10 Questions with Alison Miller of Monvieve
1) What is the Monvieve brand?
In support of one of the most important moments in a woman’s life, we created headpieces, headbands and what has become to be known as the heirloom bridal veiland our signature… the most luxurious, high fashion veil collection available on the market today.
Intended to be passed through the generations, our veils are inspired by women of individual style who are looking for that singular accessory that stirs the imagination while appealing to the timeless traditions of a wedding ceremony.
Finding inspiration in the extremely discerning client that looks for exclusivity from her bridal attire, our veils have become our calling card. They represent a sublime beauty that stands apart from the crowd— one that celebrates bridal as a composite of lifestyle, culture and emotion, and delivers an exciting product with a definitive point of view. They are distinctly couture and underline Monvieve’s direct lineage to the heritage and contributions of the Italian and French. As we look to the future, any new product developments that are brought to market will always honor the tenets of design that were born of our veils.
2) What was is your background previous to starting Monvieve?
Ivy league trained in the arts, I started my career in the art world: Phillips (New York), the Tate Gallery (London), and numerous fine art collaborations including the late Mario Schifano (Rome) | Venice Biennale. While working in the art world, I was constantly designing clothes and developed a private clientele while living in Europe. I gained in-depth knowledge, appreciation for exquisite fabrications and honed my skills alongside Roman tailors, couturiers and artisans. My fine art background and passion for architecture and industrial design cemented an aesthetic of clean, sculptural silhouettes grounded in Italian tailoring and couture technique. Upon returning to New York, I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and received the graduating fashion show critic's award.
In 2003 I launched a luxury women's designer r-t-w and accessories company located in Florence, Milan and New York. The collections were honored in 2008 by the Camera Nazionale della Moda (Milan), and awarded ‘The Best of Made in Italy’ (Villa Borghese, Rome.) Recognized for efforts grounded in research and technique, as well as an ongoing commitment to the highest levels of quality, we were chosen as the first womenswear company to use the rarest luxury fabric in the world— an extraordinary cashmere with truly innovative properties. The collection was previewed during Milan Fashion Week and later presented on behalf of the Canadian Government at the Winter Olympic Games in Torino. We were also selected to participate in NY/Mercedes Benz Fashion Week events such as The Red Dress campaign.
I had always offered a special couture/made to measure bridal service (gowns, headpieces and accessories) directly out of our showrooms in Florence and Milan. Primarily servicing European brides, word of mouth garnered a growing American business. It was upon client request that Monvieve was born... and the commitment to bring to market the couture bridal accessories that were once available only to select private clientele.
Inspired by craft, quality and grounded in the idea of heirloom, Monvieve was built around the idea of making commercially available the bespoke techniques and collections developed for my couture clients.
3) How does it work when you first meet with a bride? Do they always have the dress purchased first?
Real style statements are derived from unique, singular pieces that completely elevate their wearer. There are many brides that come to us before purchasing their gown, with the understanding that they hope to secure the foundation of an extraordinary look. They are seeking out personalization… a statement that embodies all they are and all they imagine for their wedding day. Also, these women appreciate that they are creating a meaningful tradition, as it is the veil that is most likely to become the family heirloom passed down through the generations. In general, the process of selecting the perfect veil can be such an emotive one. As I like to say, the dress makes the wedding, but it is the veil that makes the bride!
If they have their gown, then they come prepared with imagery and swatches. From there, finding a veil that fits the bride’s vision while elevating and respecting the direction of her gown is the general approach.
In any case, I always start by explaining to a new client that this is an opportunity to express herself in the most meaningful of ways. Be a style arbiter. Modern style is equal parts you and equal parts discovery. Ultimately, great fashion moments aren’t contrived— they’re deeply felt and when something is right you simply know. Being bold and open to the possibilities is key. In the end, true style is found in the unexpected and the right veil absolutely transforms the gown.
4) Tell us about the different fabrications and techniques you use.
Simply stated: a bridal veil is the one accessory where it is easy to distinguish between qualities.
We work with the finest silks and custom proprietary blends… the fluidity of the fabrications express fine qualities. When a bride walks, the cascade of delicate softness behind her creates exquisite beauty. And how it lays over her face (and photographs) speaks volumes. We use elite mills from the best manufacturing districts in the world. Silks out of Como, Italy and laces from Calais-Caudry, France that are woven on Leavers looms. Taken together… the extraordinary Chantilly, fine silk organza and custom blended tulle become the very statement of timeless, refined elegance grounded in quality and heritage. Our design vernacular is greatly influenced by the Italian and French— high style with a sophisticated aesthetic. And we follow the European standards regarding length. (Our veils are longer than the American standards.) Regarding technique, lace is hand cut, pieced and basted to our proprietary tulle before being permanently secured with very fine stitching. Nothing is appliquéd on top of the tulle, but rather joined at the seams, resulting in one piece of fabrication. It allows for a more diaphanous product-- every detail calibrated to enrich the piece within one continuous plane. The result is extraordinary… silken in feeling and gossamer-thin in appearance. This does require a completely different approach, one premised with time and dedication. Depending on the veil, the artisans that do this heritage/couture work can take up to a month to produce one piece. Veils that utilize our intarsia technique (where two or more laces are combined with the intricate design working its way throughout the majority of the veil) can take upwards of six weeks once we receive our laces from France.
5) Where is the Monvieve brand based?
Although Monvieve was born in Italy and is still fully manufactured there, the headquarters were transferred to NY to facilitate better support for our US initiatives. We are now located at 130 West 57th.
6) How do brides find you?
For many years we were truly word of mouth and operated very much through referrals. Today, although we are now carried in select boutiques, the Internet is the fundamental channel of discovery. The new generation of brides are such experts at sourcing… they are the most adept to date regarding research.
Also, we have many clients from around the world who don’t have a retailer in their area or are unable to visit our showroom in NY. For them, having the possibility of finding us online (and purchasing through the custom program we developed), is a wonderful option and a matter of convenience. For those who can arrange a showroom visit, the experience is so rewarding (for us both!) A bride has the showroom to herself and can try on endless veils of varying styles to refine her bridal dressing. It’s a pivotal moment that truly allows her to curate the most personal of looks.
Ultimately, I think it’s both the recognition of how veils live above the trends and how there seems to be more of a heartfelt search for connectivity and a renewed sense of tradition that leads brides to seek us out. I see this very sentiment defined every day in the simple process of trying on veils.
7) Where do you find inspirations for your designs?
Art, architecture, my travels, my clients— they all inform and inspire. The laces and fabrications that my incredibly talented suppliers bring to the table also often dictate design directions. And then, the many collaborations that afford technical discoveries are invaluable in inspiring my design process.
Ultimately, coming from a fine arts background, I have learned to trust in my artistic method and this allows me to find inspiration in a myriad of sources. Instinctively applying this language to fashion and conceptualizing it at its most rudimentary core, components of color, texture and volume/shape, is a wonderful way to approach fashion. This manner of working not only affords the realization of my designs, but also allows for acute editing, manipulation and exploration. Combined with a deep respect for craft, demand for quality and an understanding of technique, it is the knowledge gleaned from trusting in my creative methodology that I have found to be the most important experience thus far, and one that translates impeccably into the world of the high fashion bride.
8) What is it about the symbol of veil that makes this garment so emotional?
An accessory born a millennium ago in ancient Rome, a bridal veil is the most widely recognized symbol of marriage we have today. It elicits profound reverence as it carries with it an enduring history— and guests sense this instantly upon viewing the bride as she makes her entrance.
I’ve always loved watching a bride try on a veil for the first time. She is so in the moment as she sees the most beautiful vision staring back at her. It is a reflection that tells her she is soon to be married by allowing her to feel it. That is the power of a veil— the ability to make you feel differently in every sense. It can directly and deeply touch, move and inspire you. It’s a real continuum of the human experience— universally iconic… yet so profoundly personal. And for me this transfers directly over to the wedding day—the bride, groom and guests all live in this communal place of history and tradition in tangent with the acutely personal.
Also, with a veil there is much more at play than just the accessory as dressing. A bridal veil is interactive and belongs to more than just the person who wears it. It celebrates human interconnection in the most profound of ways. The father of bride, the groom, the mother, sister or bridesmaid who has placed it on her head earlier… the entire bridal arc from start to finish has these special moments that are driven by a veil. And as for aesthetics… ask any photographer. The veil shots are often the most stunning and tend to instigate the most meaningful of moments. It’s in this manner of creating deeply powerful moments of meaning and beauty that a veil has no equal. Ultimately, a veil will make you feel differently. It’s enchanting. My clients are amazed at how captivating it is as they move, beguiling with every step. The softness, the romance, the beauty… it is for the discerning bride that wants to be part of this tradition on her own terms. From beautiful to beyond unforgettable, I would argue that a couture bridal veil, the ultimate symbol of a bride, is one of the most compelling and transformative accessories that we have in fashion.
9) What part of your business do you find most rewarding?
We all know how it feels to put on designer stilettos, or carry that chic designer ‘it bag’ you have been coveting. You are empowered. You stand up a straighter and you feel stronger with every step. Yet, I’ve never seen anything like the magical moment when a woman first puts on a Monvieve.
When a bride comes to see me, and has first chosen her gown, she’ll say “This is the dress. I knew this was the dress when I saw it.” It’s always about the search for the dress. Of course, we’ve all worn a dress before— and often a white or ivory one. When she then tries on a veil for the first time, she doesn’t say, “oh, this is the veil.” She often doesn’t say anything. She simply looks for some time at the reflection staring back at her in the mirror. This is often followed by sheer emotion driven the simple realization of one thing. When she does finally say something, it is always along the same lines…. “I am getting married. I am bride.” It is as if in that instant, everything has stopped. She takes inventory and has the powerful realization of what matters most. The frenetic process of putting together a wedding that has been endlessly swirling around her simply dissipates. And for one very real moment, she understands she is to be married and sees the most beautiful vision staring back at her. A reflection that tells her by allowing her to feel it. That is the power of a couture veil: the ability to make you feel differently in every sense. An accessory born a millennium ago still yields such an emotive power. It is a profound continuum of the human experience— universally iconic… yet so personal.
This is one of the most rewarding moments for me as a designer and what I hope all women feel when they try on a Monvieve. To be a part of that moment, and more importantly, to be a part of one of the most important days of my client’s life is what drives what I do.
10) Do you make any other accessories?
We also specialize in headpieces that are handmade in France. For the most part a headpiece is the route less travelled, but it can be equally exciting and a defining fashion moment. I’ve seen some of the most decidedly high fashion bridal looks ever in our headpieces. (We often see our brides in a veil for their ceremony and a headpiece for the reception.) Strait off the runway— the headpieces speak volumes about French couture. Beyond glamorous.
We also have in the collection these exquisite headbands out of Italy that finely weave silk and gold/silver. It’s the new ribbon— a Tuscan tradition that began in the Renaissance guilds of Florence. Chic, simple statements that are often worn under our veils, or alone at some point during the wedding festivities.