the branding of our company and we know that attending NYBFW is a must for us now. Although we will only do it once a year, it will always be special. 

How long do you produce each gown? Are they created in limited runs?

For a customer, we usually take about five months to make one gown because we have a schedule that we abide to. Also, we do everything custom so we literally work with each bride hand in hand in making her gown. This takes time and we like it this way to guarantee they are happy with their gown.

Describe the Odylyne the Ceremony bride in 5 words or fewer:






Name a few dream wedding venues that would compliment one of your gowns:

I would love to see a a forest wedding in my most favorite place in the world: Big Sur. I also think a desert wedding in Joshua Tree would be amazing. I would literally die to have one my wedding dresses take place in beautiful cathedral or castle. That would be the ultimate dream wedding venue.

Finish this sentence: The perfect wedding dress should be ________ .


Describe the type of wedding you like to attend as a guest:

I would love to attend a wedding in a cathedral. I have never been to a religious wedding and I would love to experience one. I am not Catholic but I am enamored with Catholicism from an artistic perspective. All the attention to details and to the ceremony seems quite magical to me. 

Where do you see Odylyne the Ceremony in 10 years? Are there other areas of production or design you would like to expand into? 

I see Odylyne the Ceremony in 10 years possibly turning into a overall alternative wedding go to brand. There are so many aspects to this company that I have planned. I am not just interested in bridal gowns. I am currently developing our honeymoon collection for the after math of the wedding. I also love the notion of how to take care of your soul and spirit or just your physical being during the time of wedding planning. It all matters to me and I know it is important to the bride as well. We want to get into doing more small seminars and workshops in our space to offer our customers. It would be so cool to be able to help out a bride literally from the gown, to dealing with the stress of planning, and to the honeymoon.

Where can we go to try on one of your dresses in person?

You can go make an appointment with us at [email protected] to come to our store in Los Angeles that we like to call our haven.

571 South Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles Ca 90036

What advice would you give a young woman with dreams of becoming a bridalwear designer?

Stay true to your vision, be a leader not a follower. Don’t ever feel that you need to conform to the norm. It okay to be unique and different and never stop trying to push boundaries.