In an exclusive interview, Sophisticated Weddings catches up with
Sharon Sever, Head Designer of luxury fashion house Galia Lahav.
The Tel Aviv-based designer spills the deets on the debut of a new shoe
line, the innovations beneath its stunning gowns, and the unforgettable experience they’re extending to brides that brings everyone together. Unwavering in celebration for female expression and empowerment,
the Galia Lahav brand reminds us during this Fall/Winter 2021 segment
of New York Bridal Fashion Week that fashion itself... is here to stay.
Following three decades of crafting luxury apparel, Galia Lahav is recognized as one of the top bridal gown designers in the world. With a Couture line, the GALA made-to-order range, and the Pret-A-Porter collection shining in its portfolio, the celebrated design house has made its next bold move to complete the look and experience, not just for the walk down the aisle, but for all occasions surrounding it. Exciting developments are gracing the horizon for the Fall/Winter 2021 collection, beginning with the debut of the Galia Lahav Bridal Shoe Collection. Catering to the fashion-forward bride for whom every exquisite detail on her wedding day has been considered, the introduction of this initial 6-piece variety is bringing the customized look full circle.
SW: Let's talk the latest to come out of the Galia Lahav fashion house. I'm going to put this out here right now: the bootie is my favorite, but with all of them being so exquisite and versatile- an accessory that begs to be worn for all occasions- there's also a certain element of ease in knowing a perfect match to one's Galia gown is within reach. Can we expect this collection to expand and evolve as a complement to future seasons of gown designs?
Sharon: Naturally there will be timeless classical styles, just as we have in our couture line. It will be updated each season according to the dresses, colors, fabrics, and materials we’ll use.
SW: As every woman knows, a fabulously dressed foot is no stranger to pain. With one of the most common complaints relating to discomfort in wearing heels, was this a factor taken into account in its design?
Sharon: Comfort was the main issue. The soles are padded and the heels are super comfortable. We’ve made a special mold for this that is providing more support for the foot, and the soles are immaculately made in a very prestigious factory near Milan. We were very particular about the comfort issue since we’ve seen brides suffer for years.
SW: It is a surprisingly underestimated challenge to source the right shoe for a gown when taking into account the tone, fabric, and overall look. Will this collection ease this challenge for Galia brides?
Sharon: For me, it starts with the shoes. If there is anything that completes the look, it’s the shoes. That is why I’ve wanted to do this for so long. We see brides buying these amazing dresses and wearing shoes that don’t match or have nothing to do with the whole story. It’s a real shame when everything is amazing – the hair, accessories – but the shoes are a disaster. That kills me. From the dress, to the veil, to the shoes- we can bring the whole look together.
SW: There's no point in denying it; Zoom is a way of life for the time being. How have you embraced this facet to connect with brides?
Sharon: It is relatively new, but virtual consultations have become our main means of interacting with brides since we're limited with what we can do in terms of trunk shows, and we like to be in direct contact with our brides, especially the ones who reach out to us looking for custom dresses. It’s a very easy way of connecting with them. We’ve discovered [virtual consultations] to be an amazing tool.
SW: Dare we say it might even be... fun?
Sharon: I had a bride once with 17 different spectators on with us! It's an unforgettable experience. The brides have their bridesmaids, holding signs that say “like” or “not like,” and the parents are there with champagne. It’s quite a big deal!” During this pandemic, we've been faced with many challenges, but this- getting before the brides- has been a pretty easy obstacle to overcome.
SW: So there's a new e-commerce platform at GaliaLahav.com. How has the online experience been adapted?
Sharon: We have a new collection on it which is a ready-to-wear line, and our new shoe line which was a dream for many years. We’ve included some of our collection to the commerce site, and our new platform allows brides to communicate with us directly. The digital world has become very advanced, and with that being the future, along with us always having been very fashion forward- we are innovators in this field as well.
SW: A major element to F/W 2021's "Dancing Queen" Couture Collection involves movement, and this sentiment appears to be echoed not only in design but function as well. How did you manage to achieve great volume and intricacy without the heavy weight, as many traditional ballgowns are known for being so restrictive?
Sharon: We try to innovate, of course, in the design, but also there was a big emphasis on the weight and the movement. My whole inspiration [with this collection] was with the world of dance, and there is a lot of volume that is achieved, sometimes with only two layers of tulle, which is a very light fabric. It was a challenge- I won’t lie. It was difficult to achieve the look I was hoping for at times, and so I had to construct some petticoats that were made by us because I couldn’t find one that was light enough. The weight was very important; I was looking at ballgowns which weigh a ton, and it’s impossible to move or dance in them. The comfort is always a big issue for us. We always make sure a bride can sit in our dresses- dance, get out of the car, walk down the aisle. There is a dress in the collection called ‘Cherie’ that looks like a big tulip, and it gets this effect with its tulle and a petticoat to add depth. Most of the dresses are super light. Even the beading- we used glass which is lighter than crystal, and captures even more light to gain the look we were trying to achieve. Innovation is nothing new to us, that’s what we’re all about.
SW: While Galia Lahav is no stranger to illusion fabric, we couldn't help but draw a connection to the inspiration drawn from ballet dancers like Alba Arnova, whose performance on Italian television had been deemed scandalous and therefore banned after she wore a leotard that was considered "semi-nude" in appearance due to lighting. In some sense, by incorporating an element of illusion, were you seeking to take back the power of the matter, in the name of women's liberation?
Sharon: It’s funny that you mention it- that was the story that touched me most. First of all, thank you for noticing it, because that was something that was really important to me. When I started reading about the dance world, and I encountered this story about Alba Arnova, it struck me how a woman could be banned from the entire industry just for wearing something that seemed sheer on black-and-white TV. Somehow it was such a scandal, when she was actually just performing in a ballet piece that was just supposed to show the way the body moves. It is so amazing to me that women today are free to be and wear whoever and whatever they want, especially since we are all about the empowerment of women, and the strong character of the woman-- that is really important to us. I work with about 50 women here and each one has a strong character; they inspire me every day. It is something I always look up to, from my mother, to Galia- who is my fashion mother- to everyone else I work with. This is something that I am always very conscious of.
SW: With the GALA Collection no. X, freedom prevails, as it speaks to the woman who is unafraid of change and self-expression. She is feminine and full of whimsy, free-spirited yet empowered. Generally speaking, a bride is met with challenge in one form or another at some point in their journey. Seating assignments, menu selections, registry planning- there's always something. 2020's bride is facing a touch more stress right now than they ever imagined when dreaming of this special day. Could this be paying tribute to the women that are meeting this obstacle head on with strength and earnest heart in the name of love?
Sharon: From my point of view, we have to be free to feel vulnerable sometimes. Times like this challenge us to make some great decisions, and I feel that people who are getting married now, and doing so for the right reasons, and not just for the sake of the party. We’re free to love and free to choose the ones we love, and in that we are united in our own special way. There’s this whole trend now of the intimate weddings, and I think it’s pretty amazing. We are still able to share these precious moments with our loved ones and the people closest to us. Venues are more intimate. This whole thing makes the experience more personal, which attracts more and more brides to ask for very customized dresses with personal touches because there is more attention now to the dress.
SW: Your energy radiates optimism, even at a time where it could be very easy to spiral downward in negativity. Looking to the light, here we are, standing before a brand new series of collections and debuts. It goes to show that fashion cannot be stopped, not even for a little thing like a global pandemic.
Sharon: I am very fortunate to do what we do, and we work on something that is about beauty and love. Brides still want to be brides- amazing- with a day that is unforgettable. Unfortunately, this [pandemic] may stay with us for some time, and we have to adjust to a new situation, but human nature is something that is invincible, and we are always finding hope at times like these.
SW: That's the amazing thing about fashion; it stimulates the eyes and hearts of everyone around it. Sometimes we have to roll with the punches, and adjust the way in which we do things, but there is beauty to found all around us... and on us.
Sharon: We had to hold back a bit on trunk shows. Bridal Reflections on 5th Avenue and on Long Island- which you know well— had a trunk show after quite some time, and the response was incredible- just unbelievable. It went on for another week because brides kept on flooding their inbox, and since their capacity to accommodate brides was of course limited for safety reasons, it just went on and on and on. Everybody was so eager to see the new pieces. It was exciting. There is this yearn for something that makes us feel good.