Mireille Loughlin refuses to be pushed on the point of which of the dresses she has created in her 30-year career was the most special to her. “Every time you do a dress it will be a new experience,” says the founder of Arushi Couture. “There’s always that moment when you think, ‘oh wow’.”
However, a bride who has set her heart on an Arushi dress must first understand that this will be no quick trip to The Dubai Mall. “If you wear a couture dress, it’s a slow process,” continues the French-born Loughlin. “First we discuss design with the bride, take measurements, show her some ideas of embellishment, what type of lace goes with the fabric. Then we do a toile, get the proportions right, discuss the cut and the details, where it’s going to be on her body. Then we start cutting the dress and fit it.”
At times, it takes the entire team to work on a gown, perhaps flying to Switzerland to source a particular fabric, or attaching a lengthy train (the longest Loughlin recalls was six metres) so that it falls just so. But patience is inevitably rewarded with an elegant, form-fitting dress that the guests – and the groom – will never forget.
This detailed approach is something that former Arushi employee Ezra Santos has taken with him to his own atelier, from which he has run the Ezra label for more than a decade. “I personally attend to all the brides who come to our atelier and supervise every single detail for each and every bride,” he says. “All my designs are totally made for each individual’s taste and style.”
Ezra’s creations are lavishly romantic, calling to mind vintage Christian Dior, and he tries to comply with every request. To wit, one bride in Abu Dhabi wanted her dress to illuminate in a darkened ballroom; Ezra obliged, incorporating tiny light bulbs into his design.
For many brides, money is truly no object. When the Lebanese designer Walid Atallah created a $1.2 million (Dh4.4m) gown for the launch of the Burj Al Arab in 2002, his creation, which used silver and gold thread, diamonds, emeralds and chunks of gold, was intended to be a one-off. But at least one bride has since commissioned a replica with a similar price tag.
ATTENTION SEEKER Exquisite wedding dresses aside, the designer Ezra Santos is big on personalised fitting sessions.