Korean-American designer Andrew Kwon first fell in love with bridal when his mother married his stepfather. “That was when my passion for bridal took shape,” Kwon tells GRAZIA USA. “It was the first wedding I’d attend, and I’ll never forget my mother’s joyful expression — which quickly turned into tears of joy — as she took her first steps into a new beginning.”
Kwon started his career designing memorable looks for women’s special occasions, with stints at Nicholas Caito, Vera Wang and Marchesa where he learned and honed his craft. When he decided to start his own label, Kwon envisioned dressing Hollywood’s A-listers for red carpet moments. But like many others, his dream was put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a world-wide lockdown, and in-person events moved to digital formats.
It wasn’t until April 2021 after graduating Parsons School of Design that Kwon pivoted the focus of his brand to bridal, releasing his first collection, Reminiscence. While red carpet events were canceled, brides were still getting married (via Zoom and in socially-distanced ceremonies) and many others were planning their big day whenever restrictions would be lifted. Kwon wanted to give those brides that super-special red carpet moment for their walk down the aisle.
As the world slowly reopened, Kwon launched his second bridal collection, Dreamer, in Fall 2021, representing an optimistic future for the post-pandemic bride.
In a short time, Kwon has shown his collections at New York Bridal Fashion Week and is featured at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus (Dallas), where customers can schedule appointments to see his designs. Fashion enthusiasts like Olivia Palermo and Edward Barsamian have also quickly become friends of the brand. With the wedding industry booming in 2022, Kwon is just getting started.
Ahead the talented designer talks with GRAZIA USA on his decision to focus on bridal, current wedding trends and who he hopes to dress for the red carpet one day.
GRAZIA: How was the transition from designing evening wear to bridal wear? What are the similarities?
ANDREW KWON: There are so many parallels between evening wear and bridal from the intricate embellishments to the little touches that lift a look from humdrum to haute. I personally enjoy the bridal market because it allows me to get to know my brides and work with them on creating exactly what they want. But the true similarities come when you understand that every woman wants to feel glamorous, beautiful and distinct. Women want to be able to wear something that makes them have that red carpet entrance whether subtle or vibrant.
G: What were the inspirations for your latest collection?
AK: I’ve always said that music is a continual inspiration for me. My mother plays the piano at a professional level (though she reserves her performances for family only) and it’s always been a part of my life. For collection 2, Dreamer, I built off my muses from collection 1, but added a lot more musical artists to the repertoire. From Loren Allred, who I had the profound opportunity to dress and work with, to Katherine Jenkins and Sumi Jo.
The palette and silhouettes came from my recent trip to the south of France. There, I really took to heart the lush landscapes — from the green mountains and cliffs approaching Monaco; the yellow sun hitting the rolling hills of Provence; the crystal-like blues on the glistening waterfronts of Marseille; and the tinges of opulence and sparkle I saw while looking up into the night sky in Jouques.
G: What are your favorite dress silhouettes?
AK: I’m a big fan of drama so give me tiers of tulle, ruffles and soft corsetry. However, I’m also partial to more minimal takes like my silk crepe satin skirt with an exaggerated train. If it’s not made from 200 yards then what’s the point? [laughs]
G: What is a modern accessory that makes sense to wear with a wedding dress now, that necessarily wasn’t à la mode pre-pandemic?
AK: Chalk it up to the pandemic and our new penchant for hygiene, but I’m a big fan of a glove moment. Not a full glove, but one where it ends on the mid-points of the fingers. It feels so fresh and different and very “now.” I created one for the singer Loren Allred for her tour with Andrea Bocelli. It was made from crystal sparkle tulle and added that final punctuation to her custom jumpsuit with regal sophistication.
G: What are the latest wedding trends?
AK: It’s been interesting to see the evolution of bridal style during the pandemic. It was also when I decided to launch my own label, but in the year since, I’ve noticed fashion-forward brides are embracing colors in Easter-friendly pastels like blue, green and yellow along with jumpsuits. But I’m partial to a more-is-more moment down the aisle and I think with the return of Bridgerton and the upcoming Gilded Glamour Met Gala, you’ll see modern takes on big dresses come back.
G: Where do you look for creative inspiration?
AK: Music. It provides me with the right balance of emotions to focus and create. I’m a huge fan of composers like Abel Korzeniowski, Max Richter, Johan Johansson, Hans Zimmer, and Yiruma. There’s a moodiness to their work. And while it’s beautiful, there’s always that macabre tinge. It reminds me of my work. Also, I moved to the Garment District in New York during the pandemic because I wanted to be in the heart of creative energy. While some may say it’s not the chicest, I thrive off my surroundings and the skyline. Oh, and I can’t forget my dear friend and supporter Olivia Palermo.
G: How do you balance between being unique and having commercial appeal?
AK: At the end of the day my role as creative director is to make my clients feel like the most important person in the world. They are the only individual who matters and it’s my mission to make them look and feel stylish. But as the solo owner-designer of a business, I’m aware of budgets and keeping costs under control. Launching during the pandemic has really shown me how to be adaptable and how to balance one-off, custom pieces with the need to create a cohesive collection for everyone. It’s really about keeping an open mind and adding your personal touch and visions to creations that go above and beyond commercial but still are very wearable and sellable. Often brides will tell me, “This is so beautiful, honestly if I were a celebrity I’d love to wear this. Or if I were walking the red carpet!” My response is that they are a celebrity and this is their moment.
G: Who would you want to dress for their red carpet moment?
AK: How much time do you have? I admire women who have drive, determination, and their own sense of style. Women like Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan, and Zendaya.
For me, my earliest memory of the red carpet was the Chanel No 5 commercial featuring “Clair de Lune” by Debussy as the soundtrack and Nicole Kidman as the model. It was a dreamy, romantic universe where she ran away from her glamorous life in a pink feathered gown and said, “drive,” to a man that didn’t seem to be a celebrity. Then she returned back to her life and went up the red carpet stairs wearing a beautiful sleek black dress, with an incredible chain and a diamond Chanel No 5 necklace. I was immediately drawn to the glamour of the carpet from then on. And while I would love to dress Nicole Kidman — obviously — I’d also feel privileged if Halle Berry, Lupita Nyong’o, Paris Hilton, Anne Hathaway and Charlize Theron were to wear my pieces on the carpet.