Where oh where should one shop for bridalwear? A critical question for any bride-to-be. As of April this year, all signs point towards one of the newest names on the wedding dress design circuit, Lana Mueller, a Berlin-based company run by Lana Mueller, 31, and Gelena Roizen, 30. The name may sound familiar, as the duo launched the made-to-measure side of the business in August 2015, followed by ready-to-wear in December the same year, with both couture and ready-to-wear bridalwear subsequently this April (celebrated in Dubai with a beautiful private VIP lunch for 100 guests at Jumeirah Al Naseem).
With just a few visits to the region under their belts since launching, Lana and Gelena, born in Kazakhstan and the Ukraine respectively, have already racked up solid Middle Eastern sales on their e-commerce site, as well as 20 private clients hailing from Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Doha and Beirut, and are now looking to conquer this region with their bridalwear collections too.
“The inspiration to launch bridalwear came when Lana designed my wedding dress last year,” Gelena explains. “We had so many requests from people asking about our couture made-to-measure dresses, but also from those who asked us if we could create something for everyone, something more affordable, so we launched our ready-to-wear bridalwear collection too.”
Lana Mueller (far left) and Gelena Roizen, the designers behind Lana Mueller photographed in Dubai.
Models wear (from left); Dresses, Dhs18,600; Dhs24,500 and Dhs60,000; all Lana Mueller.
Photography by Ethan Mann
They describe the Lana Mueller bride as traditional, romantic and feminine, but also fashion-forward with a modern ‘je ne sais quoi.’ “She doesn’t want to have the typical dresses you see everywhere,” says Gelena. Despite being close in age, both designers bring something different to the table. “Lana is a bit softer and more of a family person,” Gelena explains, “whereas I come from more of an avant-garde direction, from a bit of a wild youth. But we found that we see the same woman, just from different angles. It’s the meeting of two worlds.”
Releasing just one ready-to-wear bridal line a year, the debut collection consists of 12 pieces – a mixture of floaty feminine gowns to more playful party pieces all laced up to the hilt – each inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream and named after a Shakespearean heroine, with prices starting at €2,500 (Dhs10,040) for ready-to-wear and couture gowns from €20,000 (Dhs80,000).
Working with Sophie Hallette lace from Paris and “only the very best silks we can get” sourced from England, for Lana and Gelena the brand’s MO is that quality supersedes all else. “Everything is made in Germany. The quality is always German. It’s the best,” says Lana. “Even the ready-to-wear still has the couture vibe and the quality should be the same,” she adds, understanding that quality is the cornerstone of consumer purchasing in the Middle East.
From left: Dress, Dhs18,600, Lana Mueller; Earrings, Dhs36,770, Goldesign. Dress, Dhs60,000, Lana Mueller; Choker, Dhs102,890, Goldesign.
Photography by Ethan Mann
Despite being a relatively fledgling brand, Lana and Gelena have made it their mission to fully assimilate the machinations of the region – socially, culturally and artistically. “We want to be a globally-minded brand. So many types of women are interesting to us, and that challenges us as designers,” says Gelena. With the Middle East, alongside America, the brand’s biggest market outside of Germany, they recognise the importance of launching here. “It’s the right step,” Lana states.
“What we love is how the women portray themselves in the region,” Gelena explains. “They’re very glamorous and not afraid to be feminine and they’re doing that in a very proud way. In Europe, women can be a little overwhelmed by the femininity of our designs but here… women get dressed up for tea, or to go shopping. It’s very inspiring for us to see that. We always wanted to make extravagant gowns, as we love volume and lace and we love big sleeves and drama,” no doubt cementing their claim on the hearts of countless Middle Eastern brides.
Knowing that what works in Europe won’t necessarily work in the Middle East, the designer’s attention to detail comes to the fore. “The most common requests for alterations that we get are for linings, such as adding more layers to sheer panelling or more chiffon, lengthening sleeves or hems, raising necklines, using lighter weight fabrics and creating bigger sizes,” says Lana, who currently produce their ready-to-wear collections in size 34-42. They can, of course, add embellishment when required. “We work with a great company in India who makes beading and embellishments for us, so we can create a dress and then our seamstresses and hand-beaders will add whatever you choose,” says Lana. “One Saudi client ordered a beaded dress that took at least six weeks to hand-bead. It was a very special request, as it takes so long. But whatever you want… a different silk, or this colour or that, we always have the solution. We’re very sensitive to the different needs of the region, and we’re very accommodating, but it’s also important to be very discreet about that.”
Dress, Dhs24,500, Lana Mueller.
Photography by Ethan Mann
And that is the beauty of a couture bridalwear company in creating something 100 per cent bespoke to you. Your wish is, literally, their command, and is another driving force behind the brand, whether you want to tweak a pre-existing piece or want to shop strictly made-to-measure.
The process, as is befitting of such a client-focused bridal company, is also totally bespoke. Lana and Gelena are involved from the word go, drawing and brainstorming together at private client appointments at homes around the region, and are there each step of the way, from fittings to follow-ups, and late night discussions over Whatsapp, to the final piece arriving, usually hand delivered by them, beautifully wrapped to your door. It is this that sets them apart, they believe, as Gelena says, “It’s the aspect of having these appointments, and being able to fully adapt to the client’s wishes. But also the fact that we are two different women, combining our thoughts to create a whole new piece. That’s what makes Lana Mueller special.”
As for the dress that they believe will cast a Shakespearean spell on a Middle Eastern bride… The backless, beaded gown seen on the previous pages, called Viola. “It’s the most extravagant one we’ve ever done,” says Gelena. “We used 150 metres of fabric, and it’s all hand-beaded lace from Sophie Hallette, which took four months. It was incredible to set it up in our atelier, as it took up the whole space, and people were literally having to climb over it. It’s amazing to be able to create a dress like this for clients in this region. Here we can be more creative and let ourselves go a bit more, and be as extravagant as we want to be… For us, that’s a dream.”
This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia Bride.
Photographer: Ethan Mann
Stylist: Anna Castan
Fashion Assistant: Natalia Kravchenko
Hair and Make-up: Blowout & Go
Models: Dana, Marta M. and Marta L. at MMG Models
With thanks to Jumeirah Al Naseem Hotel and II Borro Tuscan Bistro Dubai