The Wedding Stylist Podcast Interviewed Designer Kelly Faetanini
We all love her name, but do we know how incredible her story is? The Wedding Stylist Podcast, hosted by Leona Morelock dives deep with Kelly Faetanini about her background, inspiration, love for bridal, her support system and what motivates her. The Wedding Stylist is a go to podcast for everything from bridal to decor and tuxedos. Leona Morelock knows it all and only recommends the best of the best. Let’s learn more about your favorite designer in this amazing conversation.
L: Today I’m so excited to introduce to you, Kelly Faetanini, who is an experienced talented designer with a wealth of bridal industry knowledge. Kelly’s attention to detail is evident in her stunning and unique dress design, but also shines through in her dedication to customer service, outstanding seller partnership, and genuine care for her brides.
Kelly’s bridal collections offer an elegant year-fresh look good with a twist of ombre charm and feature customization options on a variety of gowns. She’s committed to offering an outstanding experience for brides as well as those stalking her dresses. Kelly not only creates beautiful wedding attire, but she’s also passionate about taking care of brides and is in charge of outstanding service in each step of the design creation, sales, and delivery process.
L: Hi Kelly, How are you?
K: I’m doing great, thank you so much for having me.
L: You are so welcome. I have to tell you a secret. You have been on my wishlist to chat with on my podcast for quite a while. So I’m so so excited.
K: Oh my gosh. Stop it, you’re making me blush now.
L: Alright, well let’s just dive right on in. I know that you were to sew from your grandmother. What then took that small passion into a career that you wanted to actually design? And then what led to the wedding industry?
K: Absolutely, so you know, it’s kind of a funny story. It sounds a little cheesy when I say it out loud, but it’s one of those things where I kind of feel like I was born with it. When I was young, I was always sketching and drawing and doing crafts, and it just kind of came naturally to me. Then when I learned how to spell from my grandmother, I was just completely obsessed with it. I go to her house on the weekends and I go to her sewing room and I just go through all of her cabinets of fabrics, and I just started to pin stuff together.
When I went to high school, our high school had all of these amazing art programs. One of them was fashion illustration, so I really got into that and started making my own clothes. The funny thing is every time I would sketch something, it was always a dress. Then I decided to go to fashion school, and this was before Project Runway. I come from a very small town in Ohio, so it’s not a career that people usually talk about. When I told my parents, I wanted to be a fashion designer they were like okay, great, sure! So I went to fashion school in Chicago.
Every time when we have a project, I would always draw dresses and the one projects we were assigned. I picked industry and apparel, then chose the wedding industry, that was it for me. I was head over heels and in love with the wedding industry. It was magical and romantic, and the other thing is like I said, whenever I’d sketch it would be always a dress, so I just felt like a perfect combination for me.
L: It’s a nerve-racking industry to be in, especially the dress design. Because such an important article of clothing for any woman, so that is definitely reaching out and doing what you’re passionate at. What is one thing that you have learned or a variety of things that you’ve learned while building your business? What challenges have you had to overcome?
K: It’s such a great question. It’s so funny because when I decided to start my own business, I am so passionate about bridal and designing gowns. I didn’t really fully understand the concept of running a business and being an entrepreneur and I’m sure a lot of entrepreneurs are facing this.
You have the passion, and you just so focus on what you want to do in a vision. Then, when you really get going, there are so many elements of running a business that doesn’t relate to anything of your passion, like technical staff, HR and those sorts of things. I would say that absolutely for the beginning, it was a big challenge and just getting those operations stuff up and running. Especially when you’re doing it for the first time, you’re always running into problems and challenges. I remember feeling at the beginning like so many challenges and obstacles constantly, and the beauty of it is you’ve learned so much over time.
Now, when I have a challenge, I always look at it as an opportunity to learn, because I’ve had that gift of learning. A challenge is an opportunity for learning. Without all of that, you wouldn’t even have the opportunity to grow, so I’ve had so much growth.
I would say one of the challenges, that is kind of been continuous for the beginning, we’ve been till now. It is really managing between being a CEO and a designer. You’re really having to switch from right brain to left brain, back and forth. Being able to be creative and have all of those creative juices flowing and all that energy coming out. Being able to flip your mind over to strategy and problem-solving and operational issues is a skill. I enjoy the challenge, but I will say it is absolutely challenging even these days.
L: I can definitely relate. I call myself a retired wedding planner and when I stick in the wedding planning industry, it is totally hard to go from design and the technical issues, timeline to the business aspects of any wedding and budget. Then going back to the fun, the color, the flower, and the dresses.
K: It is so true.
L: You have a unique, significant, personal look. I think I can look at a dress and say yes, it’s a Kelly Faetanini dress. I just love how you use pockets and a lot of your ball gowns. I love the ombre effect that you use.
A pink or a blue dress can be a little overwhelming, possibly for some people. But with your ombre effect you take an ivory fading to blush, and it just isn’t as overwhelming, and it looks beautiful and so it lets brides wear color but not being something that slaps you in your face. I love that about your collections.
K: Thank you! I remembered the first ombre that I did, It was way back. I remembered I showed it to the sales team and they thought I was out of my mind. It was actually more of a press piece to kind of get it going, but it opened to so many other ideas to continue the ombre look. It was a lavender ombre, it’s a flare with purple feathers. It was particular, and it went viral. The images were circulating all the way around the world, and after that, I started to do the blush ombre. It’s so fun to kind of play with the layers of fabric because we don’t do a dye ombre. It’s actually layering the fabric to get that soft creation from the ivory to the blush. It is a really fun process.
L: Wow, I just love it! I love how you use different shades and colors come through and I loved one of your collections! I just that’s when I fell in love, that’s when I fell in love with you.
K: You did such an amazing job on that shot, it was so gorgeous.
L: Thank you! Where does your inspiration come from for a new collection? I know there’s a lot that goes into a dress the fabric, that fit, the customization, where do you get that spark for the new collection?
K: It comes from various elements, I always find a lot of inspiration comes from travel. The Marilyn Collection, I was in Italy and the Marilyn coast. I just love seeing how the flowers really climbing the walls and the old rustic charm of Italy and elements like that. You can see it kind of carry through the collection. I was recently in Iceland, finally got away. On a little vacation with my husband. And now I’m finding that my new collection for fall 2022, I’m diving some island deck vibes, so definitely some travel in there. Fundamentally and in every collection what really inspires me are my brides. I’m always thinking of the needs of my stores and the needs of the brides. Always making sure that they fit, and the elements and all of those details are really what brides are looking for it or asking for. Even though you’re thinking ahead, maybe they’re not looking for it and asking for it.
How can I anticipate and be something fresh and new and exciting? Of course, customization is a big future that we offer on all of our down, so I’m also very conscious of how I designed the gowns to make those customization options are an opportunity for the brides that try them. Combination of all of those things in there.
L: How fun that you went to Iceland? Was it beautiful?
K: It was stunning, It was amazing! My husband and I, and of course, everyone else haven’t gone away for so long because of the pandemic, but also with the birth of our twins. It has been a couple of years that we’ve gone away. It was really nice, and beautiful scenic, it almost feels like a different world. It was a perfect place to go to have that creative invigoration.
L: Going to your wedding, did you design your own dress?
K: That was the hardest design I have ever done, because as a designer, you could have endless options. I designed 50 dresses and then tried to figure out how to narrow it down to one. I did a combination of some of my favorite elements. And when I got to the point, where I decided what I was going to do, I said to myself this is it, I am not changing it, I am going with it. Because I have probably changed it a hundred times, but I went with it. Even looking back at the photos, I still absolutely love it.
L: Listeners need to go check it out online, curse it’s beautiful. How do you come up with the names for your collections?
K: The names usually tie back to the inspiration of the season. The Redux Collection, the names are all kind of derived from throwback names. Then we had twins sets in the Redux collections, it was little about having newness and rebirth. The fit-to-flare was Mila, but you’d have the detachable skirt on top, which is Milania. It kind of had those combinations’ names. The Willow collections, all the names we look up different names of trees and different planets, that related in the Willow collection. Usually, the name is tied back to the line.
L: I love how you named your dresses. I just think they’re so beautiful names and I know each dress has its own history and it kind of goes along with the name.
Talking about your Redux Collection, I just love it! It is ultra-modern and has a touch of history and heritage if it makes sense. What is your favorite dress from that collection? I know it’s bad to name a favorite child, but do you have a favorite?
K: It is so hard because I love them all for different reasons. I always tend to go with the wild-card fashion-forward statement paste, just because it’s so fun and fabulous. One of my favorites is called Isadora. It is a twin set, the under a gown is called Dora. It is a fit-to-flare crepe, so stunning and in shape. It has one shoulder long sleeve on one side, and then it has a really cool cut-out back, and then it has a detachable full feather ball gown skirt, which is just like, you gas when you see it.
L: I think one of my favorites is the Ren. I love the puffy sleeves and I just love the fabric and the lace on it. But then I would also be remiss to not say that it’s Isadora because it’s just breathtaking, it really is.
K: Yes I know it’s so hard, Another favorite is Zara, it’s elegant and chic and clean. I love the shape of the neckline, has the skinny scrub straps that go into a little thicker. That really pretty steamed details. My taste was kind of vary thorough, I love the drama, also like the simplistic styles as well.
L: Yeah, there are so many things going through my head, that I want to talk about, but I want to be conscious of your time. How far in advance does it go from a design on paper to appearing in the stores?
K: Usually starts between like 6 to 7 months in advance. I’ll start conference updates, and I usually do a lot of trend research and look at what’s happening around the world and I’ll look at Milan Fashion Week and Paris and just kind of see the trends. And of course, bridal trends are not as dramatic and quick as the rest of ready-to-wear, but they’re certain little elements that I’ll take. And I think that’s what really gives our collection a unique spin. Everything is fundamentally classic, but there’s always one little detail that is very different. There are thousands of wedding gowns out there, it is hard to differentiate sometimes between the different lines in the different brands and whatnot. But it’s these little, tiny details really helped differentiate the elements we put into our gowns.
I start there, then I’ll do sketches. I usually do about 50 to 60 sketches and then after that point. We are also trying to source fabrics earlier on as well, so we’ll start pulling in fabrics. I will get about a thousand fabrics that I have chosen from. Usually, it looks like a boom of laces went off in my office, which is really fun. It really takes some time.
You’re talking about the creative process, I just kind of related to riding a buck. And people are saying go into a room for like a week and not be talking to, you really get those juices flowing. We’ll get the link, and then we just start it together, we will get pack pat spin it over. They start developing patterns, redo a lot of tweaking. Sometimes I’ll do 6 to 7 prototypes until I get the fit right. It’s a process, but it’s a really fun one.
L: Well, I noticed in your collections, that you said you dare to be different, and you dare to out and be unique and keep your personal. Have you found that to be challenging, to be able to express yourself? Or do you love being outside of the box and be totally creative?
K: I love that question, such a good one. I always say it’s a very fine line. You want to push the envelope a little. But at the end of the day, it’s still a wedding dress that needs to remain timeless. I want our brides to look back at their gown in her photos thirty years later, and still say, wow I absolutely love the dress, and I wouldn’t change anything about it.
Usually, we keep classic. There are always some classic elements on there, and then what I do try to do the first is to diversify the assortment, so I will allow myself a couple of wild cards. If I have a collection of 18 pieces, then I will have three that are like my fashion-forward statement. We’ll make sure that we have some of a really classic, with a bigger twist. For the brides who want to have a hair more fashionable, then we always have our dresses more elegant, simple and sophisticated. Sometimes it can be a challenge, I see myself holding up two lace patterns going back and forth saying it just to off the top, or maybe it’s not.
Sometimes if I think some things over the top, and we put it out. There’s a gallon that I did a couple of years ago called Gwendolyn, and it was like my wild card dress, is gold and embroidery. And I’m like this is why wildcard makes a fashion statement, I love this, it’s amazing, it’s not your typical classic dress. I love it because it was so different and was not one of the gowns out there, probably in the universe, that no one could find that looks similar.
I think that’s also about our collection, is something looks different, but it still had all the elements of just feeling like regal on your wedding day and sophisticated and beautiful. So at least, I got puts me at ease for I know even if I’m choosing something that feels a little more fresh and modern. They’re still other elements in the gown, that are going to make it feel like a timeless, elegant wedding gown regardless
L: What have you done as unique ways to dedicated to the Covid brides? And beyond, if I am choosing to not be in the public eye and there is no local store that carries one of your gowns. Is there any way that I can try it on at home?
K: Great question! So when Covid was happening, we’re always looking for how do we support our salon partners, how do we support our brides. Brides were still getting married and needing dresses, that the world doesn’t stop. So we were trying to figure out what to do. And we came up with the try-at-home solution, which was the collaboration with our stores. So even though we were doing try-on appointments, but it was still partnering with our salon. The way it worked was the bides want to try our gowns, but the stores were closed, we coordinated some samples, and we had a shared program where the stores still benefited from the sale as well. The bride would of course go into the store to their alterations. If the bride wasn’t near a retailer, we would also do the try at home program, and the brides love it. It’s been a really good opportunity for growth. We are not a mass produce brand that has 300 stores on every corner, like a Starbucks. We were very specific on where our brand is placed, and we want to be in the best of the best stores. We also want to protect our store and make sure that they’re not down the street from someone else. So we do have exclusivity for those stores. Sometimes brides do have to drive a couple of hours. The try-on home program really helps with the brides.
Other Covid things that we did, were that we worked really closely with our production partners. And we were able to wave all rush fees on our down. So we got gowns and for bribes as of two weeks. We did 2 weeks rushes, 4 weeks rush, 6 weeks rush, and all complimentary. I think brides and our retail partners really appreciated that.
K: There are already enough stressful things going on with planning a wedding in the middle of Covid, so if there is anything that we can do to help make it less stressful. We are all for it.
In terms of design, we really thought about what are the needs of the brides. The venues were closed, there’s a lot of outdoor weddings. How do we design the styles that are suitable for those venues aesthetically, and even just the way of the fabric. Having the dresses, to be good for garden weddings or backyard weddings. And it kind of evolved into the twin sets for the Redux Collection. For brides that are doing two weddings, so they can have the two pieces set. Fit-to-flare for their outdoor wedding and then next year when they do their vow renewal, they can have the ball gown skirt, that they can walk down the aisle. A lot of varsities in the pieces, which is really nice.
L: I love the twin sets, and it just kind of correlates with the twins that you have, are they totally different, or are they the same?
K: They are pretty different. They certainly have some elements that are the same, but pretty different personalities. They look a lot the same, even my mom still gets them to mix up.
L: So exactly like your dresses, they look the same, but they have totally different aspects.
K: Yeah, That’s so true.
L: Do you offer any other lines, other than your main collections?
K: Yes, I’m really excited to announce that we are launching a new collection called LIV by Kelly Faetanini. The collection was inspired by my daughter, LIV, who is four and a half. The new collection is affordable fashion. Our main collection retails for $2,500 to about $5,000, and we want to be able to expand the brand to more brides. So the budget for these gowns starts at $1,300 retail and goes up to $2,500. The line has a bit more sparkle, it’s really elegant and fun. There are gorgeous laces that have really fine details. I’m very very excited about the lines to release. We are actually launched in Chicago in a couple of weeks, so keep your eye out for it. And I’m very excited to have some bride to start try-on our new collection.
L: Well, I know just for your Instagram account, that’s your bride has become part of your family, that you have KF family and KF brides, and that can definitely tell that you care so much about the experience and not just the sale of your dress, but the experience that the brides have from the beginning to the end. I think anybody would be honored to be able to wear one of your gowns.
K: Thank you so much!
L: Thank you so much for being here. Is there anything else that we didn’t touch on?
K: No, I think you cover it. It was such a great conversation, I’m so glad we got to do this.
L: Thank you so so much, Kelly!