Celtic themes are at the heart of Nova Scotia designer Katherine Feiel’s gorgeous dresses and gowns.
What are your own roots?
My roots are European: Scottish and German, Scottish on my father’s side and German and English on my mother’s side.
When and why did you first become interested in fashion?
I was a creative child and spent my youth playing with textiles: creating quilts and clothing. It was a vast source of entertainment for me. As I grew older this love of fashion continued. I made my clothing as a teen and continue to do so to this day. I found that the clothes I was seeking were just not available. I was looking for beautiful feminine clothes and I could never find what I was looking for so began making my own.
Are they the same reasons that you continue to be involved today?
Today I love being able to provide a quality product that makes women happy. I do all of my own sewing and I make primarily wedding gowns. I work with one bride at a time, spending hours consulting and coming up with exactly what she wishes. Then I sew in my beautiful sunny studio, appreciating the beauty surrounding me. I have ocean on two sides of my space and sometimes I ponder the beauty of nature and this gives me inspiration.
How has your work evolved over the years?
I am a collector of vintage lace and vintage beaded silk garments. I have decided that I want to rework these garments, up cycling them to create beautiful feminine gowns. My skill level and technical ability has evolved and developed as I figured out how to turn one outdated beaded garment into a beautiful corset, or part of a skirt on a new wedding gown. Every time I create a new design my technical skill evolves because I have to tackle the logistics of turning a sketch into an actual functional design. As well as reworking and up-cycling I create gowns made from only new fabrics, my goal is to be able to provide whatever a bride wishes.
What are the challenges of the vocation?
There are not many challenges. I do not market my designs, I wait for brides to approach me, and the ones who do are already in love with my designs. In that way I do not need to persuade people to work with me. Perhaps a lack of time would be my real challenge. As I do my own sewing I am limited in the number of gowns I can sew per year. I do not like working under stress and need to have ample time to complete a gown. This means that I sometimes have to refuse orders if I do not have enough time to fill them. This is difficult for me as I like to make brides happy! Sometimes I squeeze in an extra order or two when I can.
What are the rewards?
I consider myself an entrepreneur and really enjoy being my own boss. I can work when I choose and how I choose and benefit personally from my hard work. I love the creative aspects, being finicky and making a gown as absolutely beautiful as possible, coming up with new ideas and solutions to design challenges. I think my absolute favorite reward is the reaction I get from brides, and I am spoiled now because I get this all the time. It goes something like this “I cried when I opened my box because the gown was so beautiful! Thank you! How did you get it to fit so perfectly?!”
Is your creative process more ‘inspirational’ or ‘perspirational’?
Certainly inspirational! I love what I do and am able to quickly figure out any design challenges that arise. I love that I have this ability to quickly figure things out. I like to re work vintage fabrics. For example, I collect intricately beaded fabrics that have so much beautiful detail but have perhaps an outdated cut. We cannot discard these items! Instead I rework them and turn them into something new. In this way, these garments are given new life and are worn again instead of going to a garbage dump! I also make gowns from all new fabrics, or turn an outdated wedding own into something new and fresh. I also love nature and live on this crazy little rugged Island (Long Island, Nova Scotia). Here is a village in which natural beauty is the main offering and I am fortunate enough to have incredible land surrounding me: tall Basalt columns, vast empty forests, sparkling tidal currents. My studio sits on the tip of the island and from the windows I can watch the sparkle of the ocean, marine life passing through, and the majesty of ancient rugged coastlines. Here I feel connected to my own Celtic roots and can find so much inspiration in the wonder of the beauty that surrounds me.
What makes your work unique?
I sew my own gowns, one at a time. The process is specialized, beginning with consultation with each individual bride. This process takes as long as needed to establish whatever the bride wishes. She can have her gown as she wants as all is custom. She may add any color and I custom dye fabrics to match wishes. I guarantee perfect fit, quality, and beauty upon arrival. Alterations are not required. I am interested in slow fashion, which takes an ethical approach to the manufacture of clothing. So, instead of mass producing low quality items in third world countries, garments are made with high quality ethically sourced materials which are made to last. There is no need to be concerned with sweatshops, disposable fashion, and toxic textiles. It is a sustainable approach to fashion. I guess those are the two things that make me stand apart: hand making high end wedding gowns which are only available online but are shipped worldwide with a guarantee of perfection upon arrival, and the promise of the garment being sewn by myself with a slow fashion, sustainable approach.
What makes a good piece/item of clothing?
I like quality and timeless beauty. In that sense I like to know that a garment will stand the test of time by being made well and will not be so trendy that I cannot wear it for a number of years. With limited resources on the planet we must find fashions that are sustainable. It is nice to know that the clothes that you choose promote fair treatment of workers, if they are being produced in developing nations.
Who are your clients?
It is so interesting, I have sold gowns to women on almost all of the continents on earth! One of the wonderful things about the internet is that people can do what I do: choose to work from a studio and market and sell products worldwide! The women who come to me are looking for something different. They have gone to bridal shops and are frustrated, they cannot find anything which appeals to them. They are perhaps having a themed wedding, Celtic, Faerie, Medieval. They are trusting that I can provide what I promise, they fall in love with my designs, they don’t admire contemporary bridal fashions. Apart from that they are all very different, special women. I really enjoy working with each one!
What are your thoughts on the current state of the Celtic fashion industry?
I love Celtic knots and the mysticism and romance surrounding them. This motif is found in so many Celtic Fashions and accessories and they really appeal to many people for different reasons. The Faerie Bride logo has a love knot, or Eternal knot, and I try to add Eternal knots to many of my gowns. Placed between the breasts, over the heart, the Eternal Love knot represents the love between the bride I am sewing for and her betrothed.
What can we be doing better?
I think that Celtic fashion and symbolism is going to become more and more popular and now would be a time to find artists and craftspeople who do quality work and showcase them, get them on the front lines, the people who are representing this emerging trend in a beautiful, quality way.
What’s next on your creative agenda?
I am currently finishing an undergrad degree in business after a 20 year hiatus. It is something that I have always wanted to complete but have been thus far too busy because of other obligations. I am not sure where this will lead but know it will help me to run my business more effectively. I have endless design ideas for garments but have to make time to sew, photograph and profile them. I am collecting leather jackets: old, soft, wrinkly and outdated, and am going to use them to make corsets and gauntlets which I will then incorporate into beautiful feminine wedding gowns. Sound unusual? I may explore putting my gowns in lovely little bridal boutiques and open a manufacturing space in which I still make one gown at a time, but instead of doing it solo, hire a group of tailors to assist me.
Check out Katherine’s designs in the latest edition of Celtic Life International Magazine!
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