Let’s dig a little deeper into the story behind these gorgeous gowns. Leah Ann has been a Melbourne-based designer for over 15 years, retailing affordable designer and plus size wedding dresses with the perfect accessories to match! She’s definitely come a long way to achieve what Leah S Designs is today since her humble beginnings, working in a barn from a very young age. Background
Leah started off making debutante dresses for her neighbours and friends, but one thing led to another, and now she’s helping to dress women from all over the world. Running a bridal business was never part of the plan at 19 years old, but sewing was always in her blood.
Thanks mum! those craft days were worth while.
My mum, Lyn Sukroo, used to have her own gallery with silk products and has been involved in plus size fashion for over 30 years. As such, Leah spent several years doing piece work for her family’s business and found that sewing came naturally to her. Lyn has since dedicated her time to her daughter’s brand to help her expand by creating the Plus Size Perfection Collection. The Plus Size Perfection Collection, designed for sizes above 16, boasts both international and national recognition and is constantly growing. (TEN new dresses are added each season!)
Background of Leah Ann
Leah lived in an area where wearable and affordable bridal wear was lacking, and she simply snagged the knocking opportunity. Leah S Designs started off in Pakenham back in 2001, then moved to Lonsdale Street, Dandenong. It was a decade later in 2011 that they moved to the current location, 3/167 Princes Hwy, Hallam. Seeing brides fall in love with the dresses she designed inspired her to keep growing in the world of bridal design. Leah also adores the way young debutantes who have never seen themselves in a formal dress have a newfound confidence in how they look when they’re all dressed up.
In her interview with Officeworks, Leah revealed that vision boards are an essential part of her business strategy for encompassing all the elements that inspire the looks for her collections. She draws inspiration from the natural environment such as plants, flowers and shells. Leah also loves putting up inspirational quotes and pictures of people whom she would love to model her designs. She keeps these vision boards around the workspace because they also serve as a constant reminder of what she loves about the business.
They say you are what you eat, but you also are what you read! Leah has a love of American bridal magazines like The Knot and Bridal Guide, as she believes that the USA is at the forefront of bridal dress trends. Leah thinks that Australia is about 3 years behind them, pointing out the fact that latte and blush coloured wedding dresses are only now becoming popular here.
Bridal style in Australia
“In Australia, we are a mix between the flamboyant American and the conservative English styles. I usually look at the base design of English dresses and then I look at American-style embellishments like beading, lace and strap design,” she explains.
Leah also loves reading blogs, as she revealed, “It’s so exciting to see posts of our business and other vendors I know featured on blogs like Polka Dot Bride, Nouba and Bridal Musings.” She gets many of her ideas from spending lots of time scrolling through Instagram, a habit most of us are already guilty of 😉 Plus, Insta direct messages have scored her a couple of new contacts and shoots as well! Get on it!
Story time! Leah has dressed hundreds of women in her experience and she’s not short on crazy, wonderful anecdotes one bit.
I particularly loved getting to dress an 80-year-old lady who was getting married for the first time. Truly, no one is too old to get married! She dressed the lady in a lovely, understated chiffon gown in ivory with a ruffle sleeve – exactly what she was looking for! She even said that the dress made her feel like the bride she always wanted to be. Success!
Once, Leah came across a lady who bought not one but FIVE wedding dresses for her big day. For her fitting, she chartered a helicopter from rural Hamilton to Moorabbin airport and then back home again! The first dress made for walking down the aisle was in a crossover bodice style with beaded lace throughout. Second dress made for wearing at the reception was a simple one with beaded straps. Third dress made for the bridal waltz was shortened to three-quarter length and the fourth dress was made for the bride’s departure. And last but not least the final dress was made for a ballroom dancing championship and was tailored in a gorgeous, royal purple.
Advice from Leah Ann
Her dress shopping advice? “Don’t bring a 10-person entourage, just bring your mum, sister and your bestie. Trust me, it’s for the best.”
When asked about bridal trends, Leah shared that she would LOVE the black wedding dress trend to catch on. Who says black is reserved just for funerals or LBDs? She loves the idea so much, she even displayed a black wedding dress outside her own store. “Wearing black would be a real rebel statement. No one expects the bride to wear black (or maybe it’s because I have seen too many white dresses)!” Leah shared.
In 2017, Leah launched her wedding brand Hello Lovers Australia, which matches dresses to jewellery. Most of the collection are made from stretch satin, have sleeves as well as splits in the skirts. The brand has seen booming success in store and online and she’s been getting plenty of orders to stay busy. When she has the extra time, Leah loves any excuse to travel. She goes to Sydney, Hong Kong, China and Europe for bridal store research, trade shows, fashion week and production work. You’ve got to live and breathe fashion if it’s your number one passion!
Don’t stress yourself out
Words of wisdom from Leah Ann: “Don’t put too much on your plate; don’t buy a house, plan a wedding and have a baby at the same time. Keep your stress to a minimum with one event at a time.”
To aspiring designers out there, “Fashion is about the survival of the fittest, and you need to compete to survive. It will not be an easy journey, but it is a rewarding one. Make as many friends in the biz as possible (photographers, media, hairdressers, makeup artists) and collaborate on projects. Stay true to yourself and don’t copy what anyone else is doing. Don’t be afraid to fail. Your biggest setback is your mindset. No one can really tell you how to do it. Just listen to your inner voice, and if not, just fake it till you make it.”
Before you go…
This year, Leah and Lyn will be focusing on further establishing the Hello Lovers brand and the Plus Size Perfection Collection: Now and Forever. You’ll find Leah S Designs in Hallam (just 30 minutes from Melbourne CBD) and a range of stockists around Australia. With labels you won’t see anywhere else and a size range from 4 to 38, no woman is left out, no matter your shape or size. To stay up to date and read lovely reviews from happy brides, follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.