While all eyes might have been on Meghan Markle’s Givenchy dress in May, our attentions have since been happily been redirected closer to home, to a bridal designer bringing her couture methodology to the Middle East for the first time. Portuguese designer Alexandra Fructuoso founded Maison Alexandrine just two years ago in her adopted home of Brazil, after spending 20 years running a pharmaceutical business with her husband, Robert Guttmann. “It was time to do what I really loved,” she says of her move from science to couture. “Fashion has always enchanted me,” she recalls, “And I remember as a child devouring any fashion magazines I came across. I’ve come a long way since then, but I still read and follow social media channels, only now I see myself in those pages.”
Alexandrine dress, Dhs68,685, Maison Alexandrine. Veil, Dhs1,500, Esposa. Hair piece, Dhs1,000, Jean-Paul Karadijan at Esposa. Earrings, Dhs98,615, La Marquise. Bouquet, Dhs1,100, Bliss Flowers UAE
ring, Dhs22,200, La Marquise. Bouquet, Dhs1,100, Bliss Flowers UAEWhile Alexandra oversees and approves all designs at Maison Alexandrine – named after the only daughter of Madame Pompadour, one of the most powerful women in France in the mid-18th century – she shies away from calling herself “a designer in the true sense of the word” because her work is channelled more towards creating a fashion house that “brings together the work of new and established artists and stylists, to enhance their art and make their work capture the world’s attention,” she says.
Whilst Alexandra and her team create gowns to suit any high-end occasion, it is the bridal arm of Maison Alexandrine that she cherishes the most. “A bridal gown is the culmination of a fashion brand. It’s the best part of the meal – the chocolate of the dessert!” She smiles. “It’s where one gets to fulfill every whim and wish. There are no boundaries and all limits are off. After all, you only marry once. So, with a recipe like that, how could I resist?”
With dresses ranging from Dhs30,000 to Dhs183,500, and her work inspired by Zuhair Murad – “for his extensive and detailed hand-embroidered designs” – and Vera Wang – “for the simple beauty which is achieved with her designs proving that indeed sometimes ‘less is more’” – Alexandra says it’s a “privilege to design, create and be an integral part of this world. Essentially, I am fulfilling a dream and enjoying every single moment. That’s the most incredible part.”
A mother to seven children – from 12 to 33 years old – and the designer behind Kim Kardashian’s Cher outfit for Halloween last year, Alexandra has her hands full between family and fashion, but has also focused her mind towards an incredibly important goal – expansion plans for her São Paulo-based couturier into the Middle East.
In November 2017 Alexandra held an event at the Brazilian embassy in Saudi introducing the brand’s interpretation of the abaya, then participated at Arab Fashion Week presenting a collection of abayas, and is now working with her first Middle Eastern bride. Part of her desire to establish roots and build relationships in this region is to cater to a customer base that is “quality conscious and demanding,” she says. “Clients in this region recognise value in details and that is key to our success here.” She describes an Arab bride as “sweet and romantic at the same time” and sees her as a “force of nature” as she builds upon the wedding moment to become “a wife, soon to be a mother, a matriarch of her own style with the instinct of a lioness. She develops confidence that is less quiet and more assertive.”
Rosner dress, Dhs63,910, Maison Alexandrine. Hair piece, Dhs2,600, Jean-Paul Karadijan at Esposa. Ring, Dhs29,150, 55Fifty7
Beyond her admiration for her inner strength, Alexandra says of Arab women, that it is the eyes she loves the most. “When I notice a beautiful Middle Eastern woman, I am immediately drawn to her eyes. The eyes of an Arab woman are uniquely expressive revealing her power and captivating those who gaze her way. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the eyes of an Arab woman are worth all of the art in the Louvre.”
And so, it is to this woman, this “nuanced, passionate, confident” bride-to-be, that she now dedicates two couture gowns, designed exclusively for Bazaar Bride in the Middle East. The first gown, a princess-cut ‘Rosner’ (previous page), was designed by Rodrigo Rosner at Maison Alexandrine, someone known for his poetic presentations and delicate creations, Alexandra explains. “I proposed a bucolic theme with flowers and butterflies that evolved into a dress that talks about love,” she adds. Hand-embroidered with French tulle, draped corsage and handmade sequin, feather and glass embroidery appliqué, it took 270 hours to create, and was designed with this region in mind. “We thought carefully about the Middle East’s culture and values,” Alexandra says, “but at the same time, we wanted to use a little bit of transparency.We also thought of flowers for a touch of romance and kept it delicate so that the bride could feel free to enjoy her day.”
Alexandrine dress, Dhs68,685, Maison Alexandrine. Veil, Dhs1,500, Esposa. Hair piece, Dhs1,000, Jean-Paul Karadijan at Esposa. Earrings, Dhs98,615, La Marquise
ring, Dhs22,200, La Marquise. Bouquet, Dhs1,100, Bliss Flowers UAEThe second ‘Alexandrine’ dress – next page, designed by Raphaela Issa and Marcelo Teles – is more classic with a mermaid cut, and nods to the glamour of beautiful bridal gowns but with a more contemporary language. Using French Chantilly lace and handmade embroidery, pearls and Swarovski crystals, it is designed for “a modern, elegant woman who appreciates a contemporary aesthetic without ceasing to be romantic,” Alexandra explains. “The dresses are light yet full of fantasy, invoking the tales of the One Thousand and One Nights,” she says, adding “I like and live by the saying, ‘Beauty is in the details’.”With bridalwear such a focus of her design house, Alexandra’s modus operandi is to “make women feel strong, beautiful and great in every way,” and to give her clients, especially her brides-to-be, an unforgettable service. In her São Paulo showroom, she has created ‘La Salle D’Or’ – a space exclusively dedicated to the bride, inspired by the fitting rooms used by the kings of Versailles. Alongside her fittings, it is here that the bride can prepare for her wedding day “being pampered and cared for in a reserved and cosy ambience, where every whim is catered to, from a rose petal bath and a massage to a special photoshoot.” Also at the maison, a rooftop bar, private chef, beauty salon and a playroom for the bridesmaids where they can play ‘designer for a day’ and cut, embroider and sew clothes to fit Barbie dolls.
For Middle Eastern brides, the offering is equally exquisite, with the team flying to Dubai, or elsewhere in the region, to meet, take measurements and truly understand the desired dream dress requirements. Swiftly following that, carefully-wrapped sketches are sent, a dummy dress is created for fittings and alterations, and once the green light is given, the true dress creation commences, taking three to nine months to completion.It’s a unique and truly experiential approach to bridalwear that raises the bar on what’s currently available. Alexandra and her team behind Maison Alexandrine push the envelope, going beyond simple fulfilment of dreams, instead anticipating and elevating that dream to quite fantastical levels. “My best moments happen,” Alexandra says, “when I see a woman shine in a gown that we have worked hard to make. It’s an indescribable feeling of pride mixed with accomplishment.”
For the full collection of Maison Alexandrine visit Alexandrine.com.br or email: Atendimento@alexandrine.com.br to make an appointment
Photography: Jeremy Zaessinger. Styling: Gemma Deeks. Hair and make-up: Manuel Losada at The Art Factory. Model: Daphne at The Art Factory. Fashion assistant: Sanika Tipnis. With thanks to Park Hyatt Dubai