“What do I wear?” It’s the eternal question. When it comes to weddings, the question morphs into obsession. Entire movie plots revolve around the procurement of the perfect dress; diet and workout plans are propagated to make the dress look its best. But the real role of the dress is not what it is, but what it represents: fantasy, perfection, elegance. It sets the mood and reflects the style of the entire event. So what if you’re not into the traditional looks that populate the pages of magazines and overflow racks at wedding boutiques? Easy – you turn to Punk Rock Bride.
Tucked into the alley at 320 3rd Street, NE is designer Stephanie Ward’s studio and shop. Here Ward creates her designs, makes the samples her clients choose from and does the fittings that complete the “made just for you” look. All this is done in a loft-style space Ward calls a “work in progress.” The exposed brick, cement floors and high, unfinished ceiling are all in line with her image. It’s what drew her to the Hill this fall from her former space in Georgetown. “I knew this area would work well because it is a more urban part of the city with lots of young people and a building dedicated to artists. It’s something that you don’t find in a lot of other areas … a fancy boutique wouldn’t work for us – this appeals more to the urban bride.”
Ward’s business partner was the impetus behind the decision to start her own label. “Meredith was a friend from high school and when she got engaged six years ago, she asked me to design her dress. That sparked the whole venture.” After that, Ward did custom designs by referral and saw that there was a “void for dresses that weren’t cheesy. It turned into an opportunity for a new take on the industry.”
It was in 2007 that the RISD-trained designer decided to work on a collection, giving her the chance to show her unique style. For her, inspiration “comes out of nowhere. A lot of times it happens when I see other types of clothing and pick out a detail I think would translate really well. I always try to incorporate a detail that is unusual or interesting. It comes from other forms of art too – any sort of creative endeavor.” The key to her designs seems to be the fabrics. Says Ward, “The most important thing I try to do when I design is infuse non-traditional fabrics. Mostly silks, but not typical silks you’d see in wedding dresses. We use textured silks, eyelet, beaded lace, silk cotton – which is unusual. That seems to be what attracts brides to us.”
Ward is currently working on her next collection. What are her themes for 2010? “Layering is something I would definitely say is a big part of it, and the continuation of mixing fabrics together. Most [dresses] have at least two fabrics incorporated. It’s something I’ve always done – I love mixing different fabrics and textures together, especially since I’m limited in color.” Bridesmaid dresses may be the next phase for Punk Rock Bride. “It would be fun,” says Ward, “I have high hopes and can see expanding into all kinds of things.”Stephanie Ward Punk Rock Bride 320 3rd Street, NE (Rear)
Washington, DC 20002