Meet Alicia V. Ybarra, the creator behind Vanya Designs. She’s been designing in the bridal industry for 15 years and she’s currently working on her first full collection, which will be shown at Omaha Fashion Week this August. Read about the business she has grown and her plans for the future.
How did you get into fashion? Tell me a little about your background.
I have been interested in fashion since I was a little girl. I would cut out catalog photos of American Girl dolls and make paper dolls out of them, sketching and coloring different outfits to dress them in. I learned to sew through 4-H and loved it so much! I made my own clothes and prom dresses through school and the first wedding gown I designed was my own. I majored in Apparel & Textiles with an emphasis in fashion design from Kansas State University and I went on to get a master’s degree in the same department with a focus on product development and consumer research. During school, I worked at a bridal store and fell in love with the process of helping a bride choose her gown and feel spectacular on her big day. I began designing and building dresses for friends and family while I was in school and the concept of Vanya Designs was born. For the last 15 years I have been building the brand and establishing a reputation and have created what I believe to be a sustainable business that can hopefully be duplicated one day.
Describe your brand and the point of view you wish to convey. What category does your brand fall under?
Vanya Designs is a bridal and formal wear brand. Our designs are created for the real woman; reflecting her beauty, inspiring her toward love, and realizing her dreams. In 2009 I opened a full-time business of designing and creating custom bridal and formal wear gowns for clients. My client and I collaborate to ensure that the finished gown is the one that she has been dreaming of. She gets to experience the gown coming to life and feels like a part of the process as she gives input and ideas along the way. Since opening in 2009, my team and I have built hundreds of gowns ranging from baptism gowns for little girls, to cocktail dresses, to mother-of-the-bride gowns, to wedding gowns. Our passion lies in the moment when the client’s vision is realized and she leaves our shop feeling more beautiful than when she walked in.
What are your personal goals or goals for your brand?
One of the goals I have for my brand is to create a company that can be duplicated in other cities nationwide. We want our Wichita facility to become a training ground for new designers and managers who can then run the satellite locations independently from the home base. Each designer would have the freedom to create her own collection under our label, but her primary focus would be to continue to serve the market by creating custom one of a kind pieces for clients. Each location would also have a full-service alterations department. A goal with the launch of my first collection is to bring in enough funds to begin building the team so we can work toward opening the first satellite location. Initially, I plan to market my collection to bridal boutiques outside of the Midwest. We do want to keep the personalized experience and custom feel for brides - even those who may order from the boutiques.
Describe your favorite project or projects that you have worked on.
I have a saying each time one of my gowns leaves my shop, after my client has put on her gown and has reached the moment where it is exactly what she has been dreaming of. That saying is "This is my favorite gown!” and I say that almost every time, and every time I absolutely mean it. Each gown is as diverse as my clients, so each one brings a different sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. However, I must say my favorite projects are the ones that are both sentimental and allow me freedom to make design decisions and be creative on my own. Some of my favorites are where the bride has brought me her mother or grandmother’s wedding gown and given me freedom to re-design/re-build it into a perfectly new gown for her! Those moments are so special.
Where did you find inspiration for your new collection?
“Redemption” is the first collection I have ever created in the 15 years I have been designing. Since opening my business and working with women of all shapes and sizes, I’ve noticed a common theme: each woman, no matter her size, will focus on the one flaw she perceives in herself. We all have insecurities and tend to focus on those negatives. Our goal is for our clients to leave seeing themselves as the beautiful people that the friends and family members around them see! We launched “Redemption” to raise funds to provide rescue and support for victims of sex trafficking. The collection was inspired by these women who have lost all sense of worth and value. I believe that every person deserves a chance to feel beautiful, loved, and valued no matter their background or insecurities. The collection will tell the story of creating beauty from ashes, healing from brokenness, redemption from pain.
Describe the collection you are creating?
“Redemption” is soft and romantic, vintage-inspired and whimsical. Staying true to the company’s mission, the collection comes with interchangeable, mix-and-match features that will appeal to different personalities and body types. You will see removeable trains and skirts, detachable capes and jewelry pieces, and convertible dresses. These features will allow brides to customize their gowns to fit their own personalities and style. Be prepared for some surprise elements that convey the transformation from hurt and insecurity to romance and love!
What sort of design elements can we expect from you this season? What materials, colors, shapes, or patterns will you be using?
“Redemption” features traditional bridal colors of white, ivory, and champagne, as well as some gold pieces. Satins, silks, English net, and chiffon are some of the fabrics used. You will see a lot of layering of textures and laces, intricate details such as lace cut-outs and jewelry attachments, and minimal bead work. This collection lets the fabric do the talking with silhouettes from mermaid to a-line to ball gown.
In what ways is this collection similar or different than your past work?
The collection is similar to my past work in that bridal is what I do. I used high quality fabrics and laces and only the best sewing techniques, in order to create gowns that live up to the standard of quality my clients have come to expect. I did expand on the techniques used in this collection with the detachable and mix-and-match elements.
Keep up to date with Alicia at her website and follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat she continues work on her collection and with her brides. Visit her design studio in Kansas if you’re looking for a beautiful custom bridal gown.
Vanya Designs Studio
520 Commerce, Suite 102
Wichita, KS 67202