Choosing the perfect vegan wedding dress

Read Time:   |  3rd July 2017

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Eco-fashion designer Tara Lynn not only creates stunning wedding dresses and bespoke suits, but she makes sure they’re vegan too… 

Choosing the perfect vegan wedding dress

Photo: Lis Photography

When did you first start out in the fashion industry?

When I was 16 I started working for a fashion designer on Long Island, New York making designer coats, wool, and shearling coats. From there I worked for many small fashion designers, because I knew I wanted to start my own business and I wanted to get real behind-the-scenes experience. After college I worked for a few larger fashion companies and went out on my own in 2005.

Why did you choose to focus on wedding dresses and suits?

My clients directed me. I started making custom hemp clothing in 1999, from pyjamas to wedding dresses and suits. In 2005, I launched a line of wearable art jackets dedicated to endangered species and travelled to art shows to sell them. At the art shows I had a large poster of one of my wedding dresses and more and more clients were ordering hemp and organic cotton wedding dresses. I launched my first bridal collection in 2011 on my website and that has been my focus since.

What appealed to you most about eco-couture?

I enjoy personalizing every garment I make. It’s truly unique – clients get the best fit and they end up with something special that is them, a reflection of who they are. I love working with my clients and making them feel happy. Eco-couture is something to feel good about all the way around. I knew I did not want to do mass production, I wanted to stay true to my mission and values. I also wanted to find a way to incorporate my love and awe of nature into fashion. We really take mother earth for granted. And I also enjoy teaching people about endangered species and hemp. Eco-couture is a way for me to combine all of my passions into one – fashion, art, textiles, nature, working with people and needlework.

Choosing the perfect vegan wedding dress

Photo: Jay Ericson

What should a vegan bride take into consideration when choosing her wedding dress?

Knowing where your fabrics come from is important. There are many fabrics that are vegan, but they are not environmentally safe and the fashion industry is one of the largest polluters of water and soil. Fabric dyes and fibres are toxic to wildlife and entire cultures of people across the globe. Today with the eco/green/organic trends you also have to watch out for faux labels. I talk to my fabric vendors and learn about how they produce their fabrics, so I can recommend the best materials to fit my client’s needs. If you are working directly with the designer and they can call up their fabric supplier and speak to the owner directly, then you can feel more assured that the dress you buy is vegan, organic and environmentally sustainable.

You use peace silk in your dresses – what is this?

Peace silk spares the life of the silkworm and is harvested after the moth hatches. Traditionally silk is made from the silkworm cocoon, which is one continuous and long thread of silk. Before the really cute silk moths hatch, they are supper chubby and cute with feathery antennae – the cocoons are boiled. So the worm dies and the manufacturer can then unwind the cocoon as one long staple fibre. Most silks are manufactured in China. Some of the peace silk I buy is actually harvested in the wilds of India. After the moths hatch the cocoon is broken and consequently the fibres are shorter. However, they still make beautiful fabrics.

Does it look different to normal silk?

Yes and no. It depends on the weave of the fabric, the width needed to cut the dress, and a whole art and science of things. I do find it is much more expensive, comes in fewer colours, but is dyeable and colour consistency can be a challenge. I always need to order enough at one time, because if I have to re-cut something and order more, the colour may not match. It is unbleached and every yield has natural variations. It is soft and light and beautiful, just as the more popular silk.

Choosing the perfect vegan wedding dress

Photo: Jay Ericson

What are the most popular styles of wedding dress at the moment and do you have any tips for choosing a dress to suit your body shape?

Bohemian and hippie styles are very popular, but new trends are flourishing and I am excited to see a trend in colour and embellishments on wedding dresses. I find that many of the top trends do not align with my clients bodies, or the average female figure when it comes to boobies! That is why I make custom wedding dresses, we can take components of this and that and make it work for her. When ordering a custom wedding dress I highly recommend going to multiple stores, trying on lots of styles and seeing what feels comfortable and flattering to you. If you are questioning something it’s going to be on your mind all night. You don’t want to be thinking and fretting about how your dress looks on your wedding day.

Do any styles of dress better suit natural fabrics, such as organic cotton and hemp?

I can’t say that they do. The natural aspect does not determine the style of dress, it’s more the weave, texture, construction and content of a fabric in general that is appropriate for a specific style. There are so many natural textiles available on the market I can find an appropriate natural fabric for most of the styles I design.

You also use bamboo to make your dresses – what qualities does this add to a wedding dress?

Bamboo is super soft, lustrous and vegan friendly. So far I have only introduced bamboo as a knit dress, which is very different than the hemp, organic cotton and silk woven textiles I use. Bamboo knits drape and cling to the body – a beautiful gown like Chloe is so soft you feel like you are in a night gown and don’t want to take it off. However, it is disputed as an eco-friendly fibre because its production process is similar to rayon, which uses chemicals to process a fibre pulp into a continuous fibre. Many argue that bamboo is a sustainable resource and biodegradable. Over time, the production of the bamboo fibre is becoming more energy efficient, non-toxic, and environmentally safe.

Choosing the perfect vegan wedding dress

Photo: JSL Pictures

What’s the process if a bride wants a bespoke vegan wedding dress?

When a bride contacts me for a bespoke wedding dress I send her a personal interview to get to know her, what she is looking for, how she wants to feel on her wedding day and if there are specific fabrics she wants her dress made of. I will ask for photos and measurements of the client. I will give the client an estimate, fabric swatches and a contract. Then I set up a private client portal on my site, so we can share photos of the dress in progress. Sometimes I ship fittings and some clients come to my studio for fittings. And they come form all over the US and even Europe. The bride really becomes a part of the creation of her dress, providing feedback and direction throughout the entire process.

Is there a particular dress that you’ve designed that really stands out in your mind?

The one I am working on now! I am using over 100 photographs taken by the brides late father, of wildlife in Colorado, to create a custom digitally printed wedding dress, and it is really exciting. Other dresses I have made incorporated pieces of the brides mother’s or grandmother’s wedding gown. One time I hand painted trout on a bride’s dress.

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