Prea James, a label synonymous with minimalism, nuanced undertones of relaxed Australian soul, and understated sensibilities. Approachable, yet spilling with modernity. For the bride who dreams of silken separates and refined cut-outs masterfully defined in silhouettes that effortlessly honor a woman’s body. Prea, a designer we’ve grown to love after she solidified her namesake label as authentically nonchalant bridalwear with her Harmony I collection at New York Bridal Week in 2019.
Following the brand’s evolution over the past few years, we were honored to be the first guests to her newly opened flagship store in her harbor city hometown, Sydney Australia. Nestled in Paddington, a suburb which beats to the drum of designer, a destination for beautiful boutiques, art, and hospitality.
Stepping into the space, there’s a distinctive calm aura, soundtracked to a slower pace. A welcoming which feels familiar, like family, with notes of harmony created only with considered effort and clear intent. A boutique that feels more like an intimate setting for wild dreaming and big decisions. We sat down and spoke one on one with Prea about the evolution of the label, the dream of her new flagship, and uncovered her surprise announcement…
“Finding a gown is such a personal experience, one we don’t take lightly. You need the time and space to make that decision in a calm and inspiring environment.”
Prea James is synonymous with effortless modernism in a world tangled with complexity. We’d love to hear about the inspiration for the design of your new boutique staying true to your simplicity?
I was really inspired to create a space that encapsulated a modern, minimal and harmonious aesthetic in an intimate setting. I wanted brides to come in and feel inspired, not only by the gowns but by the surrounds of the boutique, making it a complete and personalized experience.
We took over this Paddington location with the idea to take it from a heritage, antique interior to a modern, fresh space with a breezy Mediterranean feel. Our amazing build team transformed my idea of turning the existing staircase balustrade into a curved wall to soften the space. The interiors we kept minimal and light, with careful consideration placed on the sound and scent of the space to evoke feelings of grounded dreaming.
Music is life for me, so creating the soundtrack for the boutique is not a job I take lightly. I’ve had this playlist with some of my favorites for a couple of years, I love that it’s a randomly beautiful collision of Solange, The Internet, Ngaiire, Boo Seeker, and Elder Island! The scent of the boutique is exactly what I imagined, Diptyque Vanille, a deep smokey vanilla scent I never get tired of.
The flagship evokes a calm sense of welcome, where brides can experience all that is Prea James Bridal. Why was it important to create this boutique?
This has always been a dream of mine! When I did my first collection at the end of 2016, I decided it would be in my 5-year plan to open a flagship boutique in Sydney. I grew up in Sydney but moved down the coast nearly 5 years ago. Maybe because I am a Sydney girl, I design mainly for the Sydney bride, so it felt only natural to have a flagship here. I felt it was really important for the brand to have one place where brides can come and try on all of our styles in a space that is true to our brand ethos.
Finding a gown is such a personal experience, one we don’t take lightly. You need the time and space to make that decision in a calm and inspiring environment. Some of our styles only have slight differences, so a bride can now compare two at the same time and discuss fabric changes and possible customizations with our staff who have been trained intensively on our styles.
In addition to the new flagship, we’re so excited to announce your exclusive couture experience for brides. Can you share your process of creating a gown together?
Ah, thank you! I’m excited to start doing couture again, it has been a couple of years and I really miss it. I love getting to know the brides while doing their fittings. It is actually quite sad when we have the final appointment because I have spent a year getting to know them, then they fly the nest!
This service starts with the initial design meeting where we come up with a sketch and talk about fabrics. Once the design has been finalized, we begin with a toile (the form of the dress but in a cotton fabric) to check the fit and style over 2 fittings. In your final fabric, you will have an additional 2-3 appointments to get the fit perfect! This service requires a minimum of 12 months from start to finish and will be exclusive to only 5 brides per year with expressions of interest now open via email.
Essentially I wanted to offer brides who love our aesthetic a completely made-to-measure service, whether this is something similar to a design we already have or designing something from scratch. I am excited to also be working on a small collection of couture pieces when the dust settles from opening the boutique and relocating back to Sydney.
It’s been beautiful to see the brand evolve with understated sensibility, yet with growth comes challenges; so we’d love to know your advice for brides in the planning phase of their celebration…
I feel so strongly about staying true to yourself in all aspects of life and this should carry over to your wedding plans. In terms of planning anything, you need to keep coming back to your main focus. For me, I come back to my core, which is to create a luxury bridal brand that is ethically made in Australia.
I feel it is the same for planning a wedding, firstly remember, ultimately the day is about celebrating your love and commitment to each other in a way that is true to yourselves – not anyone else. If you don’t want to have a cake, don’t have one. If you want to wear a midi-length dress, do it!
It’s important to realistically consider the amount of time it takes to plan something. Meet with different vendors until you find the right one, then trust them to guide you. In terms of finding your dress, the same applies. You need to have time to try on styles, narrow it down, and then make the decision. A lot of wedding gowns are made to order so you need to allow for the dress to be made and then time for alteration work to be done 1-2 months out from your wedding.
Planning a big event is stressful, so, take your time, write lists, make decisions and then move on to the next item!
Lastly, we’d love to hear your local suggestions for a day in your new neighborhood, Paddington?
It’s such a great strip, I am loving being back in Sydney and especially in Paddington! I would definitely recommend brides make a day of it after their appointment, leaving some time to browse the Australian and international fashion strip right on our doorstep! There are also some beautiful art galleries (a great idea for a wedding registry) and perhaps book in lunch at Jackie’s Cafe which is close by or Pusher for great coffee! If you have the time in the afternoon I suggest you wander up a little further to William Street, with so many beautiful bars to go to for a drink to celebrate. 10 William Street would be my pick if you are looking for a lovely little bar to go to, just make sure to get the pretzel!
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