Although Alabama native Heidi Elnora of heidi elnora Atelier has taken her homegrown talent global with her gowns in bridal boutiques across the world, she has kept her talent local by co-founding Birmingham Fashion Week in 2011 as a way to celebrate local talent, bolster the local economy and foster the growth of local aspiring designers. The “Project Runway” alum and star of TLC’s “Bride by Design” launched her brand in 2006 to much acclaim and, more recently, she opened the doors of her bridal boutique, heidi elnora Atelier, on historic cobblestone-clad Morris Avenue. Her collections feature sleek, feminine lines with modern accents that keep brides enchanted with her timeless yet relevant designs each season. We are thrilled to speak with Birmingham’s own Heidi Elnora!
What first sparked your interest in fashion?
I have always had a love for fashion. It started when I was a little girl. Something about it intrigued me. It was a means of expression that I could understand and grab onto.
What was the “a-ha” moment or turning point when you became serious about making this passion a career?
My “a-ha” moment was when I was awarded a full scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design. I realized that my dream could actually become my reality.
Describe the design aesthetic of your fashion label.
My collections consist of clean lines and modern details with a feminine silhouette.
Where do you find artistic inspiration and can you give us an example of those creative sparks being translated into your work?
I find inspiration everywhere. Throughout the year, I begin to collect images of things that I like. Whether it be a neckline or a certain finish on a skirt, I am constantly researching the trends in the market, as well as pulling from older concepts that I may have saved from years past.
Are there any fashion trends that you love at the moment and, alternately, any classic fashions that you cling to?
I love the soft details of today’s clothes and the use of nude tones. However, when it comes to the overall design, I always stick to basic silhouettes that are timeless.
How does Birmingham’s fashion aesthetic differ from that of the rest of the country?
Birmingham has a definite style that is like no other. Being a Southern city and me being a wedding gown designer from the South, I see a lot of lace, buttons, bows and pockets. Brides tend to stick to the traditional silhouettes with a modern twist.
How has your work evolved since you launched your own label?
Oh … I have grown so much. My gowns have truly developed over the years from the variety of fabrics used to the design details that go into each dress. They are now known across the country for their amazing fit and feminine relevance.
What is most challenging thing about running a fashion design company?
It’s location. We have to be overly organized in order to stay ahead of schedule. It’s not like I can run down the street to pick up more lining or buttons. We are constantly working on logistics in order to make sure all dresses arrive to our brides perfect and on time.
What is most rewarding?
Knowing that I am creating the single most important garment that a woman will ever wear, her wedding dress. The smiles on my brides’ faces when they see their dresses for the first time and all of the thank you letters from the brides, their moms and sometimes even their dads.
What advice would you give to young, aspiring designers?
If you want to make it in this industry, you have got to eat, breathe and sleep fashion. It is not a 9 to 5 job. It’s all day, every day. Be willing to leave your heart and soul exposed.
Who have been your industry mentors and role models and why?
My seamstress and pattern maker Carolyn. She has been with me for 10 years. I have learned more from her then I ever did at college, on “Project Runway” or designing children’s clothing at Carter’s.
What are your predictions for interior design in the next 10 to 15 years?
Minimalistic. I see a lot of natural materials, tonal colors, with a lot of windows for natural light.
Do you have a motto or piece of advice that you cling to?
Faith over fear.
Thank you to Heidi Elnora for sharing her talents and insights. We are so proud of this talented Birmingham-based designer of stunning Southern-inspired wedding gowns! To view more of her fabulous work, visit heidi elnora Atelier; and to learn more about Birmingham Fashion Week, visit bhamfashionweek.com.
And thank you to Juan Rodriguez Photography for today’s beautiful images!