By Wedding Blog Contributor, Samantha Crotty
You may remember South Carolina native, Carol Hannah Whitfield, from season 6 of the uber popular fashion design show, Project Runway. And now, she’s recently launched her own wedding collection! With inspiration from the south, particularly Charleston, SC, she has succeed in creating a whimsical, and classy collection. I got to interview Carol Hannah via telephone this past week, and it was truly a pleasure to learn more about her design aesthetic, inspirations, and of course the new collection.
Samantha: How would you define this specific wedding collection?
Carol Hannah: I would say that this specific collection is kind of a fresh take on bridal. Its from working in the salons and with brides on an every day basis, I’ve kind of noticed that girls are looking for something that’s not so traditionally-bridal. It’s one of the things that I think about when I’m making my gowns â€“ does it move with you, do you feel like you’re wearing the dress, and not the dress wearing you, is it light and airy. All of those things you really want in a gown. We really stray from the path in that we don’t use any lace or beads or things that are already out there. It’s a very airy collection and fairly southern cause it is based on Charleston â€“ each dress is named after a street in Charleston. It has that high-society, but kind of luxe bohemian feel. I’ve always found that to be a real interesting combination.
S: How long does it usually take you to construct a piece?
CH: Depends on the piece. It varies. The process for when a girl orders a gown it’s usually a couple months long. It depends on where the fabric is coming from and things like that. The actual sewing time averages around 30 hours. The more ornate pieces that have a lot of draping, a lot of hand work, can take upwards from there. Some gowns can take up to 80 hours, just depending on the style.
S: So no rush like in Project Runway?
CH: (laughing) No thank goodness. Only for the show, not for orders.
S: You mentioned that Etsy.com is where readers can purchase your collection, are the dresses custom pieces then?
CH: All are made to order. We make the samples for the runway shows and photo shoots and all of that, and we keep that here in the showroom here in the city. Or sometime we send them out or they get pulled for magazine editorials or trunk shows. We don’t have racks full of gowns just waiting to be bought. It makes it a little bit more special because you can customize what you want, change certain things about it, if you want buttons, or want to lengthen the train, things like that. There actually not even made until the bride places the order.
S: Is Charleston your primary focus for all of your collections, or does the inspiration come from everywhere?
CH: I would say it comes from everywhere. It depends, when I did my collection for Bryant Park for Project Runway that came from the architecture of the cathedral, and the architecture of Duke University and this magical feeling. It really depends. My first ever collection that I did had roots in Charleston cause I was living there at that time. This bridal collection has almost been like a return to that. After living in New York for almost 2 years now, so it is nice to go back to where it started â€“ make it come full circle. The next collection that I’m just now starting will be coming out this October, and it has absolutely nothing to do with Charleston. It’s not like it’s a constant thing, it just happens to be the mood at that time.
S: What do you believe makes a quality article of clothing?
CH: You have to start with good materials. That’s one thing that brides should pay attention to when shopping for gowns, whether mine or somebody else’s. Not everyone uses silk, which is a shame. You can’t assume, you really need to look into what you’re buying. My gowns are from $2,000-$3,500 range, within that range in the stores, from what I’ve seen, there have been a lot of synthetics, which has always bothered me. That’s one of the reason I’ve always wanted to stay within that price point. Have something that is a little bit more affordable. Most designers gowns are with $5,000-$8,000. Materials are really important and the construction is key, especially in a wedding gown, the fit is really important. Alterations are always apart of that process but the actual way that the dress is made should be good quality to begin with.
S: What’s your favorite part about conceptualizing a design?
CH: All of it. I really love all of it. It’s really fun. This morning the girls and I met with some fabric mill reps in the city to find some new, interesting textiles for the next collection. That’s how it’s really fun, just starting from scratch â€“ what materials do we want to use, what shapes do we want to use, what kind of feel do we want it to have, and where can it to take you? To create a feeling. It’s a showcase of personality, and that is what it really comes down to. When I was working as a bridal stylist I would always tell girls that you are always going to find a gown that will flatter your body, but you need to find the one that will showcase your personality that you want to be seen in that day. Seeing the story play out, and watching it walk the runway. My very favorite part is the final thing. Seeing girls, real girls, in it. It’s satisfying to see how happy your designs can make people.
S: What do you think brides-to-be will think about the overall aesthetic of this collection?
CH: Hopefully they’ll like it. I think they’ll be happy. My collection isn’t for every girl. It’s for a very light hearted girl, somebody who is not so traditional. I don’t like the word non-traditional, it invokes a lot of things that are not necessarily right on target. I think its all about fun! A lot of theses gowns are either sassy or whimsical or really sophisticated, its fun to have the option within one collection. For me this is all about making beautiful things that a girl can just come in and pick something â€“ stop obsessing, don’t worry, don’t stress, just find something they really love and just dance the night away. And enjoy it!
Carol Hannah is currently living in New York, where she has been for about 2 years now. She told me that she missed the South, and that it is always good to go back to her roots, but there is just something about New York that she just loves. â€œNew York has this vibe that something is always happening.â€
If you are interested in learning more about Carol Hannah’s clothing collections, be sure to check out her website Carol-Hannah. To purchase your own custom piece from Carol Hannah be sure to visit Etsy.
Samantha Crotty is an intern with Perfect Wedding Guide and College Lifestyles. She is a senior at Western Carolina University where she is majoring in Communication-Print Media and Art. She is a major Project Runway fan, and was so excited to conduct this interview.
*Perfect Wedding Guide’s Wedding Blog does not accept pay for blog editorial or celebrity endorsements.