Story by Justine Iaboni. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.
Réva Mivasagar (753 Queen St. W., revadesigns.com)
Ever since Sarah Jessica Parker made it fashionably acceptable to accessorize with a bird headpiece on your wedding day, I’ve come to consider bridal fashion as more than just a white dress. Fashion designer Réva Mivasagar, however, has infused his couture wedding dresses with runway-worthy glamour for years. After studying at Central Saint Martins in London (where he roomed with Alexander McQueen), Mivasagar moved to New York and started his bridal line, which has been featured in every top bridal magazine, including Martha Stewart Weddings.
About a year ago, Mivasagar set up shop in Toronto, where he creates beautiful wedding dresses as well as a separate fashion line that soon-to-be brides often end up walking out with. “That’s our bride, more of a runway bride,” says the designer.
How did you get involved in the fashion world?
“I’ve been involved in fashion for over 25 years now. When I was in high school, I became really interested in costume and I ended up enrolling in a pretty esteemed costume school in Australia. After my first year, however, I made the cross-over into fashion.”
At what point did you start designing bridal pieces? Was the transition something you fell into or did you plan it?
“It was definitely something I fell into. About 10 years ago, I was doing eveningwear in New York and my agent asked me to create a collection of white evening gowns. It just took off as bridal. Obviously there was a market out there for women who didn’t want to look so ‘bridey’. I put some of the dresses in the window at our shop in SoHo and it became my bread and butter.”
What are the three most desirable qualities a dress should possess?
“I think a dress should be photogenic because, at the end of the day, that’s what you are left with as a memory. So photographic potential is extremely important as well as shape and silhouette. Lastly, detail. I personally love a lot of detail; I think that’s where the personality gets involved.”
With the popularity of shows such as Say Yes to the Dress, picking the perfect wedding dress often seems more important than picking the perfect groom. What do you think most women tend to overlook when searching for that perfect dress?
“I think, maybe not so much what they overlook, but what they get confused about is what their vision is—they get confused by what their mothers say, their sisters, aunties, friends etc. I often find that that’s where things start to go wrong. Brides will never find a dress that appeals to everyone; in fact, you have to be a little selfish because it is your day and the dress should fit your vision—no one else’s. If you can keep to your own vision, you will enjoy the process [of finding a dress] more.”
Does your background in costume have any influence over this?
“In a sense yes, because a lot of my dresses are very vintage in style. I’ve always been influenced in different periods. Also, the way I design my bridal is not like ‘OK, here’s the name of the collection and all the dresses speak back to an central concept’, like a trip to Tuscany or something. I actually do every dress as an individual piece because it’s always about canvas. To me, a dress represents a personality, a different period, and a certain woman.”
Who are your design mentors?
“Oh dear, I have so many. It literally becomes such a hodgepodge. I’m very influenced by the originals—Christian Dior, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Coco Chanel. They were all really interested in structure and they gave a new shape to women’s clothing. Early Chanel and what she did with stretch fabric—that’s what inspires me. I’m inspired by the designers who have changed the way we dress—not in a faddy or trendy way—but something that has changed the way we dress, and will dress, in the future.”
What is the advantage of picking a couture piece over heading to Zara or H&M where one can find trendy, runway replicas for a fraction of the price?
“The difference is that you’re not wearing something that’s mass-produced. You are wearing something that is specifically yours. The silhouette has been changed to suit your shape. That’s the main difference. Couture pieces are something that you will cherish for a long time.”
Do you feel that the Toronto fashion sphere has been accepting of your designs and style?
“Yes, definitely. It’s been surprisingly very welcoming. We’ve only been here for a year, and although the fashion industry here is very small, everyone is supportive and welcoming. Being in the Queen West area has also allowed me to cater to my bride. The Réva Mivasagar bride is very eclectic, a more artistic bride, a more educated bride. It’s not someone who needs to be dressed. I think this area suits the type of bride who is modern, eclectic and sophisticated.”
At the front of your store you also have your own fashion collection as well. Tell us a bit more about the distinction between your bridal line and your fashion line.
“I truly love fashion, so even though I won’t be around this fall to showcase my fashion line at LG Fashion Week—because it coincides with Bridal week down in New York—my heart is always in fashion. In fact, it’s often the fashion that draws in the bridal customers. That’s our sort of bride, more of a runway bride. It’s the type of bride whose wedding is a part of their life—it’s doesn’t consume their life. I find I have brides who come in who want to look at fashion and to find something that will make them look amazing on their wedding day that may not necessarily be bridal.”
What’s the most extravagant dress you’ve ever designed?
“I did this amazing dress for a woman who was having a Caribbean wedding. She basically chartered an entire cruise for the whole week as her wedding. I was invited but I didn’t go. Come to think of it, I should have gone [laughing]. Could you imagine me there? That’s what I thought though: Is she inviting me to be a guest or to sort of dress her on a daily basis?! Nonetheless, her wedding dress was gorgeous: custom-made, with embroidery, peacock feathers. I really went above and beyond.”
Below, more pics from Réva Mivasagar’s Toronto shop.
Check out more of Toronto’s top shops—Carte Blanche, The Cat’s Meow, LAB Consignment and more—in our Style Map section!