Elaya Vaughn Bridal, An Interview with Kate Pankoke

Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 32There’s nothing like walking into a bridal salon. The glittering chandeliers, the rows and rows of exquisitely prepared gowns, the piles of lace, silk and tulle, the free champagne…

Ah to be a bride yet again!

It’s such a satisfying moment when you find that perfect gown and know that, even if everything else you plan for your wedding fails, you’ll at least look damn good in the process. It’s a sensation called bridal gown peace and you only know it once you’ve felt it.

Once you’ve tried on THE ONE.Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 26 A few weeks ago I got to feel that sensation all over again at the opening party for Project Runway alum Kate Pankoke’s exquisite line of fairytale bridal gowns, Elaya Vaughn. Many are named after famous romantic heroines, such as the Ella and the Ana or named after real heroines such as the Kate, but each piece is an exquisite vision of beauty, encapsulating a whimsical elegance distinctive to each Elaya gown.Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 23 Project Runway Designer Kate PankokeYou might remember Kate from her Season 4 premier party in October — isn’t she just beautiful? Sweet Kate sat down with me during her studio’s grand opening to answer a few questions about the new space and her journey as a designer as well offer her own advice on finding THE ONE (dress, obviously).
Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 29Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 1What are your favorite aspects of the new studio space?

I am so inspired by my new space! We have the showroom in the front of the space, and the fine arts building could not be more perfect for my aesthetic or inspiring! In the back of the space we have our atelier where we work on the gowns for the runway and some special custom designs. The back has a balcony that looks out over a Victorian courtyard. I can’t wait until the weather gets a little better and we can have coffee hour on the balcony!
Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 16Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon LaunchWhere do you draw the most inspiration from for your designs?

I am inspired by women every day. Every gown is named after a woman, sometimes I know them, sometimes I just feel like I know them. I ask myself what would they wear for their wedding day and let that inspire me.
Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 19Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 5What was the inspiration behind your current collection? Which is your favorite piece?

The inspiration behind our 2015 collection is gold! We incorporated a few golden elements throughout the collection and made one show-stopping gilded gown complete with real gold and hundreds of gold butterflies. My favorite piece from the collection is the Ana gown. She almost got cut before we went to Bridal Fashion Week, but then she came together and we fell in love with her.Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 28Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 18What is the most rewarding aspect of designing wedding gowns?

The most rewarding part of designing wedding gowns is getting to make a woman feel like the most beautiful version of herself. From that day on, she will always think of that moment and how she felt, and her fiancé will always picture her as a bride in that gown. Being part of such an important memory is always an honor for me!Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 17Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 20How has Elaya Vaughn evolved since it’s launch? Where do you see the company in five years?

Elaya Vaughn has taken on a life of its own. We started the company as just Elaya Vaughn. The name comes from two of my family names combined. We added the “By Kate Pankoke” to the name after my appearances on Project Runway. It helps with the brand’s name recognition. As the brand grows, I am also able to get more adventurous as a designer and invest in more elaborate textiles. Our 2015 collection features some of my favorite textiles, a re-embrioidered beaded Chantilly lace and some custom hand-beading that we had made especially for this collection. In five years, I see us expanding our reach. Right now most of our boutiques are in the midwest. We have a few on the coasts, and in Japan. I would love to have more boutiques in California and a few in Europe!
Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 22How have your many appearances on Project Runway influenced your designs?

My time on Project Runway has really helped me get to know who I am as a designer in its purist form. When you only have 30 minutes to design a look, you really need to know yourself.
Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 2Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 3Elaya’s Bella gown stole the launch party show with layers and layers of ethereal tulle all finished with this exquisite Darla belt.
Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 6The delicious, gold-flecked desserts made the perfect complement to Elaya’s gilded studio launch theme (and tasted even more delicious)! As did the champagne!Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 15Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 8Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 14 Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 7Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 12Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 10Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 30Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 11Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 24What is your best advice for a bride searching for her perfect wedding gown?

My advice to brides is always to keep an open mind when you are trying on gowns. It is good to have a general idea of what you want, but if something catches your eye that you didn’t expect to like, give it a try…you never know when you will find “the one”.
Elaya Vaughn Bridal Chicago Salon Launch 25It was a magical evening that had me seriously wishing I could go wedding gown shopping again! Kate is an incredible designer and I can’t wait to see where her talent and her menagerie of fairy tale gowns takes her over the coming years!

And just in case you needed even more heavenly gowns to swoon over, here are a few of my favorite pieces from the 2015 collection:LanierF small The LanierGeorginaF small The GeorginaGenevieveF small The GenevieveEllaF smallThe Ella

2015 Collection Photographer: Wittefini
Models: Joanna Bajena and Lauren Dod
Official Sed Bona Signature
  • Well congratulations to Kate and her studio opening, what a great array of wedding gowns! I think the one with the gold detailing by the decollete is my favorite, the gown just sparkle with that gorgeous add-on. Thanks for the share Ashley what a lovely post!! Much love dear xo~ Lena