Harriet Falvey is a creator of haute couture memorabilia. They design and manufacture the delicate and time-honored accessory that a bride wears right before walking down the aisle: the wedding veil.
Ms. Falvey, 38, started designing custom veils in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has shifted from designing wedding gowns and bridal party wear. She said the idea of wearing a wedding veil is often misunderstood as an outdated tradition, but it is “a form of self-expression and personal style”.
“It’s one of the most transformative items that offers an instant finishing touch,” said Ms. Valve, a native of New Zealand. “It’s the last piece that the bride wears that completes her look.” Ms. Falvey hopes to re-establish the veil as a heroic piece for the modern bride.
She runs a project of bespoke wedding veils for one woman from her studio, which has been designed as a bridal retreat—complete with an expansive garden of plum trees, white orchids, lilies, and clivias. Her studio is attached to the Auckland home she shares with her fiancé, Alastair Gillis, 39, an independent film and TV artist, and their two children, Albert, 7, and Florence, 6.
Ms. Valve’s standard veil—a simple fabric attached to a metal comb—starts at $200. The classic two-layer blush, which includes one layer covering the face and another cascading down the bride’s hair, costs about $400. Adding gold embroidery, ornate lace, fancy pearl borders, hand-stitched appliqués, or intricately designed flowers can increase the price to $2,000 or more.
“Bridal fashion is constantly evolving,” said Ms. Valve, who works with 50 to 60 brides-to-be to roll out their veils each year. Part of the appeal of conceiving your own veil, right down to the embroidery, she said, is that “not everyone can afford to design a wedding dress or design their own dress, but they can design a veil.”
Ms. Valve, speaking with The New York Times by phone from her studio, discussed the intimacy of hijab design, the importance of the accessory and one of her most popular hijabs. (Hint: It’s blue.)
This interview has been edited and condensed.
For many years, I have designed wedding dresses, bridesmaids and mothers of the bride dresses, and apparel for bachelorette parties and receptions. What prompted you to focus on the hijab only?
Wedding dresses involved many different combinations and customizations depending on a person’s body – and there was an enormous amount of work involved, which was hard to keep up. When covid happened, personal combinations were not allowed. It changed my job. There is no need for combinations with veils, and this has allowed me to easily work with foreign brides, which I had not been able to do before.
You have referred to your design process as intimate. How do you create and maintain that intimacy when nearly all of your interactions with customers take place via video?
Brides have gotten used to video shopping during lockdown. Creating a custom veil is an intimate and unique experience as the bride and I design together. Depending on how involved the bride wants to be, we can have up to five FaceTime video chats. I actually show them around my studio while I discuss their hijab desires, drawing and lace-up the mannequin so they can see their hijab come to life. I send videos of me making the veil, showing the bride the veil before I wrap it and send it off. It is intimate, if not more so, than physical makeup.
In general, what is your schedule for ordering?
If an order is placed through my bridal veil store on Etsy, where I have 60 or 70 different veil styles to choose from, I can usually have it made and sent out within a week or two. For custom orders, the timeline depends on the complexity of the lace and the craftsmanship involved, and typically takes four to eight months. Brides send me pictures of their wedding dresses, and I find the lace that matches them. I currently have 30 pieces of different tulle and textures, which come in various shades of ivory. Then there are 100 different shapes, motifs, and lace. It can take over 10 hours for a simple veil or 65 hours for a three-layer blush—an extra-long, cathedral-like veil.
Does the veil really have a role or meaning?
Traditionally, the purpose of the veil is to wrap the bride from head to toe, protecting her from “evil spirits” and presenting her as modest. Nowadays, the importance varies. For some brides, a veil serves a practical purpose, such as adding blush to cover themselves as they walk down the aisle if they feel nervous about being the center of attention. For others, it holds sentimental value and symbolizes transformation into a bride, sparking feelings of excitement and adrenaline as they elevate the wedding dress.
Surprising to know, the veil has always seemed like the least important part of a bridal outfit. Do you feel that he is not appreciated?
Yes. It’s a fashion design element that adds an extra layer of meaning and simple luxury. The veil changes the look of the bride, adding texture to it with its embellishments, whether it be lace, beads or sparkles. It raises the bar for the simple dress that is trending right now. Throws with unforgettable details are making a comeback, too, like hand-stitched lace, appliqués, and pearls. It is the final piece worn by the bride – a special symbol, symbol, and sometimes an emotional touch at the wedding. Many brides ask that their mother’s wedding dress or veil be reworked into a trendy new piece that they can wear as part of their wedding veil. This legacy is passed down through the generations.
One of the most popular veils that brides buy from you is blue. Why do people gravitate toward something unconventional?
Brides are looking for inspirational images and alternative wedding options. Lots of people are looking for high-end clothing to have a “wow” moment. I made the blue veil by accident when covering a bride in blue tulle, and realized that it could be a unique take on an ancient tradition.
People wear them with their white dresses as memorable accent pieces. It’s about being different and making your wedding outfit your own.
What are some personal details or love notes that you added to your cameo?
I have been asked to put the date, the couple’s names or initials, or the blue pearl of the sea – for something blue – into the veil. One bride, whose father had died, asked me to sew his initials onto her veil so he could “walk” her down the aisle, so to speak. Another asked to have the words “In the endless garden of love, I will always choose you” stitched on her hijab, and another wanted to have the phrase “One Less Lonely Girl” from Justin Bieber – “One Less Lonely Girl” added to her hijab. A Las Vegas bride wanted the Virgin Mary embroidered on her veil with lace. These touches add important personal meaning, making veils even more important when worn by brides.