ASCOT BY BELJOUR: A catch up with Dubai’s bespoke wedding gown company
ASCOT BY BELJOUR
The scorching hot days of summer are slowly passing by, and as August progresses, those who have managed to escape the heat are gradually returning to the UAE. Before too much longer, wedding season will be well underway, and you might even find yourself newly engaged after a surprise holiday proposal! If you’re planning a wedding for the upcoming season and are still searching for the perfect dress for your big day, today’s interview is just for you. Here, we speak to Shari Watts, the founder of bespoke gown company Ascot by BELJOUR.
It’s a very exciting time for Shari, as she has recently rebranded BELJOUR. If you’re considering purchasing a bespoke gown, either off the rack or designed especially for you, then read on to find out about Shari’s new brand and all the exquisite dresses and accessories that BELJOUR offers…
Tell us about what’s been happening over the last couple of years? What makes BELJOUR unique and how are you developing the brand?
The last two years have been so exciting and at the same time very challenging. When BELJOUR was born we wanted to offer a timeless yet different bridal collection with bespoke services in Dubai, but to international quality and with the finest bridal techniques. In such a short period of time we have helped more than a hundred brides find their perfect gown. Our brides are always amazed when they find us, as brides in Dubai don’t have many options when it comes to finding a local design studio where they can purchase a bespoke designed gown off the rack, or have access to a high quality design studio where they can enjoy their journey and custom design their perfect gown. We know that designing a bespoke gown sometimes might be overwhelming as you can’t see the final design, but with a bespoke design boutique you can really have fun.
We are launching our first international collection next year in London (we are sharing some sneak peeks with you today in this interview) and we knew it was time to take a step forward and design a new website and register our international trademarks. All is well placed now and we are so excited!
Why might a bride choose a bespoke gown?
One of the very exciting projects that we love to work on is when a bride brings in a vintage gown that was worn by a loved one. Brides sometimes bring in their mother’s or grandmother’s wedding dress, which can be more than 40 years old, and we are amazed when we see pieces that last the test of the time. Why not create your very own unique gown that can be passed on through generations and be appreciated for years to come? When designing a bespoke gown, a bride can create that individual look that is as unique as her story, culture and traditions.
Tell us all about your bridal gown designs – what type and style of dresses do you offer?
One of the greatest highlights in our collection is the amount of pure handwork that goes into each gown. From the art of lace work or different styles of embroidery and crafting techniques, each piece carries timeless details that represent true artistry. What we are really proud of is the perfect fit that each gown has. All of our gowns are structured, even the soft style gowns – which have more tulle and are suitable for a garden or beach wedding – come with built in corsets.
What I would like to share with BCME readers and brides to be is that if you are trying a gown and you are not happy with what you see in the mirror, please do not blame yourself. No matter what body shape you have or if you are a full figured bride, it is always the gown, not you.
The type of fabric that a gown is made from is very important. How can you help brides to make the right choice?
When a bride selects her fabric and chooses a colour for her design, she has already created her mood board and the overall feeling of her wedding day. I always get very excited at the first appointment when the bride selects her fabric, because we can’t wait to see what she has in mind. When it comes to accessorising the dress and selecting fabric, we try not to give any opinion, as we believe this is purely the bride’s decision. After she selects her fabric, we will design a mood board of the kind of techniques and crafting ideas that are suitable for her style. We only use high quality fabrics, mostly French lace and French tulle. I also love Polish lace when it comes to auto beaded lace work, because you can add so much to it.
Accessories are an integral part of the big day. What kind of accessories does BELJOUR offer?
Deciding on the type of accessories to complete the bride’s look is so exciting and important. Together we decide on how to create something different. Once I had a bride that brought a few ring stones which was a dear gift from her favourite aunt, and we decided to add them to her belt. Although they had different colours and the dress was a dark ivory, it was so meaningful that nothing could have been more perfect.
If I was to share a general tip I would say that if a bride is deciding on a diamond set on her big day, to stay away from diamond hair pieces and instead go more toward lace or beaded combs, or fabric tiaras. If you will be wearing a fun and colourful bridal set, select a diamond hairpiece or even a diamond hair band to add sparkle.
What budgets do you cater for?
We like to say that we cater to all budgets cause BELJOUR is for every bride, whilst bearing in mind that these are international level high quality gowns. Prices start from $1500, and that is our starting range as well, if a bride wishes to buy a bespoke gown off the rack. It is the amount of handwork that makes one BELJOUR gown more costly than the other, as they are all the same in the quality of finishing, fabrics and techniques.
Our BESPOKE service is however very different, and we can price it only after we finalise the idea and confirm the sketch with the bride. We usually ask a bride to describe her idea or share a few pictures of the design that she has in mind, and we can estimate the cost right away. Our most expensive gown was designed for a beautiful Emirati bride and had more than 700 hours of pure handwork and bead embroidery, costing $35,000.
What if a bride has a really unusual wedding dress design in mind? How do you cater to her needs?
In a bespoke design studio, the unusual is happening every day and every time that you meet a bride. I admit that sometimes it’s really challenging to guide the brides on how we can help them to bring their unique ideas to life, but we are blessed because our brides trust us and they take our advice in to consideration. At the end of the day, we are working from the heart to create beautiful smiles on their faces.
I met a bride last year and she spoke to me only about one idea; to have ceramic flowers on her gown. When I met her she had her heart set on this, but it seemed almost impossible to us. We didn’t like the technique and according to our production policy no gown can weigh more than 5kg – her gown would have exceeded twice the maximum weight. So I took the challenge to another level and created a mood board. Here, she could actually see the real samples and decide. We added thread embroidery flowers, ordered ring stones to be installed in middle of the embroidered flowers and we added a few styles of bead embroidery flowers as well. In the end, she loved them all so much that she couldn’t choose between them. I knew that if we didn’t go the extra mile to help the bride and instead tried follow her idea, it wouldn’t have worked. We love to meet brides with unique and different ideas and nothing makes us happier.
I would like to express our appreciation and love to Bride Club ME for being with us and supporting us with every step, thank you so much!