Marie Victoria: Classic bridal chic

With Bridal season in the midst and among all the many styles of wedding gowns sometimes you can find it a hard task to choose the perfect gown for you. I spoke with wedding gown designer Leslie Gilbeaux, owner and designer of Marie Victoria, about her up and coming career in the bridal industry. Leslie graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) with her B.F.A. in Fashion Marketing and Management and a minor in Fashion Design. After honing her skills and regaining her passion she then created Marie Victoria which is based out of Atlanta, Georgia. Through the interview we shared laughs as she revealed with me her trials and tribulations, inspirations and overall style in the bridal industry.

Leslie Gilbeaux designer and owner of Marie Victoria

BTS  of a photoshoot from the Precious Gems collection

Opal ensemble features a full skirt from the Precious Gems collection

Topaz, sweetheart gown of the Precious Gems collection

Melissa Davis: How did you transition from design student at SCAD to business woman?
Leslie Gilbeaux: Honestly, I…when I first graduated SCAD I hated fashion. I was like I don’t want to do this anymore… And my whole point for going to school was because I did want to design wedding dresses. And so everyone, you know, was a little surprised by the time I graduated and are like Leslie, please it’s going to come back to you.

 So because I did so well with kids I ended up teaching preschool for three years and in that process I learned how much I loved to be in charge and be the boss. And I always thought in the process of how things were run there and I was always trying to fix it... So I knew from then on, okay I need to be a business owner. I have an entrepreneurial spirit. I already knew that, but it became more apparent... So I started searching what is my passion. What is my passion? And of course, I came back to wedding dresses. 

  I started being bombarded with all my friends getting married. And actually one of my best friends took me with her to search for her dress. And I was like girl, no you are not spending that kind of money, look at this, look at where it was made. You know I was just going in on all of it. And she was like are you going to make me one? And I said no. And so, anyways basically long story short, I think it was a series of events that sort of push you to where you’re supposed to be. And that’s kind of how I got to where I am now. And knowing that and kind of realizing that being an entrepreneur is what I am suppose to do. 

 My passion is designing and designing wedding dresses specifically, but I enjoy designing other things. And, um I think it was when we went to Hawaii I actually posted about it yesterday. I saw this girl who just got married on the beach and I was like mom this is what I want to do. I want to move to Hawaii. \[Mom said\] Alright let’s make a plan.  And so I’ve been working on it ever since. I’m about three years in. I’m actually just paying for my third year registration for my business. I’m two full years into business ownership. It’s been crazy!<br>

MD: Wow, that’s quite a journey.

LG: Yeah and it’s just the beginning.

MD: Exactly. What inspired the name Marie Victoria?

LG: So, another part of my journey was, I remember when I was growing up my grandmothers I always asked them about their weddings and I would ask my mom about hers, but I have pictures of hers so I would just go look at it. So I’ve been obsessed with weddings, I thought it was so interesting, both of my grandmothers grew up in the same town and they both went to the same college and they never knew each other until my parents got married. Both of their husbands were in the military and neither of them had like a real wedding, where they got to put on a real dress and get dressed up… they had a military wedding of course, but they didn’t have a big dress to wear it more so like a suit they would wear to work. So I named it after the two of them. I took both of their middle names and it just happens that my paternal grandmother her middle name is Marie and my maternal grandmother is Victoria and I just kind of put them in that order and I loved it. I was just like Marie Victoria, Marie Victoria, Marie Victoria that sounds amazing.

MD: Wow.

LG: And I thought it was funny that it, you know I feel those names carry a lot of history and weight not only in my family, but just in general. That’s why I picked that as the name of my company.

MD: They really do. Its interesting to hear the story because when I first heard it I was just like oh like Victorian dresses or Marie Antoinette.

LG: Or Queen Victoria.

MD: Exactly, so it’s interesting to hear the story.

LG: And I loved that I was inspired by not just one grandmother, but by both of them cause I feel like when I am designing sometimes I could be very classic, very simple, simple elegant lines and I’m done, you know. And then other times I’m super over the top; super sparkly, glitz and glam. So I feel like anytime I am in my classic mode that’s my Dad’s mom, she was always a really classy lady, but she did not care about the sparkle and glam. She would be get away from me with that, I don’t care about that. I’m over here in this lane. Where my other grandmother, she is very showy and she has crystal chandeliers in her house and gold and that kind of thing. She had a gold sofa at one point and so I feel like when I design I bring in both of those elements. Which I like that they both kind of inspire me in different ways.
MD: Wow, I could definitely see that too especially knowing your grandmothers. As the bridal industry is tough, how has it effected the start of your business?

LG: Ummm, I think there are a lot of challenges that my friends and I have talked about. I have other friends that are trying to break into the bridal industry in different areas and I think some of the challenges are that most people now have turned away from spending their money on the dress and they rather spend their money on the reception, the DJ, the photography lord and videography it’s the area in which they want to spend their money… You know they plan all those things and spend their money on that first and then come spend their money on a dress. And that is challenging because they have an option to get a Vera Wang dress for $2000 at David’s Bridal. So it’s one of those things like although it was made, who knows where it was made or what continent, you know the quality is not what I am producing especially considering my dresses are made here and go through a specific design process and I’m very particular about how they are made. People lose sight of that and they don’t care. They look at the bottom line, like my dress says Vera Wang on it and I spent $2000. So that’s very challenging because it’s been challenging to find the proper client who doesn’t care about the label and more so about the craft and quality.
MD: Do you find it challenging just being in Atlanta or just in general?

LG: Umm, honestly I think anywhere is going to be the same problem. I think that Atlanta, our clients here are very much brand loyal more so than other places. But I think it’s across the board, I’ve been doing a lot of research about just the bridal industry in general the design patterns when it’s comes to dresses and there is actually a whole wave of people who are trying to DIY their dress. Which I hate to say, is comical to me because you [they] don’t understand the construction that goes up under a dress. You’re trying to DIY something and wonder why it won’t hold up. And it’s just one of those things that there are a lot of new things that become a challenge, but I think it’ll all come out in the end where people come back around to understanding, you know what I do want to pay the money, it is worth it. It’s the one time in my life that I actually get to splurge on something that is for me and made for me, made in a good quality and it is something that is hard to sell because people used to pass down their dresses. Now nobody wants that anymore. It’s no longer an investment. It’s no longer that heirloom that I could pass this on through my family because usually they don’t want it, the younger generation doesn’t want that dress.
MD: Yeah I know. Yeah I don’t want to get married in mother’s 80s wedding gown.

MD +LG (giggles)

LG: Right.

MD: I think that’s difficult though, but I would say quality versus brand and then to have something one of a kind to me is very special because anybody can go to David’s Bridal and get the same Vera Wang wedding gown for $1500 and it’s going to look exactly the same.

LG: That is one of the things that tells me that there is a client out there. It’s just that it is hard to catch people before they buy a dress to change their mind about dresses in general. My cousin was head over heels in love for this Vera Wang dress and it was $8000. And I’m like honey if you are going to spend $8000 let someone make you a dress and sure enough on her wedding day we went, because I was in her bridal party to take pictures before the wedding and guess what?! Another bride came trotting along with her exact same dress on her wedding day in the same venue to take pictures in this little garden. And I’m like you spent $8000 to wear the same dress that someone else is wearing and you could’ve had a custom dress. You would have avoided major alterations, usually here and there even when you do a custom dress you still have to do alterations, but usually not. By the time you pay for alterations you spent $10000. You could have had a custom dress. It’s just one of those things that people don’t realize until afterwards.
MD: That’s really crazy. You know that’s the fashion faux pas, same dress, same venue, same day. Absolute worse. Who is your favorite bridal designer?

LG: Oooooh this is such a hard question to answer. Honestly I have been inspired for years, years by Badgley Mischka. I love them and I actually had the chance to meet them at Neiman Marcus a few years ago and they signed one of their sketches for me. I have it hanging up and it’s my favorite source of inspiration. You know they don’t specialize in bridal, but they do have a bridal collection and I just love them. Ummm so it’s not a typical answer, but I also have really been admiring Zuhair Murad. Yes, God when I look at his stuff I’m like AHHHHHHHHH I had a heart attack, you are killing me. He’s incredible! I completely understand why he was recently accepted in the couture houses and everything because his work is amazing. So I would definitely say those are my inspirations.
MD: Any particular reason why? The type of style or just overall?

LG: I think I just overall. I think I just really appreciate their design style and I think that I really understand the process that they went through and how they got to where they are. How they got to the concept they did for each dress. And I love that. Whenever I look at Badgley Mischka or Zuhair or any of their stuff I would look at a specific dress and it takes me somewhere. It’s not just like oh, that’s pretty. It’s more like oh, I could see that dress at a specific type of event or if their wedding was held at this specific place. You know you just come up with this whole story…. These are more transforming I guess that’s the right word.

Ruby, timeless scoop neck gown with a flowing skirt of the Precious Gems collection

Ruby, the back is alluring with a gem adorned of the Precious Gems collection

Amethyst, a tailored fit and flare of the Precious Gems collection

Amethyst, the back features a keyhole and a decorative closure of the Precious Gems collection

MD: No, it’s perfect. How would you describe your personal style?

LG: My personal style, I’ve never thought about that. I would say classic. I feel like when I dress I’m very simplistic and classic. I love clean lines. Black is my favorite color, it’s my favorite color to wear anyways. Umm, and I am very much just like my paternal grandmother when it comes to my fashion. I love having a banging handbag and some banging shoes, but my overall look is going to be very simple, very clean lines, very classic. And elegant.

MD: And does that translate into your design?

LG: It does sometimes, but sometimes I wish I was bold enough to wear some of the things that I design as well cause I’ve designed a few gowns for my next collection that are very sparkly and bold. And I would never wear it. I think its gorgeous, but I don’t think I would ever. It’s not even a confidence thing I just don’t feel like its not me. So I would not feel like myself in it, I guess.
MD: So it’s your design style, but not your personal style.

LG: Exactly.

MD: On an everyday basis how do you find inspiration?

LG: Honestly I get inspired by so many different things that it is different everyday. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I’ll see a dress in my dream or as I’m waking up and I’ll fly out of the bed to try to sketch it. And then there’s other times where I just see I don’t know something that I like that I would think would be interesting to try to incorporate into a design. I feel like I get inspired when I’m not looking for it. Where as if I now have to search for inspiration I’m not successful ever.

MD: You let the inspiration come to you instead of you go searching for it.

LG: Right

MD: Kind of like a zen feeling.

LG: Yes.

MD: Where do you see your business going in five years?

LG: In five years, in five years I’m going to be a billionaire. Just kidding. Honestly in five years I would at least love to have a boutique where I can meet with my clients. In five years that would mean I would have six or seven collections and just a consistent flow of brides whether they wanted to order one of my collection pieces or wanting to design their own. I would love in five years to just be at a place where I’m at least servicing the Atlanta area consistently. A nice little flow of clients. It’s so funny. I love fashion and I love fashion week and I love all of that, but I’ve never been oh I have to get my stuff to fashion week or anything like that. I think that it would an honor, it would be great it would be fun, but I find that I really believe that my success would be in making sure that my brides are all satisfied with what they got. And not just satisfied, but overjoyed and blown away by how their gowns came out. I had a client in Dallas recently and she just could not get over herself. It was the best feeling in the world she could not get over herself. The dress fit perfectly. She didn’t have to have a single alteration other than getting it hemmed and I left the hem out for that so they could just adjust it to the right height because she didn’t have her shoes when I needed the measurements. And so, I think that is success for me and if I’m doing that on a consistent basis I’m good.
MD: That’s the ultimate goal, to make your clients happy.

LG: Yes.

MD: So, if you were to give advice to your younger self what would it be?

LG: Stop procrastinating fool! That’s what it would be. I would tell myself to be more financially responsible. I spent five years paying off debt so I could get to a place where I could spend all my money on my business. I was fortunate enough to be in a place where my parents were able to financially help me in a lot of ways all through college. Instead of using that as an opportunity to save money and that kind thing I spent money that I didn’t even have. Yeah, if I could talk to my younger self it would be stop procrastinating and do not be financially irresponsible.
MD: Good advice. Umm, what’s your advice to brides?

LG: My advice to brides…(giggles) It is a rare occurrence for you to walk into a store and put on a dress and completely love it. There is always, always, always, always something that you wish you could change about it and if you find yourself in that situation come find me. We could make the dress exactly how you like it, exactly what you’re looking for so you’re not getting dressed and saying oh, but I still just wish and settling for whatever was available. You have the option now to create your perfect dress so let’s do it.

MD: That’s great advice (giggles). Too many brides settle, wishing they could take that top and that bottom.

LG: Yeah, and the crazy thing is my best friend worked in a bridal shop for years and I’ve gone dress shopping with all my friends and its always the same oh I love the dress is beautiful, but I wish. And there it is, but I wish. Every time, every single time. My advice go shopping, find what you like then add the wish. And let’s get the wish and make it true.

MD: That’s good advice. Well thank you Leslie!
With ornate and classic wedding gowns, Leslie has craved a path in the bridal industry and I for one look forward to seeing her future collections!

Please checkout her website; and Instagram: marievictoriaofficial

Culture: The Ballet and Dances of the Heart

Yes!!! I said the ballet! The perfect pointed toes on all the ballerinas give little girls something beautiful and graceful to look up to. I once wanted to be one of those perfect ballerinas in fifth position knees bent into the perfect plié. After I read an article recently about the upcoming 2013 season of San Francisco Ballet I then remember why I fell in love with dance. The techniques the dancers display are mesmerizing and beautiful. The ballet and dance for that matter is a must see! It’s a bucket list item that many people overlook, but dance is a way of communicating through ones body. San Francisco Ballet- Coppélia
The fluidity of the dancer’s movements creates an indescribable experience for the audience and dancer. Partnering in dance could be more intimate than sex believe it or not. The Rumba, one of my favorite ballroom dances, is a very sexually driven dance. Bachata is my all-time favorite dance! The chemistry and emotion between the two dancers evolve when you dance the Rumba and Bachata, it can’t be forced. It should be natural!
Tanja La Alemana and Ataca Jorgie perform a Bachata routine- “Te Extraño” by Xtreme
One of my favorite scenes from the movie _Dance with Me_. This club scene reminds me of the reason why I love to dance in the first place, the excitement and fun. Leave the technique behind its all about the fun you have. This makes me miss dancing in salsa clubs and at my friend’s house parties. Be sure to put dancing in a salsa club on your bucket list it’s an incredible and fun dance experience! Enjoy and Dance!

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