“Fashion was just a hobby for me until I moved to Dallas,” says Dallas-based wedding dress designer Esé Azénabor.
You could say Azénabor was born with a needle and thread in hand. At just 8 years old, she made her first piece of clothing: a dress for her sister’s communion. Now, she designs beautifully complex and intricate wedding dresses fit for royalty.
Azénabor cites many sources of inspiration for her designs, from places she’s travelled to dreams, in which fresh ideas for gowns often appear. “I will wake up from a dream and immediately sketch a design down before it disappears,” she says. She also has a strong image of what her ideal bride looks like and takes that into consideration when designing new collections.
“An Esé Azénabor bride is a boss. She doesn’t want to look like anyone else,” Azénabor says. “I want to incorporate that idea of being a powerful woman with the true romance she’s feeling on her big day.”
She does just that in her latest “Dream Collection.” Think heavy beading, full skirts, lace appliqués, and structured lines. From a blazer-style dress to two-in-one pieces for optimal reception partying, her latest collection is perfect for the strong woman who still wants to feel whimsical and light on her wedding day.
Growing up in Nigeria, where girls were expected to wear simple dresses and skirts, Azénabor had to get creative to push the attire boundaries. She would take her mom’s dresses apart and put them back together, figuring out how to attach a sleeve or design a different pattern. She would steal pairs of her dad’s pants and reconstruct them to fit her. When her new outfits garnered attention at school, she started to realize that fashion might be more than a way to pass the time. However, this was a career choice that wasn’t quite encouraged by her parents.
“Their philosophy was centered around going to school,” she says. “I could get a master’s degree, or become a doctor, or a lawyer; those were my options.”
Fast-forward and Azénabor was working for Deloitte in Canada, when she was offered the opportunity to move to Dallas for an MBA program at SMU. At school, she continued making dresses for herself and wore them to events, where again her creations grabbed the other students’ attention. She began selling her creations on eBay.
“I was hardly making any money from selling my dresses, but it didn’t matter,” says Azénabor. “It just mattered that my designs were going out in the world.”
In 2012, she took her leap of fashion faith. She dumped her entire savings account into designing a complete collection of ready-to-wear dresses, which she showcased at Hotel Zaza.
The line was an instant success. The women in the audience tried to buy her dresses straight off the runway. After that show, she decided to quit school and not return to her job at Deloitte.
“It was not easy the first three years of creating my line. I almost quit and moved back to Canada at one point,” she says. “But I’m so happy I kept going because now I’m able to do what I love.”
Azénabor now has a namesake Design District showroom as well as stores across the country that carry her gowns.
Each bride who works with Azénabor receives a custom gown tailored to their exact measurements and likings. The design can be one from her collections, which they can see and try on in her showroom. She also offers bespoke services, where she works with a bride to custom design their perfect gown.
To browse her latest “Dream Collection” visit her Dallas flagship store at 100 Cole St or click here to view the full collection online.
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