“Shortly after college, my friends started getting married and asked me to make dresses for them,” says Amanda Ergen-Jennings, who spent a year at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology while earning a degree from UW-Madison’s textile and fashion design program.
Soon she evolved from making friends’ dresses into a full-fledged business focused on ready-to-wear and custom-design gowns under the Love Lives Here Bridal label. Each design flaunts minimalist, clean lines – nothing too flouncy or frilly – and, if custom, nails the fit. “The focus is on fit and comfort, something that makes you feel elevated while dancing the night away.”
When she’s not jetting off to wedding-industry shows and markets to promote her designs to boutiques, Ergen-Jennings is busy stitching and sewing, using skills she learned as a kid from her grandmother. She works alongside headpiece, belt and veil designer Jackie Barutha (Jaxie Bridal) in a Bay View warehouse.
“Everything is made in my studio,” explains Ergen-Jennings, who modeled her business after a European-style atelier. For custom gowns, the bride-to-be visits the studio to collaborate on a design. “It’s a one-of-a-kind original she helps create,” she says. “I really love seeing the creative light come on in brides.”
Recently a client wanted a silver (not white) dress, but worried guests wouldn’t recognize that she’s the bride. Ergen-Jennings coaxed her into the silver dress, saying simply, “They’ll know the bride because you’re the bride.”
ADVICE: “You don’t have to be what everyone expects a bride to look like,” says Ergen-Jennings. “Search for something that feels like ‘you.’ If it feels forced, it’s not the right fit.” Along those lines, opt for a designer or wedding-dress retailer who will listen to you, she says.