Australian designer Prea James has quickly carved out a path internationally for modern, beautifully simplistic bridal, understated yet equally impactful. Her pieces speak for the woman of today; effortlessly chic, quality made, eco-conscious, and above all, wearable… a refreshing approach to what can be a stifled, and at times, overly classical industry that often resorts to fanciful adornment, complicated construction or volume to make a statement.
Instead, Prea James opts for a more subtle and authentic approach, designing collections that intuitively mirrors her brides and the lifestyles they lead. Her latest collection, Harmony II, is the sister collection to her much loved 2019 collection, Harmony I, a continuation of the exploration of balance in design, mastering her art for a poetically refined season. Here, silken fabrics fall from the body into flattering slimline silhouettes that seamlessly seem to surpass the ages for a timeless elegance, and call on the brides to make of it what they will.
Ahead of her first season presenting at New York Bridal Week, we take the time to chat deeper with the designer about her processes, the woman she designs for and expanding the brand internationally…
Tell us the story behind Harmony II, the inspiration and the silhouettes explored…
When I started this collection, it was really not long after Harmony I had been released. At first, I hadn’t planned on this, but subconsciously I had felt that there were pieces missing from Harmony I that I wanted to explore. Often when I am working on a collection, there will be dresses that we can’t quite work out at the time and have to come back to… so there were a few of those this time that we picked up again.
As the collection developed it just felt like a very natural progression from Harmony I, so it made sense to make it a continuation. I think it’s really important when designing a gown, to find that perfect balance between texture, the proportions, the amount of skin showing, the lines used in the piece… it is all about harmony. There is a lot of thought that goes into creating something so simple, so that it is not boring… a collection drawn from balance and harmony in design.
Prea James is considered relatively young in the scheme of the larger bridal world… how do you feel you’ve carved out a unique place in what can be a saturated market?
I think there was a real lack of minimal, wedding gowns that were high quality and fashionable while still being wearable.
I often think about what I feel stands the test of time, when you look back over the last however many years, back to the 20’s, 50’s, 70’s etc, there are certain looks that have an everlasting beauty. To me it is when they fit well, are flattering on the female body, made of quality fabric and have design details that make them modern in that moment in time, but not so over the top making them a fleeting trend.
“I think it’s really important when designing a gown, to find that perfect balance between texture, the proportions, the amount of skin showing, the lines used in the piece… it is all about harmony.”
When designing, do you consciously introduce trends into the collection, and if so, what are some that you’ve explored this season?
I think it is a combination of consciously and unconsciously… sometimes I will try to introduce certain trends into the collection if I feel they fit within our general design aesthetic, but I like to do this in a very subtle way. This season we have played with cut-outs which are a pretty big trend at the moment. The Valentina, Carolyn, Tyler and Brooke gowns all have cut-outs.
This collection feels quite versatile with various separates and detachable styling elements, what drew you to make this an inherent pillar in the collection?
Oh yes, I had fun with this. Actually, I needed more time because I have a lot more pieces, I wanted to add in. I think it comes from the fact that I am a jeans and t-shirt girl and I like to layer. I love creating gowns, but it is also fun to have pieces that can work together or separately. The Tyler gown with the Clementine jacket is one of my favourite combinations! The Tyler gown is quite daring with its cut-outs and bias-cut skirt that skims the body, it’s very tailored… then with the Clementine jacket over it, it becomes so whimsical and feminine… the perfect balance of structure and softness.
How important is it to the Prea James brand to practice sustainable methods, and how do you incorporate this into your design processes?
It is definitely something we are conscious of! Fashion is one of the worst industries when it comes to sustainability and also the negative impact it has on the environment. Especially with the continuing rise of fast fashion. While we still have a lot to learn and a long way to go, it is definitely something that is at the forefront of our minds as we are striving to do better.
Firstly, all of our gowns are made to order, so we aren’t creating something on mass where there is a lot of waste because certain styles and sizes don’t sell. We are very conscious when cutting gowns out to lay the patterns in a way that helps minimises waste, using as much of the lay as possible. We also keep any bigger scraps to cut tops or for when we do new collections and donate scraps to a local craft group who make little dresses for a not for profit organisation.
Quality is another important factor in sustainability which is why all of our fabrics are of the highest quality. This means brides can sell their dress afterwards, so that it isn’t just getting worn once. With the new collection, the separates could absolutely be worn again by incorporating into your everyday wardrobe.
“When you look back over the last however many years, there are certain looks that have an everlasting beauty…”
What are some of the fabrications and silhouettes explored this season?
We have been trying out some triacetate polyester that is from Japan and has been created to closely mimic silk. My first love will always be silk; however, we have tried to work towards a price point that suits more of our brides. Our gowns are always available in a range of fabrics, to give our brides options to suit every price point.
The price points of the collection are fairly affordable for the everyday woman… how do you stay true to this without compromising on quality?
We still continue to manufacture our gowns and separates in-house in our Wollongong studio. Every piece is handmade, and our priority is sourcing high-quality fabrics and making sure that all our pieces are of the highest craftsmanship. We offer a triacetate/ polyester as well as silk linings to give more options to our brides and as mentioned have sourced some high-quality silk alternatives to offer yet another affordable option to our brides.
What is the standout piece for the season, what do you think will be the best seller?
We have had a lot of enquiries for Valentina and my personal favourite is Tyler worn with the Clementine jacket. I think that combination is the perfect balance between modern and feminine with a hint of rebellion.
This will be your first season presenting at New York Bridal Week, how did this come about for the brand and tell us a little about your plans while over there?
New York Bridal Week has been a goal I have been working diligently and tirelessly towards for four years. We have had a lot of international interest in particular since our last collection Harmony I, and I cannot wait to share Harmony II with the US and international market!
Make an appointment to see the full collection at New York Bridal Week between October 6th – 9th 2019 via One Fine Day or book a consultation with Prea James online or at one of her upcoming trunk shows.
Photography / Matt Godkin
Fashion / Emma Westblade @ The Lane
Model / Katya @ Que Models
Hair & Makeup / Juliet Durham
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