Friday, May 20, 2011

Working the Wedding: 8 of the Best Black Names in the Industry

Wedding season is upon us. It’s a charged time period, and that’s not just a reference to the tears of joy and panic attacks – upwards of $80 billion is spent each year on crafting the perfect day. The Atlanta Post takes a look at eight black-owned businesses that have managed to distinguish themselves in a crowded industry. From world-renowned dressmaker Amsale Aberra to baker extraordinaire, Margo Lewis, these proprietors are upping the wow factor for weddings.

Amsale Aberra’s business was born of necessity. The year was 1985 and after a few expeditions that yielded nothing but poofs and fussiness, the bride-to-be decided to craft her own gown. Soon thereafter the Ethiopian native took out an ad in a bridal magazine and began to see clients. While her devotees include some of the biggest names in Hollywood – Halle Berry, Julia Roberts and Salma Hayek – she’s also popular among fictional characters. Aberra’s dresses are featured in films Something Borrowed, 27 Dresses, and ABC Series Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Brothers and Sisters. Next month the cameras turn on her as she opens up her Madison Avenue boutique to WE TV in a reality series, “Amasale Girls”.

Diann Valentine started planning weddings in high school. She took a detour, heading up worldwide production for Warner Home Video, before the nuptials of film director Antoine Fuqua and actress Lela Rochon pulled her back to her calling. Featured in InStyle magazine, the ceremony opened a floodgate of opportunity as Valentine contributed to multiple media outlets and coached Usher, Nas, Kelis and Toni Braxton through their big days. A TNT reality show didn't last, but her brand remains strong with a book, Weddings Valentine Style, and line of wedding stationary in circulation.

At the very least Preston Bailey is an event designer; at most, a creative genius. Born in Panama, he relocated to New York some thirty years ago, initially taking up fashion. At a friend’s prompting he started designing floral arrangements for 5th Avenue clients and in a one-thing-led-to-another-fashion, secured his first wedding commission. In the intervening years Oprah, Bill Cosby, Jennifer Hudson and Laurence Fishburne have called on him to make their celebrations memorable. Some of his best work and ideas are collected in four books, one of which is entitled Fantasy Weddings.

When Therez Fleetwood was thirteen years old her parents enrolled her in a sewing class. After high school she continued her studies at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and found work in the industry. By 1999 it was time to hang out her own shingle. Now based in Atlanta, Fleetwood specializes in African-inspired wedding gowns customized for each client. Her designs have been featured in magazines like Instyle and The Knot, as well as museum exhibits. Brides who need help thinking through dress and accessory options can refer to her book, Afrocentric Bride: A Style Guide.

Margo Lewis churned out her first wedding cake at the age of twelve. The $75 commission set the stage for what would eventually become Cake Bliss. Voted one of “America’s Most Beautiful Cake Decorators for 2010″ by Brides magazine, the company boasts a broad clientele, among them, Spike Lee, Essence magazine, The Knot, Carnegie Hall, Williams-Sonoma and Crate and Barrel. Home base for the operation is Ms. Dahlia’s Café, a Brooklyn shop opened in 2009. Building on her brand, Lewis recently broadened her services to include floral design and event management.

Having studied music and art in college Charmaine Jones was always going to do something creative. But it wasn’t until she prepared a cake for a friend that she truly found her medium. In 1992 she launched Isn’t That Special Outrageous Cakes. Nowadays the business and the lady are known as CakeDiva. One of her long-term gigs started with a wedding. When she heard that an African-American couple was set to marry on “All My Children” she campaigned for the job and was eventually appointed designated baker for both that show and “One Life to Live”. Jones’ work for higher wattage stars include Beyonce, Denzel Washington and Michael Jordan, though she’s happy to accommodate regular folks too.

When Regina McRae started out, weddings were not on her radar. She was making pies in her kitchen and selling them for $10 each to her running club. Word of mouth brought more orders and in time Grandma’s Secrets was operating at full tilt. For years the bakery has been a favorite among New York brides, attracting the endorsement of O Magazine, New York Magazine, The Food Network and MTV. In 2008 she released Taking The Cake: The Ultimate Wedding Cake Guide for the Ethnic Bride, touching on everything from design to dietary restrictions.

Anybody can start a blog but it takes real dedication and vision to make it stand out. Over at The Bride’s Café Janie Medley seems to have happened upon the right formula. Started as a vehicle for promoting her Virginia-based floral design business, the blog is bursting with breathtaking images and resources for every nuptial need. Named a favorite by InStyle magazine, there’s bound to be more accolades as long as she keeps up the good work.

Article Provided by The Atlanta Post.

No comments: