Tell us about the beginnings of Lea-Ann Belter Bridal—why did you want to start a bridal line, and how did you get started? I always knew my future lay in a creative direction — my sketchpad and pencil were almost never far! Textiles and glass have always fascinated me, so I focused on that love as well as fashion through college. Afterward, I trained with a couturier here in Toronto with whom I further developed my eye for impeccable execution and quality. Around that time, my brother became engaged, and his fiancée asked me to create her wedding gown! In doing so, I found it was the perfect expression of my love of fashion, gorgeous fabric, affinity for timeless style, and talent for meticulous execution. Before I knew it, I had opened my first Toronto bridal boutique and was offering the Lea-Ann Belter Bridal Collection to brides in Canada and the USA through a network of retailers. Over twenty-five years later, I’m grateful to be able to continue doing what I love.
Tell us about what y’all offer to brides and gals. I fervently believe that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. When I began designing bridal gowns, I wanted the dresses to celebrate that beauty, rather than overwhelm or obscure. It was equally important to me that my dresses were created in a true couture tradition — made by hand of the finest silks and laces I could find. I’m very proud to say that those things all continue to ring true. As a result, Lea-Ann Belter Bridal gowns offer wedding dresses that complement every body type and personality, as well as strike a true balance of contemporary and timeless style.
What sets Lea-Ann Belter apart from other bridal gown brands? We truly make every gown by hand. Each individual gown is cut, sewn, finished, and pressed all within my Toronto atelier. No dress leaves without a thorough looking-over! That couture approach enables us to create bespoke gowns for our brides. Additionally, we don’t have a finite size chart. Lea-Ann Belter gowns are available in all sizes and are completely customizable.
What is your single best tip for a bride about to start shopping for her wedding gown? Keep an open mind. You may think you want to wear a mermaid gown or that you love lots of beading or lace, but if after trying a few that seem to fit the bill you don’t get butterflies, try something new. That V-neck ball gown with the lace at the hem may be the one! Similarly, don’t let perception drive your choice. What others wear, want you to wear, or say is in fashion are completely secondary to pleasing yourself.
What is your current favorite wedding dress in your collection? An impossible question! I really do love them all. However, I do have daily favorites. At this moment, I am loving Patrice, a gown from my Summer in Provence collection. So many beautiful fabrics and textures make up this dress! Also, she reminds me of a particularly delightful afternoon I spent wandering a charming town in Provence while on holiday.
Do you have a favorite Lea-Ann Belter Bridal memory? Oh my…so many great memories! One of my more recent memories is the move to our current location on Broadview in Toronto. I purchased the building in which my flagship boutique and atelier are now housed, and doing so has always been a great dream of mine. Though moving is pretty dreadful, our first full day was such a proud, happy one for me!
What is the single greatest lesson you’ve learned in business? There are definitely many lessons to be learned when you open and run a business. However, one thing that has proved its worth time and time again is integrity. When you do the right thing and stay true to who you (and your brand) are, it’s a very powerful thing. Hand in hand with this is learning to delegate! It is hard in the beginning to justify enlisting help for various things such as accounting, graphic design, or copy writing when you can do them yourself. However, in order to focus on your strengths (design and production, in my case), you can’t also be running around doing taxes, managing the office, writing dress descriptions, and creating advertising images.
Name three items every gal should have in her closet. A pair of fierce boots that make her feel like a warrior, a timeless pencil skirt, and the perfect red lipstick.
Thank you so much, Lea-Ann!
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