Henry Roth – Part 2

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This history in design, and continued passion for it, has only been enhanced by Henry’s law degree and international entertainment industry experience. With it he has been able to take his parents business to another level and enter the 21st Century with a bang.  His sister too is no slouch in the family design house maintaining their position in New York with a great reputation of her own.

Michelle, based in New York, has her own collection, The Michelle Roth Collection, which is exclusive to Kleinfelds. Established in 1941 in Brooklyn, Kleinfelds now operates out of Manhattan on West 20th Street. It is a tradition in the US in bridal wear, assisting thousands of brides a year offering the largest and finest collection of bridal gowns in the world.

While Henry has been based in the Sydney studio since 2007, he continues to travel to New York regularly and he and Michelle collaborate happily, their intrinsic differences creating a masterful team. Their designs continue to grow and they are both developing new collections to extend the business even further. And yet where such continual creativity comes from is astonishing.

The bridal industry is one of the most competitive in the fashion business, with hundreds of gorgeous gowns in boutiques across the country vying for a brides’ attention. With that kind of pressure it would seem impossible to keep coming up with designs that are fresh and new especially when the bridal industry also relies on the idea of tradition? “I think the inspiration comes from the reality of life. It’s fashion, its circumstance, so we look at celebrities, we look at red carpets, we look at things that inspire us that are glamorous and gorgeous and are wearable,” Henry explains.

But it’s not just the ‘who’ of the bride that Roth thinks about, it’s also the ‘where’ of location. “Brides get married from the top of the hill to the bottom of the sand dunes, to ballrooms to evening and day, and sunset and sunrise,” he says. “So people, fashion and circumstance are my inspiration”.

With such a broad canvas to draw from it is no wonder Henry Roth designs has such a wide range of gowns to choose from. “If you look at my collection,” he explains, “we design it right across the board”. From traditional and formal, to simple and elegant, floaty and flirty, the collection really does cater to many tastes. Yet I wonder about the States and whether or not American brides inspire different designs to the ones we see here.

“We really are one globe now,” says Roth. “I see no difference between a bride in Houston, in Minnesota, Melbourne, Darwin and Townsville. It’s exciting how ‘up there’ we are with the rest of the world.”

Yet the bridal industry wasn’t always quite so global.  “In my parents’ day,” explains Roth, “it was all about very rigid ranges because the world was so parochial. My parents designed six ranges every two years for all the different states; there was a range for NSW, there was a range for Queensland, a range for South Australia and so on,” he says.

“Now because its’ so driven by fashion I think its more ad hoc so we’re constantly designing, constantly doing prototypes, so basically the process is constantly putting – if you like – coal into the engine. We’re constantly drawing sketches, looking at fabrics and we continually interact with our design studio in Hong Kong”.

Such a frantic, non-stop pace seems to be necessary when you’re working across continents. “We work to two main times a year in both Australia and the United States,” says Roth. “In Australia its August and February and in New York April and October”.

For Roth though designing is a two-way street in that it’s not about telling brides what to wear but acknowledging who they are too.  “The 21st century bride is real,” says Roth, “she’s realistic, she’s budget savvy, she wants to have an amazing wedding ceremony and reception and she understands that it’s not just all about her”.

She’s also very confident about what she wants. “We are really all fashion experts these days,” suggests Roth. “Brides come into the picture much more clued up to what’s available”.

Yet it can still be hard for the modern bride to give up a childhood dream about what her day, and what she, should look like. Roth believes the advice of an expert is very important in making the right decision about what suits you and what doesn’t and he recommends it to all of his brides. “Roth 101,” he says. “You take out the few base shapes and come in with a very clean attitude”.

This means using your first visit to a bridal boutique to try on one gown in each basic style – ball gown, empire, straight and mermaid. Roth argues that once you try them on you’ll get a feel for what is going to be the best shape for you. “In twenty-two minutes guaranteed you’ll know what shape suits you and you can go for it,” he says.  There is a caveat: “The most important thing,” he warns, “is not to bring a circus of people with you”.

Instead, he suggests relying on your own eye and the advice of the experts on the floor of the boutique. These people, he says, will always give you the best advice. And it is this attitude that is so wonderful about Roth. There is no distance between him and his brides: he is emotionally attached to the entire process – from the first scratches of a design on the page to the fully made-up bride as she walks down the aisle.

It’s an attitude that is reflected on his web page and the multiple access points clients have to contact him and get his advice. Whether it’s through his blog, twitter, email or his personal phone number, a bride-to-be can be assured that buying a Roth gown is more than just a fitting, it’s a complete service that is highly personal, something that is so very important to Henry and at the heart of why he does what he does.

And it’s not just about beauty and the perfect fit, Henry is very conscious of catering to all brides and not just hose who can afford top-of-the-range designs. He is adamant that every bride deserves a gorgeous gown that won’t blow her budget. “My gowns are called ‘affordable couture’,” he explains, “and we go from our informal wedding collection at $695 to $995, to the more formal bridal gowns which go from $1000 to $1500”.

But don’t imagine that this means cheap. Henry Roth bridal gowns are contemporary, stunning and don’t compromise style, glamour or quality in delivering a good price.  “When you have the knowledge I have at my fingertips from my parents and my great grandparents before me,” explains Roth, “you can offer great gowns that are affordable.”

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