A Q&A with Couture Wedding Dress Designer Elbeth Gillis

Oh So Hitched

Elbeth Gillis is a South African wedding dress designer whose beautifully feminine and sophisticated bridal and evening couture has turned heads.

Take a look at the collection by Elbeth Gillis and you’ll see why she follows the virtues of ‘style, charm and uncompromising class’.

I’m sure it will delight many soon-to-be brides that Elbeth Gillis Couture will be now be available at (the very gorgeous) The Wedding Club.

If you’re curious about the designer behind this gorgeous brand, here’s our Q&A with the lady herself. Here, Elbeth tells us a little bit about her life in South Africa, plus the creative thinking that goes into those opulent gowns…

Elbeth Gillis Couture

Georgina of the Opulence collection by Elbeth Gillis

Hi Elbeth. Did you always want to get into the fashion and bridal industry and what is it that you love about being a designer?

I was about 12 years old when I knew I would study fashion. It seemed like the next natural step, especially because I grew up in a family where almost everyone sews. My mother and grandmother sewed a lot, so I’d be surrounded by fabric and thread and patterns. It was natural to draw dresses for my dolls and then make their clothes.

I studied fashion in Cape Town at a time when South African designers didn’t have much exposure to the rest of the world, nor was there the opportunity to study overseas. This meant that competition amongst local designers was pretty fierce and you had to work really hard to establish yourself.

But over time the quality of my work started to speak for itself, and now I can’t really imagine doing anything else. I love being part of that magical transformation process that brides embark on when they start looking for the perfect dress.

Leia by Elbeth Gillis

Leia of the Heirloom Collection by Elbeth Gillis

How does the wedding industry differ in South Africa to the UK (if at all) and how many months go into producing your new collections?

In one sense, the wedding industry isn’t all that different – women all over the world want to be beautiful. And because of social media, brides are very aware of fashion and beauty trends. Probably the biggest factor is the weather – our summers are nice and hot, which means brides tend to avoid heavier dresses.

I produce a new collection each year that launches at White Gallery. I’m always thinking about the next gown, or the next bit of detail, so when I finally do begin the process of creating a new collection, it’s not like starting up a cold engine. From the mood boards to the photo shoot, it normally takes me about four to five months.

Elbeth Gillis Couture

Charie of The Enchanting Collection by Elbeth Gillis

Where do you get your inspiration – how much of your collection would you say is inspired by catwalk trends?

I’m always curious about what my favourite designers are doing! A lot of my inspiration is drawn from haute couture collections – mostly the work of Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad, Valentino, Dany Atrache and Chanel. When I see something I like, it’ll usually trigger more ideas, and then I’ll start imagining and doodling to see if it leads to something I want to produce.

How would you describe your style?

I’m known for two things: timeless elegance that has a dash of sophisticated sensuality, and the heirloom quality of my work. I’m pretty relentless in my standards, and so I use only the best French laces, silks and chiffons. Actually, I use the same company that supplied lace for Princess Grace Kelly and the Duchess of Cornwall, Kate Middleton’s gowns!

What kind of brides come to you?

The brides that come to me are those who appreciate refined luxury – who want something a little different, something not quite so loud, something that underscores their unique beauty.

Elbeth Gillis Couture

Alicia of the Opulence Collection by Elbeth Gillis

How do you feel you are unique to other designers?

I don’t sit in a glass tower, removed from my clients. I see brides every day at my studio in Cape Town, so this gives me firsthand experience with what brides want, what they think of my designs, how a dress fits. It keeps me grounded and quite pragmatic

How would you describe your latest collection?

My latest collection is elegant, light and opulent. It’s more sensual than my previous collections, with lace tattoos juxtaposed against bare skin. I’ve given brides the power of choice – two of my gowns have detachable skirt overlays so that brides can mix up their look on their special day. And I continue with that little thread of practicality that I like to toss in there as a surprise: hidden pockets!

Elbeth Gillis Couture

Emily of the Opulence collection by Elbeth Gillis

Elbeth Gillis Couture

Kelly of the Opulence collection by Elbeth Gillis

Who are the biggest names you have designed for?

We love our cricket as much as the British – so it was a real thrill to design Imari du Plessis’ dress. She’s the wife of Faf du Plessis, the captain of our one-day cricket team. She’s just beautiful! But I will say that every time a bride is happy with her dress – that’s a memorable moment for me. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.

What do you absolutely avoid in your designs, if anything?

I tend to avoid a lot of bling and dresses heavy with detail. I like the lines of a dress to stand out.

What is the most important thing for you when designing a dress?

Hmm, three things come to mind. Fit is critical for me – I’m a perfectionist and can’t stand a wrinkle here and there. Fabric is also important to me and helps to convey the essence of a dress. And of course I want my dresses to hit the mark – I want them to be on trend, otherwise what’s the point, right?

Elbeth Gillis Couture

Nicole of the Opulence collectino by Elbeth Gillis

Thank you to the wonderful Elbeth Gill for taking part in this Q&A for Oh So Hitched. For more information on Elbeth Gillis Couture, visit ElbethGillis.com, follow her on twitter @ElbethGillis, Pinterest and Facebook.

Until next time x