It’s possible that there has never been a better time to be a bride—at least from a fashion viewpoint. With seemingly limitless bridalwear options, designers around the world are filling stores with unique and contemporary dresses. Lulu Cleary is one of those designers, taking the bridal gown industry to a new level with her leading international bridal boutique, Gilded Rose Atelier.
Born in Taiwan and raised in Honduras, Cleary grew up surrounded by her parents’ manufacturing company, which sparked her interest in the making of a garment. “In Honduras, all the events are extremely lavish,” she says. “Girls travel out of the country to the U.S. or Europe to have their prom and high school graduation dresses made—it’s like a Met Gala. That’s what sparked my interest in the making of a gown.”
Cleary decided to pursue this interest and graduated with a degree in fashion design from The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. After dipping her toes in the fashion world, she decided to add to her education and graduated with a marketing degree from Saint Leo University in Florida. While living there, she met her husband, Steve.
After the two got engaged, they spent the next few years moving around before settling down in Barrington to start planning their wedding. It was at this time that Cleary discovered two things: she loved the whole process of wedding planning and being in the hectic moment of it all, and unique wedding dresses were extremely hard to find. In the end, she felt she had to settle for “the dress.” “That’s what inspired me to create a store that offers designs that not everyone has,” she says.
Cleary ran with this idea and after almost a year of searching for a location for her store, and a lot of hard work, she found the perfect space and launched Gilded Rose Atelier. “I knew I didn’t want to be in the city, which is so saturated,” she says. “I just wanted to offer a completely different experience, and at the time there wasn’t much offered in terms of unique wedding dresses out here in the suburbs. Our focus is showcasing collections from hard-to-find international designers that are exclusive to us in Illinois or the region.”
Clients from all over the world travel to Cleary’s store to get their hands on the gown of their dreams. “Most people come in for a specific designer, otherwise we get brides who know they want something different, not just your typical traditional bridal gown—something unique, maybe a little edgy,” Cleary says. “All our designers are couture, so we’re able to customize the dress to make it even more unique and special to them.” Through Cleary’s hand-picked selection of gowns from international designers, she strives to provide every bride with the design choices she did not experience herself.
Some of the world-renowned designers featured at Gilded Rose include Costarellos, Halfpenny London, Karen Willis Holmes, and Liz Martinez. According to Cleary, “the collection showcases a celebration of flawless workmanship, luxurious fabrics, and handmade lace and beading, with designs by some of the world’s top bridal and evening wear designers.”
But for Cleary, it’s about more than offering a carefully curated bridal collection—it’s also about the individualized experience. “For me, it’s all about the customer service, which I feel is a lost skill,” she adds. “We offer a special experience that allows the client not to feel rushed or pressured, but rather at home, relaxed, and stress-free.”
In addition to bridalwear, Gilded Rose also offers evening wear for mothers of the wedding, bridesmaids, and gala events, as well as accessories, jewelry, and shoes. “Our bridesmaid design, Two Birds, is really cool because you can wear it in almost 15 different styles—it’s versatile and works for everybody.”
Brides today have more opportunities than ever to have fun with their style. And while the desire to be unique has perhaps never been stronger, the more fashion-forward bride need not look any further than Gilded Rose. “Every bride has a beautiful story, and we feel so honored to be part of their special journey,” Cleary adds.
For more information, visit gildedroseatelier.com.